Mark Bain’s International Career Tips

Part 2

While there are some strong similarities to communications around the world, there are some interesting differences.  Here are just a few examples:

  • Different legal, political and economic systems overseas mean that it’s rarely “business as usual” run on autopilot. It’s crucial to understand the different laws and regulations, government structures, political processes, etc. to be effective in your role.  It’s also important to keep an open mind, understanding and accepting differences and not blindly assuming that your own values and beliefs are inherently superior.
  • Some communications strategies and tactics are materially different.  For instance, in some countries it’s relatively easy (though still not advisable, from a reputation management perspective) to obtain an injunction to prevent a negative news story from appearing.  In a few countries, it’s common for companies to reimburse reporters for their travel expenses involved in writing a story.  And in Japan, CEOs may voluntarily resign to take responsibility for a crisis, bowing deeply in apology at a press conference in a bid to regain public support and reclaim personal dignity.
  • Use of wireless technologies and social media is more advanced in places like Korea and Japan, yet local custom requires that certain business messages are best delivered person-to-person.

 What skills and traits do you need to work internationally?  Here are just a few:

  • A real interest in learning about different systems, cultures and languages.
  • A genuine willingness to embrace differences and to try new things. I cannot name a favorite cuisine because, from my travels, I’m a huge fan of Indian, Italian, French, Chinese, etc.
  • A love of frequent travel, often over long distances and to distant time zones, where jet lag and 20-hour days can wear you down in no time.
  • If you are an expatriate, a willingness to forego the familiar comforts of home (family, sports, community) in exchange for the opportunity to explore new places and to try new things.  
  • A tolerance for working long, hard hours during the week and on weekends.  This includes early morning and late night calls, after work drinking and karaoke sessions, and Sunday emails and calls with colleagues in the Middle East, whose weekend is Friday and Saturday.

 There are rich rewards for those who are willing to take the international route, though:

  • It’s still a great way to differentiate your personal brand.  And at a time when most companies are expanding internationally, it increases your employment options.
  • It’s a good way to save money if you are able to get a full or partial expat package covering housing costs and any additional tax burden from working in two jurisdictions.
  • It’s a chance to see and do things that your family and friends may never experience. It’s a wonderful learning experience for your children, too. 
  • You will make lifelong friends who will welcome you into their homes around the world, and vice-versa.
  • You will get a new perspective on both the virtues and shortcomings of your own country and culture, and this will help you to define and mold your values.

 I took the path less traveled more than 30 years ago, and I’m so glad I did. 

 Here are a few of the more helpful sites on working abroad:  Expat Exchange, Overseas Digest and Transitions Abroad.

5 thoughts on “Mark Bain’s International Career Tips

  1. I really appreciate this topic being addressed. I love to travel and have always wanted to work for a company internationally. Do you have any specific advice for PR students in terms of researching a new culture they are going to visit for business customs? Or is it something you usually learn as you go?

  2. Good question. First, check the US Department of State’s website for country overviews and travel warnings. Next, visit the US Chamber of Commerce website for background on some of the trade trends and issues, as well as the country-specific councils, a source for very good information. Finally, search “doing business in (country)” where you will find some useful tips on culture and customs.

  3. So far I’ve allowed the “money” issue to deter me from traveling for personal reasons or to study or intern abroad. I do think I would love international work however. I love change and I do long hours regardless of where I am. I doubt however that I wouldn’t be comfortable traveling for business forever. As you grazed on, when you travel for work, you are basically working 24 hours a day and with unexpected meetings and occurrences. How often/quickly do you think most people get burnt out traveling back and fourth?

  4. Thanks for the posts on this topic. I found them to be very informative. When traveling to non-English speaking countries, do you typically have an interpreter? Are there any systems you use to learn basic sentences before you go to a new country? Thanks again for the posts!

  5. The thought of working internationally really intrigues me, so I’m glad I read this post (as well as the one before it). I think that is one thing I love about PR, no matter where you go it is always about the people. I’d kind of like to echo Kristin’s question and ask if the language barrier has ever prevented you from doing business internationally? Or, is there always a way to work around that?

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