Some general advice for professional career development:
Be adaptable and flexible
In industry, everyone must be a team player
Must be well-networked both within the company and outside the company
Use information management tools
Communication is more than just speaking a common language – though that’s important! It includes many other features, most of which run along a continuum. You need to figure out where you are, and where the other person is, in order to communicate effectively and avoid insulting or offending the other person. For example:
- how direct people are, being blunt vs. softening the edges
- importance of saving face, accepting criticism
- task or people oriented – get down to work or get to know each other
- context sensitive information – how important is the surrounding information
Cultural Awareness means understanding the background and expectations of other people, and acting in a way that they expect. The golden rule is no longer “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, but ““Treat others the way they want to be treated”. A subtle, but real, distinction. Some characteristics you may want to think about when getting to know other people are:
- what is other person’s culture, and what do they expect
- importance of individual vs. part of a group
- time is finite – work stepwise until reach goal, or work on multiple things until they’re done
- share power – flat or hierarchical
- take on or avoid risk
- level of control they feel they have over their own lives
Do you thrive on diversity? Do you want to learn the language and culture of another country? If you decide you want to immerse yourself in another culture by moving to anther country for an extended period of time, start looking for those opportunities. Let your leadership know hat you area available for relocation, and get the skills and training necessary so you are ready to take on an opportunity when it arises.
Before accepting an overseas assignment, carefully it carefully. Will you enjoy the time spent in that position/country? Is this a step up for your career, or will it perhaps allow you to move up in the future?
Once you make the decision to go, there are a host of logistical issues to take care of:
- visas and permission to work there
- finances and taxes – in both countries, must keep good records
- personal aspects – partner’s employment, children’s schooling,
- cost of living, but money is not always the most important factor
- getting an international driver’s license
- Learn how to remain visible to colleagues back in US headquarters
For dual career couples, the odds of both finding jobs in the same place can be vanishingly small. They increase if both work for the same company, since the company will know you want to move together. For couples who don’t work at the same company, the best thing can be for one person to accept a position, then the partner find a job after the relocation has taken place. The partner will have more restricted degrees of freedom, but can do a more intensive search since they will already be in the new location. VISA issues can sometimes be expedited once you are in the new country as well.Working overseas can truly be the experience of a lifetime, if you let it. Even after returning to your home country, you will be looking at things through a new lens. Your old life may look very different to you than it did before you left.
She recommended the Peace Corp Cultural Training for further study in how to fit into a new culture.
For details of future talks in this series, or to download her slides, see the ACS Careers Blog.
Author of: “Nontraditional Careers for Chemists,” published by Oxford University Press (2006)
Title: An Alternate Career Path: Starting and Running Your Own Chemical Company
Speaker: Dr. Michael Strem
President, Strem Chemicals, Inc.
Hear the experience of a successful industrial chemist who founded his own company immediately upon receiving his Ph.D. in chemistry. Scheduled for 2 – 3 p.m. ET on November 13, 2008, the teleconference will feature Michael Strem, Ph.D., President of Strem Chemicals, Inc. As an industrial chemist, Dr. Strem will speak on his experiences and lessons learned as the founder of a small chemical company that has grown since its founding in the 1960’s. There will be a 30-minute discussion with Dr. Strem followed by a 25-minute Q & A session.