Student News

Exploring the Challenges of Working Abroad

Eran KorenThe global economy increasingly is giving rise to global careers. Nearly one third of the graduates of the Full-Time class of 2012 work outside their home country. The United States, United Kingdom, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Switzerland are popular destinations for working abroad, and each comes with its own set of advantages and obstacles.

The newest workshop offered by Booth's Leadership Development explores the challenges of working internationally. The optional half-day session, Global Perspective, was developed by a group of second-year students in response to growing interest in careers that cross borders. It turned out to be instantly popular. Registration for the October session maxed out at 150 - three times the expected turnout - and another 150 students had to be turned away. Student facilitators ended up leading two sections of 75 students each.

The workshop complements Booth's experiential Leadership Effectiveness and Development (LEAD) class, because it asks participants to engage in self-evaluation. "LEAD focuses on the gap between how you see yourself and how others see you," said second-year student Eran Koren, a facilitator for the workshop.

Prior to the start of the session, students took a survey, the Global Mindset Inventory, which helped assess their competencies for working internationally. It included questions such as, "To what extent do you feel comfortable in new environments?"

"The inventory was a great tool that helped establish a baseline for where we were at," said first-year student Van Jones, who previously had spent four years working in China. The workshop captured part of what he's hoping to get out of his MBA. "I can't imagine a career that doesn't span the globe."

Second-year students, including Koren and classmates Anuja Desikan, Sharon Kao, Justen Knight, and Jonny Spendlove, led small groups of first-year students in discussions of the test results. The participants also reviewed video segments featuring second-year students talking about their misadventures abroad and offering tips. (One second-year advised against sending an even number of flowers to a Russian counterpart - an otherwise well-meaning gesture that is actually associated with death.)

The five second-year students developed the workshop in spring quarter of their first year with support from Max Eckman, coach, for Leadership Development. "Like any good Booth project, the session came together via a lot of brainstorming, focus groups with some of our classmates, and a ton of quantitative (and qualitative) research," Kao said.

The workshop facilitators found the process and outcome to be rewarding. "Our goal was to foster an experience that would inspire students to take it upon themselves to increase their intellectual, psychological, and social capital for working in an increasingly globally connected world," Kao said.

"I think the best surprise came from a group discussion about the nuances of kissing as a greeting," Kao said. "One of the students was so motivated by the conversation that she stood up and demonstrated the proper form." - Chelsea Vail

Last Updated 1/16/14