Build Your Career By Working Overseas

12 years, 6 months ago


In their new book, Get Ahead By Going Abroad, co-authors C. Perry Yeatman and Stacie Nevadomski Berdan highlight the advantages of working overseas.

If someone told you that you could fast-track your career and significantly increase your pay while achieving a high degree of job satisfaction, significant attention of senior management, and the respect of your peers and clients, would you be interested?

If you’re thinking “Just tell me how?” then consider working abroad for it has done all of these things – and more – for the two of us and countless other public relations professionals.

By the age of 33, Perry Yeatman had worked in Singapore, Moscow, and London. Today she is a senior vice president and one of the top fifty executives at Kraft Foods, the world’s second-largest food and beverage company. Stacie Nevadomski Berdan became a vice president at Burson-Marsteller, a leading, international PR firm, at age 27. She later jumped from vice president to global account managing director after a three-year stint in Asia. She is now a successful author, speaker and consultant.

Working in another country can expand your horizons both professionally and personally in ways you might never have considered before. Overseas achievements can enhance your reputation and set you apart from your peers. Doors will open for you because companies need more people who can apply international experience to local business challenges. Knowledge and understanding of foreign cultures, regulations, economies, consumers, and work habits are now critical to corporate survival – and therefore they can be your ticket to the fast track.

Closer to the Customer

More companies are sending employees overseas. In fact, 69 percent of large U.S. companies report that they will increase the number of American workers they send abroad this year – up from 21 percent just two years ago. Why shouldn’t you be one of them? And the same is true for companies based in Australia and across the European Union. Companies that once gave lip service to “being close to customers worldwide” are now gearing up to make that commitment real. Simultaneously, companies that have always had extensive international operations are expanding them.

All of these companies will need public relations support – be it agency or in-house – to expand their manufacturing, launch brands, or sell new products, services or supplies. Companies will need a combination of local, on-the-ground know-how and international, world class strategic brand building and corporate positioning to take advantage of the opportunities before them.

Great PR professionals can not only help with communications but, given our inherent ability to accurately assess target audience beliefs and attitudes, as well as understand and influence complex issues, we can be real business problem-solvers, too. As a PR practitioner, you have at least two traits that many of the experts note as being critical to succeeding in a cross-cultural situation: Excellent communications skills and adaptability. These will help ensure you get a seat at the most senior management tables overseas.

Greater Exposure to Leaders

When you are abroad, many times it’s the outstanding performance a PR pro demonstrates in a “non-traditional” moment or business situation that leads to recognition by senior management and clients. Moreover, the chances are greater that you’ll be exposed to higher-ups simply because you are outside home turf. If your CEO travels to New York, there may be 500 people fighting for his or her attention. But in Bangkok, you may be one of just a handful of key leaders making a difference for the company in that market.

Likewise, it is not uncommon for a mid-level manager to counsel and escort traveling political leaders, members of the C-suite and even client CEOs when they are on an international tour. You can’t beat that exposure!

However, while it may sound glamorous working in and traveling to far-flung and exotic places around the world, touring historic sights and seeing things worthy of a National Geographic documentary, it’s also tough, demanding and at times lonely. You must learn to do many new things, unlearn things that have become second nature, and perform at the top of your game in a strange environment. Most professionals who’ve worked overseas admit that it was one of the most difficult things they have ever done. But that also makes it one of the biggest confidence builders around.

Getting That Extraordinary Assignment

So, how can you land one of these extraordinary assignments? Here’s our list of 10 ways to increase your odds of landing a coveted overseas posting. They’ve been honed over decades of our collective international experience:

1. Perform your current job flawlessly.
2. Make your international desires known.
3. Find a mentor to advocate for you.
4. Learn or practice a foreign language.
5. Research the countries you’d like to work in and be flexible enough to ensure a match between what you want and what the company needs
6. Demonstrate your cultural awareness of these countries.
7. Point out ways you can make a difference for your company overseas.
8. Package yourself and your accomplishments.
9. Volunteer for special projects that involve international work.
10. And if you still aren’t having any luck, move yourself.

Finally, know that no two experiences are alike and so going global is never predictable…but if you’re even the slightest bit interested, check into it. We bet it will be one of the smartest things you ever did for your career.



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The Author

Perry Yeatman

Perry Yeatman is Senior Vice President, International Corporate Affairs and Global Issues Management, Kraft Foods, Inc.

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Stacie Nevadomski Berdan

Stacie Nevadomski Berdan is a marketing consultant specializing in international and women’s issues.

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