The secret people don’t know is that most companies don’t have a sophisticated cultural exchange program where global leadership can access a database of those who are available for expatriate assignments across cultures. Sending employees abroad still tends to be more reactionary, when someone asks for a cross cultural assignment or there’s a problem in another country location. It’s rare when a company sends people abroad for the sake of improving global business and cross cultural understanding. Everyone knows that when employees get the chance to be in another country, they learn how global business works there, what motivates employees in another culture, and how customers respond in that market. This is priceless information!
If you want an assignment abroad or a cross cultural work experience, this is what I’d recommend you do to get it:
1) Learn a bit of the language. You’ll become invaluable at home for translating and interpreting, plus you’ll build long-term trust in the country who’s language your speaking.
2) Become a cultural expert. Explain to folks at home why people from a particular culture write emails the way they do, why a presentation or document is done the way it is, or why certain behaviors are exhibited. People will start to see you as the go-to person for that country.
3) Build relationships at home. Most of us work in multi-cultural environments. There are lots of people from other cultures working in our same company location. Take them to lunch, ask for introductions to folks back in their home country, try to visit the country for a business trip and get to know the office, people and work-style there.
4) Speak up! Companies often want to send folks abroad but just don’t know where to start looking for the right cultural fit. If you want to work in another country, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Make a case for it, negotiate a start and end date, and don’t ask for the moon in your expat package.
For more on how to be successful across cultures, contact: Lamson Consulting LLC