Tips for Staying Competitive in a Global Job Market

How to avoid going from the global jobs market to the unemployment line.

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Job Description with Hand and Pen and Newspaper Ad
Job Description with Hand and Pen and Newspaper Ad

As the world becomes increasingly globalized, workers find that they need additional skills to stay competitive in the marketplace. Particularly in today’s dismal job environment, if employees do not adjust to the current landscape, they may find themselves one of the many unemployed.

Described below are several areas workers will want to give attention:

Soft skills are key. Always be polite. Anticipate questions. Read people and learn how to specifically tailor communications to your audience. Know that an initial read may change and that you'll have to adapt accordingly. This includes being able to listen and comprehend what is being said. Some people are great at being able to recall what was said in a meeting, but they don't always understand, nor do they think to ask questions for clarification. Aim to be a step ahead, but don’t stumble if you fall a step behind.

Quickly understand cultural nuances. Co-workers from some countries will demand more information than they need. Others will not ask questions nor give feedback. Some will be very blunt. Each situation will take modified engagement to get what you need to work with different personalities and cultures in an effective manner. If your communications reach multiple countries, learn what words are spelled differently and use them. For example, an organization might use British English as its default language for global outreach. However, you might use American spellings when dealing with the U.S. part of the organization.

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Be aware of local differences. Other parts of the world will have different holidays, time zones and country codes. They will have different news -- keep updated on it. Be compassionate when something happens in a foreign land, and be sensitive to which side of a political disagreement your colleagues stand on before you say anything … if you say anything. Don't bring up politics first.

Add at least another language to your repertoire. Be able to communicate in a language other than your native tongue. If working globally, some people like to practice their English. Be patient and supportive, because they are trying. If you know you'll be dealing with a specific country or region, it helps to know some phrases, if not the major language. You will have an edge in communications and understanding, and it shows you're willing to learn.

Joshua Schiefelbein, a senior at Dartmouth College majoring in Russian Area Studies, recently finished a program abroad in St. Petersburg. He says, "A lot of people, especially younger people, believe that fluency in English is an essential skill to being competitive in the marketplace. While I was in St. Petersburg, I worked for a language center for six weeks and every student (ages 14 to 55, around 40 students overall) said they were learning English for their work and to remain competitive."

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Demonstrate your worth. Sometimes it is cheaper for companies to stay local than to outsource. After a complete tallying of costs related to adding extra levels of support for offshoring, management may find that keeping teams domestic is less expensive and more effective. Being able to prove your worth and detail how much money the firm will save by having you closer to a certain office shows you've done your research and that you're looking out for the company.

Add value. Understand the industry you're in or trying to get into. Bring something more to the table. Being a coder in a financial institution is great, but being a coder that understands finance is better. Add the knowledge of government regulations in your industry and you have an extra edge. If you do not want to go specific into a vertical, go broad and understand how all of the pieces in the machine work. What is your part and how does that work with other departments? How do your functions contribute to the end products or services of the company?

Lastly, don't burn bridges. One of your greatest assets is the wealth of knowledge in the companies and people you've worked with in the past. Reuse valuable techniques from previous employers and keep an active network. You don't need to have an extensive list of contacts, but recognize the ones you work well with and stay in touch.

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Forbes Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and author of " Maximize Your Social" Neal Schaffer notes that social media is becoming an increasingly important skill in the business environment. He says,

The latest statistics show that 93% of U.S. businesses are currently using social media for marketing purposes, so if you plan to work in a marketing function, needless to say showcasing your social media expertise will be critical. But, with the advent of social business, social media is not just for marketing: Businesses are using social media for a wide variety of purposes. If you are looking to work in one of the following disciplines, learning the latest on how your discipline is utilizing social media can help your competitiveness.

  • Recruiting (Social Recruiting)
  • Human Resources (Social Media Guidelines and Internal Training)
  • Legal (Social Media Policy)
  • Information Technology (Social Media Platforms, Integrating Social Media into Websites, Social CRM, Manipulating Big Data)
  • Customer Service (Utilizing Social Media)
  • Sales & Business Development (Social Sales, Social CRM)
  • Product Development (Manipulating Big Data)

Schaffer continues to point out that while social media as a skill is important, showcasing your experience in the public eye is equally important for your professional brand as well as maintaining your competitiveness. For that reason, learning how to utilize LinkedIn is the best way for you to put your best foot forward and showcase your expertise to the corporate world, which undoubtedly uses LinkedIn to seek talent. He recently wrote a  checklist of 17 items for your professional LinkedIn profile. Schaffer advises, "You should also make sure that you connect with your present network who are on LinkedIn and can help you out for both Introductions to hiring managers as well as writing you recommendations when needed, as only your first degree connections can write you a LinkedIn recommendation."

Mike Jewsbury is a business and technology strategist, currently working for the City of Philadelphia's Office of Innovation and Technology. Previously, he spent ten years in Global Industry Knowledge Management for PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Lisa Chau  is a private consultant focused on social media and cross–platform marketing. Previously, she spent five years working for her alma mater Dartmouth College, as assistant director of alumni affairs and assistant director of PR for the Tuck School of Business. She has also taught at MIT, and guest lectured MBA and undergraduate courses in e-business Strategy at Baruch College and  The New School .