Five Skills You Need for International Business Success

Five Skills You Need for International Business Success

Gone are the days when a job was a job for life. Long gone.

Where Baby Boomers or Gen X might have seen a lifetime career play out in a single role or company, today’s global professionals are expected to have the awareness and flexibility to adapt to change and uncertainty. And to adapt fast.

Top international employers are looking for first-class business and technical chops. But they are also looking for the soft skills and a can-do attitude that will see you develop and grow beyond the role, perform well in different scenarios and deliver impact across departments, functions or geographies.

“Big international companies expect their top talent to move around,” says Joep Elemans, Head of MBA Careers Services at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM).

“The expectation is that you are open to different cultures, to the different ways business is done around the world. And that means being ready to step outside your comfort zone.”

For those seeking to do an MBA, an appetite for complexity and variety is a given says Justin Sheehan, RSM MBA career coach. “Our students come to us looking to challenge themselves in an environment where there are international peers, players and competitors and everything is up a few levels.”

Channeling this into the development of rounded skills is part of the coaching experience, says Sheehan. “Of the 20 core skills that employers seek in MBA graduates today, 17 are soft or inter-personal skills. We work at an individual and team level to develop these core aptitudes.

So, according to Elemans and Sheehan, just what are recruiters looking for? And what are the skills that you need for a successful career in international business?

1. Communication

Whether it’s your oral, written or presentation skills, your ability to put across your ideas to people of different functions or cultures is key to mobilising and aligning others. And that includes your boss. Increasingly senior management is looking to top talent to challenge the status quo. Be prepared to consult with your boss and your capacity to influence and negotiate. The “Yes Men” and “Yes Women” days are well and truly over.

2. Resilience and adaptability

Be prepared to fail and learn from mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable, especially when you are working across different business units, different cultures, and different time zones. Nurture your ability to get back in the saddle and move on. Being adaptable to changing circumstances is a function of what Sheehan calls “staying hungry – that undercurrent of restlessness that keeps you constantly striving and pushing forward.”

3. Collaboration

If people like working with you and find you likeable, you get things done better. And collaboration opens you up to understanding a diversity of dynamics and psychologies, meaning you not only relate better to other people, but you inevitable broaden your own perspective – as well as your capacity to adopt new approaches to solving problems.

4. Creativity

Creativity – the famed capacity to think outside the box – is highly prized. Your capacity to innovate, to think like an entrepreneur, to reframe problems and to see opportunities and methods for improvement will not only add value. It will help your career to evolve over time. And in today’s constantly changing environment, being able to unshackle yourself from established solutions or practices means you are better positioned to respond swiftly and decisively in your decision-making.

5. Self-Awareness

Know yourself. Figure out what you are passionate about. And it is important to think about the long term too. “At RSM we dig into students’ previous past as a way of unlocking clues to the future,” says Sheehan. “Looking at what you enjoyed or not, and why, helps you to be more specific about what you want, what interests you and the environment you will be comfortable in.” Self-awareness is also a fundamental part of leadership. As Sheehan explains: “People who are able to stop, to dig deep and to be specific about what they want are those who tend to be able to motivate others, and those who tend to achieve more.”

If you’re thinking about making an MBA a part of your preparation for a successful international career, why not find out more and discover the benefits and career services that will help you realise your goals.

Our team of experts is also on hand at all times to review your CV, and discuss the best options available to you.