Most people who work in the business world today regularly interface with colleagues and clients all over the globe. In an economy without borders, enabled by instantaneous technology, they must actively collaborate with people in unfamiliar nations, speaking unfamiliar languages. The key question is – do up-and-coming twenty-first century leaders have the diplomatic skills and cultural savvy to be successful in this new climate? The answer in many cases is no.

In a recent study conducted by the Career Advisory Board established by DeVry University, hiring managers noted that global outlook was a skill that was considered most important but also most rare among current job candidates. However, improving global outlook and competence is not as simple as reading a book. Here are a few ways to hone yours.

1. Do a stint abroad

Get to know another culture intimately by observing variations in daily living and values. In communing with people who are different from you, you will acquire an additional perspective that’s extremely valuable and can be used in your future career. Although even short travel is beneficial, it’s better if you have the financial ability to stay a few months or a year.

A great site to look for and learn about the logistics of overseas job opportunities is Goinglobal.com. If you are currently employed with a large organization, inquire internally about the chance to do a stretch assignment offshore.

2. Read The Economist

More so than in other countries, American citizens lack an understanding of what’s occurring in the outside world. Become better informed and more culturally sensitive by subscribing to an international business publication such as The Economist, and by talking through global issues with your family members and friends.

3. Learn a new language

Although English is still the international language of business, that could change at any time, so it’s a wise investment to become proficient in an up-and-coming language like Chinese. Online or offline coursework is helpful, as is having a native speaker in your community with whom you can practice conversing.

4. Pick an interesting country and go deep

Before going overseas, or even instead of going overseas if travel is not possible, find a local contact who has previously resided in or worked with a country that intrigues you. Arrange an information interview to discuss that country’s culture and way of conducting business. Build the relationship over time with in-person lunches or coffee dates. Hopefully your contact will provide essential insights about global work and that nation in particular.

5. Consider working at a foreign company

This approach will allow you to increase your global awareness and competence without leaving U.S. soil because you will routinely interact with overseas contacts. Use directories such as the “Directory of Foreign Firms Operating in the United States” to create a target list of employers, and then leverage LinkedIn to identify openings and find individuals at those organizations with whom you can network.

In closing

As with any new skill, you have to start somewhere. Even if the effort seems small now, a continued focus on increasing your worldview will render you more marketable and employable in the future.

(Photo credit: Global Communication via Shutterstock)

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