Do You Have the Global Skills Employers Want?

The word ‘global’ has gone global. At least five times a day, I hear it mentioned in the news or while reviewing job descriptions;  there’s globalization, global crises, global industries, global workforces. It’s everywhere, including at BU!

BU students hail from around the world, speak hundreds of different languages, study abroad, and honor their cultures by joining a plethora of student organizations. Our faculty is equally diverse, and their research is global in scope and impact. After they graduate, BU alumni will take on challenging and rewarding careers all over the world.

But while you’re in college, how should you prepare for a career in an increasingly global economy? What are the global skills employers seek?

A workshop I recently attended attempted to define these global skills. The workshop defined a ‘globally competent citizen’ as one with three categories of qualifications:

  • Specific job knowledge
  • Basic competencies, including good communication and critical thinking
  • Global competencies, including collaborating with others from different backgrounds, additional languages, and using/processing information from different global sources

I am an American who was born in Paris. I’ve lived, studied, and worked in both Europe and the United States, and I married a Dutchman, so I have my own thoughts on this topic!

Traveling or studying abroad is a great start to developing global competencies; it can open your eyes to other cultures. But alone that’s not enough. Too many students don’t capitalize on opportunities to truly leave their cultural perspective behind. Until you have been the foreigner in another country, struggling to make doctor’s appointments or make yourself understood in a work environment, your global competencies remain limited.

What will make you truly globally competent? Learn how to solve problems from another cultural perspective and to handle foreign ambiguity in a constructive manner, for example. Look for opportunities to hone your leadership skills to be inclusive of other cultures and to work effectively with a diverse team of colleagues from around the world. These are exactly the types of skills that employers want.

I challenge you to step outside of your usual frame of reference.

If you study abroad, go to a country where you can practice your foreign language and immerse yourself in the local culture. If your native language is English, don’t go to London or Australia; go to Paris or Padua!

If study abroad isn’t an option, try conducting research on foreign cultures or doing an internship with an international organization. You will go outside your comfort zone, for sure, but you will be rewarded with the opportunity to build your global competencies, thereby increasing your career-readiness and marketability.

No matter what you plan to do in the future, global skills will be increasingly in demand. While you’re at BU, capitalize on all of the resources and experiences available to you.  So take a global approach (as in applying to the whole you) to developing yourself as a global (as in worldwide) citizen.

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