Maximizing Your Career Opportunities Should Include Cultural Immersion

As a global mobility professional, a visit to another country is an opportunity not to just find top talents or broaden your pool of potential hires, but to find out about a culture as best as you can. Doing so is the more fascinating perks of the job, making the trip well worth it. Some PR companies even offer immersion training, so their employees can learn how to behave in a foreign country (which makes us wonder if Olympics athletes undergo such training).

Companies that offer immersion training also makes it easy for professionals to interact better with prospective hires. The opportunity for cultural side trips aside, there are solid professional advantages to these visits that you can maximize to enhance your skills and/or boost yourself a step up or two above the career ladder– and it doesn’t even matter if you’re staying in your host country for just a couple of weeks. They’re good to know and practice.

Build your global business network.

Make sure you come packed with calling cards from the time you land in your country of destination. Networking is vital to your career, and it doesn’t stop at the conference table or collegial meetings in your company. You can bump into potential recruits, clients, and business partners while touring the city with other expatriates. If you’re outside of the States, make sure to hang out in hotel lounges. You could find someone well-connected people there. If you’re talking to more than just one talent to hire, immerse yourself in the go-to places in these locations.

Learn a second or third language

If you go beyond the usual idioms or sentences of courtesy that you use in social settings, you’ll get a real immersion into its culture. Just keep in mind that your vocabulary and command of that language must exceed beyond the vernacular variation of “Good morning” or “How are you?” Learn to pick up phrases, speak in complete statements, and eventually carry on a conversation in that language. Many books and online courses can help you. Asking a friendly local to “teach” you might also strengthen your friendship. Fluency in the language of that country can gain you the respect and trust of its people. It also will do wonders for your career – according to futurist Alec Ross, linguistic skills and command of another language aside from your own is fast becoming a premium in tomorrow’s business landscape.

Understand the culture of your host country

Negotiating a deal in a boardroom is one thing; reading cultural nuances are another — and oftentimes, it is the unspoken, non-verbal communication done through tradition and behavior that can make or break a decision. Regardless of whether or not you agree with that cultural practice, you must  be able to show respect if you are to cultivate a long-standing relationship with your colleagues or superiors in that country. For example, the Japanese revere their elders and might be shocked at younger outspoken Americans debating loudly with peers old enough to be their parents. On the other hand, the neighborly attitude that prevails among Northern Californians in the United States can be a positive approach in the more family-oriented communities.

Some Asian cultures prefer the finer points of an agreement discussed in a restaurant instead of the four walls of an office, and turning down a dinner invitation can be considered offensive. Ditto with expensive gifts that your corporate rules might require you to return; in such a case, just accept the gift (if it’s well within the bounds set by your company) say thank you, and move on to the discussion.

Make the most of your time the next time you visit a new country. By all means, have your local friends tour you around and show you the sights. Just be more observant, watch how they relate to each other, and recognize traditions sacred to them. Always add a new word or two to your foreign-language vocabulary. All these little steps will go a long way the next time you handle an international assignment or are asked by your boss to give your insight on a global issue.