By DAVID HOLAHAN, Special to The Hartford Courant 5:34 p.m. EST, January 3, 2012
Stacie Berdan left the corporate whirl five years ago to write and proselytize about importance of preparing to join a global workplace. Berdan began her career at Burson-Marsteller, the large international public relations agency. After volunteering for a stint in Hong Kong, she rose through the ranks to the position global accounts managing director.
After 15 years working for others, she set out on her own, consulting with companies on global workforce issues. In 2007, she co-authored "Get Ahead by Going Abroad" (HarperCollins), and in September self-published "Go Global! Launching an International Career Here or Abroad." Berdan, 44, has a website (www.stacieberdan.com), lectures collegiate and corporate audiences, and blogs for the Huffington Post. She lives in Glastonbury with her husband and two twin children, sixth graders who attend public school and are taking a foreign language.
Q. Are young professionals and students the primary market for your advice about launching one's career on a fast global track?
A. Yes, specifically for my latest book "Go Global" because globalization is here. I believe it's important for students as early as high school to begin thinking globally and preparing to work in a global marketplace, which has changed dramatically. The competition for jobs for young Americans today is coming equally from places like Boston, Berlin, Bangalore, and Buenos Aeries. I wrote the book specifically for American students and young professionals so they can learn the ins and outs of competing for jobs worldwide.
Q. What is the first step an older, English-only, lightly traveled worker needs to take to prepare him- or herself for overseas opportunities?
A. I tell everybody to get in a global mindset. The second thing is establish whatever international credibility or qualifications you have so you can go about creating what I call your global job-search toolkit — your resume, cover letter etc. Do you have professional skills or any type of international work experience? I'm talking about working globally both here or abroad because, of course, a lot companies today are international in scope. Are you flexible, adaptable? Do you have great communications skills, relationship-building talent, persistence, curiosity? Those kinds of things indicate to an employer, if you weave them throughout your materials, that you may be a good person to work cross-culturally. Do research, follow international news, and pay attention to where important things or events are happening, for example, like the Olympics. [-- And learn foreign languages!--rsb]
Q. Does a foreign corporate assignment bring benefits similar to a military officer having combat experience?
A. Yes. That wasn't necessarily the case a decade or so ago, but now for many companies, even for many jobs in government, with nonprofits and NGOs, you must have foreign experience so you can continue to move up in the organization. You can't be in charge of large cross-cultural global teams if you've never worked outside the United States.
Q. Have this nation's economic doldrums spurred an increasing number of Americans to seek work abroad, and if so where?
A. People are thinking more about it, particularly younger professionals. It takes a lot of courage to just pick up and leave, and a lot of people can't because of their personal situation and ties. But places like Hong Kong and Singapore have unemployment of less than three percent. There are jobs in finance and telecommunications out there....
Q. Are American schools preparing students for the globalized economy?
A. In general, no, we aren't doing enough. I don't think we are preparing them from a foreign language perspective, probably the most important thing we can do. It should start in kindergarten and be mandatory through 12th grade so that when they graduate they are bilingual, as so many in the Glastonbury schools do now. Kids here start with Spanish in kindergarten. They add a second language in seventh grade, and a third language when they're in high school. But Glastonbury is the exception. Congress just cut FLAP (Foreign Language Assistance Program) funding to public school. I think they're being very shortsighted.