We won’t state the obvious. If you want to work in international business you are going to need a business degree. A bachelor’s degree in international business is a great option, but most international management positions require an MBA or master’s degree in International Management or International Business. These advanced degrees will provide you with an extensive understanding of international markets and valuable negotiation skills to compete in a very competitive market. Additionally, many institutions require international business students study a foreign language.
Multinational companies that hire international business professionals want more than the degree, however. They are looking for specific skills and temperament, people that not only navigate the global arena but who can succeed in it.
If you are planning a future in the international arena, you would be wise to consider the following skills:
Cross-cultural communication skills
Your effectiveness in expressing ideas and concepts to different cultures is key in the world of international business. Any position you hold means working in a culturally diverse environment and communicating across cultures. Therefore, you need to demonstrate sensitivity and respect while appreciating cultural differences. These skills can be developed while you are still studying and will certainly enhance your resume. You should try to travel internationally, maybe take a semester abroad or volunteer overseas. All are valuable life experiences that demonstrate you have immersed yourself in a foreign culture.
A second language
If you are going work in the global economy, you have to be able to speak more than one language. Communication with the client is critical to your success as is the ability to work effectively with a multinational team. English is no longer the dominant business language as different countries around the world are emerging as new economic heavyweights.
Spanish is especially popular as Spanish-speaking economies in Central and South America are experiencing solid growth and opening up trade.
With China’s emergence as a major economic power and its incredible economic growth, the importance of learning Mandarin cannot be overstated. Mandarin, also referred to as Standard Chinese, is the most widely spoken language in the world.
German is an important language for anyone conducting international business across Europe. Germany is another is
Arabic is also an important language. The Arab region, of course, is renowned for its petroleum industry and the banking industry is also growing. Saudi Arabia and UAE are enjoying strong economic growth and offer strong opportunities to international business degree holders.
You are going to have to prove your networking skills early on, as one of the most valuable networking opportunities is going to be at business school. From fellow students to professors, the people you meet while studying will have diverse cultures, distinct skills and unique expertise and can potentially be future collaborators and colleagues.
These connections are essential, as is developing a strong network outside your home country. Online platforms liked LinkedIn certainly help find professional connections overseas, but there is no replacement for in-person networking and this is a skill to be honed early.
It’s not enough to build a network, to succeed in business you need to work well with others. The ability to collaborate for a common goal is critical. Collaboration is a skill that can be developed as you learn to listen, allow others to take the lead and learn to give credit and share in
Collaborating with colleagues from other cultures is an opportunity to use your cross-cultural skills and improve your language skills. The most successful business leaders are the best collaborators. They know that collective intellect can fast-track success.
Working across different time zones and different cultures takes getting used and there will be constant challenges. Resilience is a key characteristic for success, allowing you to meet the challenges of global business, keep motivated and recover quickly.
Creativity is a skill that is also highly prized. The capacity to innovate and improvise is especially valuable when working in the international arena as it can often be uncertain, complex and even volatile. There will always be challenges when dealing with international laws and regulations, overseas payment methods, currencies, shipments, and foreign labor issues. Political issues can also play havoc with your business.
As you are planning your academic or career path, it’s important to understand that there is a lot you can do to gain a competitive advantage in this global networked economy. If you are armed with a second language and advanced knowledge of cultures, and if you focus hard on expanding your network, opportunities will arise that you never even considered.