Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Orientation toward Success

International work is not for everyone. Most organizations working in this arena identify a particular type of individual who is best suited for international work. These people tend to have the following characteristics:

  1. Adaptability and flexibility: Willing to adapt to changing circumstances and adjust to the norms of the situation.

  2. Tolerance and empathy: Listen to others, understand their behavior, accept different behaviors as legitimate, tolerate ambiguities, be open-minded, and respect others' beliefs.

  3. Sensitivity to cultural differences: Adjust to cultural differences without going "native"; maintain one's own identity.

  4. Patience and perseverance: Balance the American work ethics of punctuality, productivity, and getting things done now with work cultures that place higher value on maintaining and expanding power, developing harmonious interpersonal relations, avoiding face-to-face confrontations, and solving problems through consensus rather than through other rational decision-making techniques.

  5. Humor: Maintain a sense of humor especially in situations which are sometimes frustrating; don't take oneself too seriously. Many cultures respond well to people who always wear a friendly smile and an attitude of fun and humor.

  6. Curiosity: Be open to new experiences, willing to learn, and accepting of new and unfamiliar patterns.

  7. Self-confidence and initiative: Be willing to take initiative without being offensive or threatening the power of others. Entrepreneurs who are also sensitive to local decision-making practices are highly valued in the international arena.

  8. Facility in foreign languages: Especially for individuals living and working in countries where the local language is important to day-to-day business, they should have some ability to learn a second or third language.

While these characteristics are common among many individuals who work in the international arena, there is also a negative side to them. Indeed, there is a fine line between being tolerant, sensitive, and patient, and being useless on the job.

Some individuals adjust too well and thus accomplish little or nothing other than "enjoy" their international lifestyles. For many professionals who are very job-oriented, international employment can take a serious toll on their professional development.