International Career Paths: Preparing Students for the Global Business Environment

The world of international business and organization is an exciting realm composed of individuals with backgrounds in virtually every discipline and trade. Virtually every kind of professional from entrepreneurs and educators to security personnel and tradesmen have counterparts who work abroad or do business internationally. Some have dreamed of international careers all of their lives but many more are those whose talents and training have simply led them to places they never anticipated going. The purpose of this article is to inform educators of what they should keep in mind when preparing students for international careers and provide useful avenues for exploring what is available to accomplish this goal.

To help you develop an accurate understanding of where such careers begin it's important to note how individuals working in these capacities arrive at such a place and what kinds of organizations employ them. Following this will be a selection of links you can follow to explore learning experiences which are available and best prepare students or competition in the world of international business and organization.

Today's International Business Careers

Students living in today's world are indeed fortunate. Historically speaking, opportunities for the average person to travel outside one's immediate geography were rare. Traditionally, there were 3 ways a person could hope to see the world outside of his our her hometown. The first was to be born into relative wealth and privilege. The second and third options were to either choose military service or become a member of the clergy. While today opportunities have expanded somewhat as compared to the past, the general paths to an international career look similar.

It is a matter of fact that wealthier individuals continue to dominate the world of international business and organization. This is not expected to change anytime soon. However, increased access to education and the growing specialization of the modern workforce allows people from all walks of life to be among those who enjoy successful international careers. Educators, mentors and guidance counselors need to reinforce with students that a wealthy economic background is not a requisite for pursuing this path.

Military service still provides some of the best opportunities for gaining travel experience and educational opportunities. In addition to the skills and experienced gained by men and women who choose this career path, service positions them well for careers with government agencies who employ a significant number of international business professionals. In fact, upon completion of an initial contract in any branch of service, veterans of the United States Armed Forces receive a significant preference when competing for government positions at home and abroad.

Finally, the 20th century witnessed the growth of faith-based and other non-profit organizations including humanitarian relief and government sponsored development organizations. Thus the total number of people working in the non-profit sector whose careers take them abroad has grown tremendously. Educators and guidance counselors should familiarize themselves with the various organizations that provide internships, volunteer opportunities and employment so that this rewarding path is not overlooked.

Government Agencies

  • Armed Forces

  • Department of State

  • Department of Commerce

  • Department of Agriculture

Private Sector Employers

  • Import/ Export

  • Energy

  • Security

  • Education

  • Healthcare

  • Technology and Engineering

Non-Profit / Non Government Organization

  • Humanitarian and Relief Organizations
  • Faith Based Organizations

  • Aid Organizations

How to Prepare Students: Language, Culture and Adaptability

Among the most important areas of development for those best suited for travel and work abroad are the acquisition of foreign language skills and a functional level of cultural adeptness. This is why a combination of structured language study and applied learning through exposure in ones home country is a necessity before students can fully benefit from participation in programs designed to prepare them further. Familiarity with a variety of customs and practices from many cultures is equally essential.

Last but certainly not least is the importance of fostering a combination of personal adaptability and independence which sadly many Americans never develop. The international environment is often a challenging place and requires problem solving abilities as well as situational awareness. While most programs designed for students to gain international experience are well organized and safely structured , experience which teaches students how to navigate independently, solve problems and handle situations in an unfamiliar setting are key to instilling the sense of confidence and personal responsibility which is conducive to maximizing any learning or work experience and producing competent citizens.

Opportunities for Learning and Service Abroad

There are a number of programs designed to equip students for competition in the global job market while simultaneously providing eye-opening and enriching opportunities to learn and serve. Below is a list of links to organizations which offer programs for high school students to earn college credit. In addition I've included links to organizations which make it possible for students to gain experience by volunteering/interning with an international non-profit organization while experiencing cultural immersion in a number of counties and regions.

Study Abroad for High School Students

International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Cultural Immersion Plus Volunteering

Cross-Cultural Solutions (Peace Corps. Affiliate)

Global Works Travel

While these learning experiences can be very rewarding must not lose sight of the fact that success at home or abroad is built upon the acquisition of a specific set of skills and areas of expertise. No amount of cultural awareness or linguistic fluency will replace a solid academic and or technical foundation. Good luck!