International College BeijingThis year I accepted a position as adjunct faculty to teach International Operations from an Entrepreneurial Perspective at the University of Colorado Denver. It has been a rewarding experience especially because of the level of enthusiasm of the students and their career potential in international business and related fields. Like many graduating students this year in the U.S. and Europe, these students will have to compete for jobs not only in a tight job market, but also compete against all of those underemployed graduates from the past five years. This week’s article is advice on breaking into this field.

Choose Internationalized Industries and Companies

Start by looking for area companies that are in internationalized industries, such as high-tech, manufacturing and specialized professional services. Since regional offices rarely are involved in international operations, look for companies headquartered in your area. Then, look for signs of international involvement on a company’s website. This includes translation buttons to other languages and contact information in other countries.

Some industries remain focused on the domestic market. These are often highly-regulated industries like health care and military/defense. Even within these industries, there are companies that have discovered how to profitably work within the various regulations around the world in their industry. There are also companies that should internationalize to realize market potential, such as software, bioscience, and specialized engineering firms. That is no guarantee of interest or international expansion.

Network in Person and Online with Potential International Business Contacts

The power and influence of professional networking cannot be overstated. Most jobs are never advertised, so it becomes important for those in your network to know who you are and what you are capable of doing for a company. First, let’s talk about networking locally. If you are in a larger metropolitan area, you are in luck. Most countries will have some sort of organization that promotes bilateral trade. Examples include the German-American Chamber of Commerce and the Japan America Society. There are World Trade Centers located in most major cities around the world. And most industries have a regional organization focused on promoting the industry’s interests. When networking at an organization’s event, be sure to dress professionally, bring your business cards (yes, order your own cards), and be prepared to have conversations with anyone standing/sitting on their own.

Networking online through social media allows you to expand your contacts without traveling to far-flung locations. I recently had lunch in Washington DC with a contact I made on Twitter three years ago. We have held online conversations about our mutual business interests and I was delighted to find that this person was very much the same online as he was when I finally met him face to face. Since business in most countries is facilitated through in-country contacts, starting to build this network could serve you well in the future. Good networking platforms include Google+, Linkedin and Twitter.

Continue to Study World Business Languages

If you are a native English speaker, then you are in luck. English is by far the world’s international business language. That said, there is much to be gained by studying other languages. Knowing at least some of the language helps to speed up relationship building and to keep from losing important meaning that can be “lost in translation”. Proficient language skills could help you land a job. But since languages can take years to learn, it may assist you in the long-term to continually expand your multilingualism.

I wish you all the best of success in your international careers! ~ Becky