5 skills you need for international business success

5 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 Xers 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 skills. But they are also looking for 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 of your comfort zone.”

Of the 20 core skills that employers seek in MBA graduates today, 17 are soft or interpersonal skills

For those looking 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.”

Channelling 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 interpersonal 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?

5 skills you need for international business success

1. Communication

Whether it’s your oral, written or presentation skills, your ability to convey 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 for top talent to challenge the status quo. Be prepared to consult with your boss and use your capacity to influence and negotiate others. The “Yes Men” and “Yes Women” days are well and truly over.

2. Resilience and adaptability

Be prepared to fail and learn from your mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable, especially when you are working across different business units, cultures, and 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. Collaboration opens you up to understanding a diversity of dynamics and psychologies, meaning that you not only relate better to other people, but you inevitably 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 be innovative, think like an entrepreneur, reframe problems and to see opportunities and methods for improvement will not only add value; it will help your career to evolve over time.

In today’s constantly changing environment, being able to unshackle yourself from established solutions or practices means that 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. It is important to think about the long-term too. “At RSM, we dig into students’ past as a way of unlocking clues to their 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, dig deep and be specific about what they want are those who tend to be able to motivate others, and achieve more.”

Visit the RSM Open day on November 11, 2017

If you’re thinking about improving and challenging yourself with an MBA, why not visit the MBA open day and discover the benefits of the RSM MBA and career services that will help you realise your goals. There will be a team of experts on hand at all times to review your CV, and discuss the best options available to you.

  • Date: Saturday, November 11, 2017
  • Time: 10am - 2pm
  • Location: Bayle (J) Building, Burgemeester Oudlaan 50, 3062 PA Rotterdam, Netherlands

Sign up for the RSM open day

Interested in more information? 
› RSM official website
› Tel: +31 10 408 8795
› Email: [email protected]




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