How do you distinguish yourself in an interview when you are seeking an international career? You may be looking at a job opportunity that requires you to relocate or demands extraordinary travel to reach your marketplace and customers. Remember Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, "There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign."
• Prove you have the stamina. It takes energy to handle phone calls and visits in many different time zones, performing at your peak when needed. More than ever, you must find the time to exercise. You have to keep healthy to do your job.
• Show you have cultural sensitivity. Understanding the cultural norms of those countries where you do business may seem daunting. If you master three main areas of a culture, you will be light years ahead of your competition. You must have a working knowledge of certain intrinsic biases and customs, how the individuals view family relationships and what sort of time horizon the non-U.S. companies customarily follow.
• Explore recent economic and political changes. You would not walk into a prospective client's meeting ill-prepared and not knowing, for example, if the company had just received a takeover bid. You need to explore the recent headlines and what is in the news for the countries in which you will be doing business. This will help you understand if the company is seeking someone to manage change, provide stability of the status quo or ferociously attack the situation to survive.
• Reveal your functional expertise. No matter where you will work, every company wants to hire someone who is proficient in his or her functional capabilities. Knowing that accounting will help you understand the business drivers of the company, look at the financial statements, understand them and relate them to your function, whether it be in marketing, human resources or operations. Knowing that you have the expertise and confidence to do the job in the U.S. will be a springboard for you to do the job under pressure when you are in a different culture and new time zone.
• Be yourself. Think of the times you've worked with non-Americans or been to places with non-Americans. Draw on these experiences to help you break into an international job opportunity.
Blythe McGarvie has been a professional speaker for six years and serves as a member of boards of directors for several highly visible companies. Her second book, Shaking the Globe: Courageous Decision-Making in a Changing World will be published by John Wiley & Sons in February 2009.