For those of you whose New Year’s resolution is to get a job in International Relations, I’m posting the “Careers in IR” section from my textbook (Joshua S. Goldstein and Jon C. Pevehouse, International Relations, 10th ed. 2012-2013 Update). This is the second of four parts: Government and Diplomacy; International Business; Nongovernmental Organizations; and Education and Research.
BENEFITS AND COSTS
As the pace and scope of globalization have accelerated, opportunities to work in international business have blossomed. For many large companies, the domestic/global distinction has ceased to exist. This new context provides opportunities and challenges for potential employees.
Careers in international business offer many advantages. Business jobs can pay substantially more than those in governments or NGOs and can open opportunities to travel extensively and network globally. Foreign-based jobs mean relocation to another country to work and immerse oneself in another culture.
However, such a career choice also has potential costs. Many jobs require extensive hours, grueling travel, and frequent relocation. As with any job, promotion and advancement may fall victim to external circumstances such as global business cycles. And these jobs can be especially hard on families.
International opportunities arise in many business sectors. Banking, marketing (public relations), sales, and computing/telecommunications have seen tremendous growth in recent years. These jobs fall into three broad categories: (1) those located domestically, yet involving significant interactions with firms abroad; (2) domestic jobs working for foreign-based companies; and (3) those based abroad, for foreign or domestic firms.
SKILLS TO HONE
One key to landing in the international business world is to develop two families of skills: those related to international relations and those related to business operations. Traditional MBA (Masters in Business Administration) and business school programs will be helpful for all three types of jobs, yet for jobs based abroad, employers often also look for a broader set of skills taught in economics, political science, and communications. Thus, not only traditional business skills, but language and cultural skills, are essential. Employers look for those who have knowledge of a country’s human and economic geography as well as culture. Experience with study abroad, especially including working abroad, can help show an ability to adapt and function well in other cultures. Strong analytical and especially writing abilities also matter greatly to employers.
Research also helps in landing a job. Employers often look for knowledge of a particular industry or company, in order to make best use of an employee’s language and cultural skills. Of course, while experience in non-international business never hurts, be mindful that the practices, customs, and models of business in one country may not apply well abroad. Crosscultural skills combined with substantive business knowledge in order to translate the operational needs of companies from the business world to the global realm are highly valued.
- Edward J. Halloran. Careers in International Business. 2nd ed. NY: McGraw-Hill, 2003.
- Deborah Penrith, ed. The Directory of Jobs and Careers Abroad. 12th ed. Oxford, UK: Vacation Work Publications, 2005.