“Cultural distance” Presents Problem in Finding Talent for MNCs in China

This interesting post from Wharton – http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=2903 – highlights the gap between the expansion of multinationals in China and the capacity of China’s education system (and ours) to prepare young professionals to meet the challenges of working in the country.  The good news is the growth in the number of Chinese students abroad – about 200,000 in 2010 – along with a 30% increase over 2009 in the number studying in the U.S.  The article cites the development of innovative new inter-university linkages as illustrated by the China Europe International Business School hiring its new dean from the Harvard School of Business.  The complexity of learning Mandarin and fully adapting to the cross-cultural nuances and norms of doing business in China are a barrier to success for U.S. managers.  Chinese staff have difficulty in successfully using the English skills they may have learned while abroad after returning home.

These are certainly not new issues, however, they take on new importance with the explosion of bi-lateral ties between China and the U.S.

I think this issue will continue to be a challenge and an opportunity for U.S. universities, Chinese academic institutions and the business community for a long time to come.

How global workforce development leverages opportunities for U.S.grads & Indian start-ups

Great to welcome in 2012 with an article in the Washington Post which speaks very directly to the inter-connections of  global workforce development with U.S. higher education!  See this piece at http://www.washingtonpost.com/rw/WashingtonPost/Content/Epaper/2012-01-01/Gx4.pdf.  Here we see the new draw of high-tech start-ups in India for U.S. grads willing to risk re-location coupled with the way in which U.S.-educated Indian professionals can utilize their ties to their alumni institution ( in this case the University of Pennsylvania) to secure the talent they need to grow their business.  I see this as a growing phenomenon in the case of both India and China in coming decades.  How telling to see Indian companies recruiting U.S. talent!  The old fear of brain-drain is gone.  The borderless economy opens doors in all directions.

Outcomes of Studying Abroad: What You See is What You Get

From the Chronicle of Higher Ed, researcher Mark Salisbury (12-16-11) is reported to find that there may be “other” [albeit none are discussed…) means to more cost effectively build student cross-cultural skills and intercultural competence than to study abroad. Really?  Most international educators I know understand that not all modes of overseas study are designed to equally impact “domains” of student intercultural competencies.

As I’ve written, campuses must design their international programs with desired learning outcomes in mind; you cannot simply provide an opportunity for a student to study in a classroom overseas and expect that this experience, by itself, will produce measurable changes in cultural awareness, linguistic competency, or a reduction in xenophobic views.

It’s a little like the man lost on a road somewhere in Maine who stops at a fork in the road to get directions. He asks someone he meets who simply says, “depends on where you want to go…”  Right. If campus administrators are not clear about outcomes they want to achieve in their study abroad programs, students will not get there on their own.

Navigating the Job Search After Study Abroad…


...In the current tough economic climate, there’s intense competition for jobs in every field.  The question is how well prepared are you to compete and what can you do to stand out among your peers when the time comes to conduct a job search in your senior year?  Of course, internships and service-learningin the U.S. or abroad offer unique opportunities to build important skills and competencies, but studying abroad has many unique benefits which you can leverage.  If you carefully assess and analyze the outcomes of your time abroad, you’ll want to do more than just add the experience itself to your resume….

The Purposeful Connection of an Internship to Student Career Development

These are my notes from my webinar presentation conducted by the Sub-Committee on Work, Internships and Volunteering Abroad of NAFSA, Nov. 15, 2011 “Integrating the Internship Experience Into Long-Term Career Development”


  • Given the impact of globalization in the workplace, and in light of the new skills in demand by businesses, nonprofits and government, it’s to a student’s advantage to consider the career implications of what may be a once-in-a –lifetime educational experience.  Today’s global marketplace demands increased adaptability, cross-cultural sensitivity, political awareness and intellectual flexibility.
  • Globalization’s impact on workers and the workplace has leaped across national borders and transcends cultures.
  • Businesses are taking a more active interest than ever before in the outcomes of education abroad experiences as they struggle to build a sophisticated and informed workforce
  • Employers, especially those doing business internationally, are interested in whether or not a job applicant demonstrates that as a result of their  internship – or other international experience- they have developed the requisite skills and sensitivity that makes them stand out as the strongest candidate for a particular job.
  • The challenge facing students is to successfully translate what they learned abroad into accomplishment statements on their resumes, and to effectively articulate and clearly describe these skills during their job interviews. 


It’s important that students not only discuss their interest in an international internship with an advisor in the Study Abroad office, but, also review their decision in terms of their overall career plans – so speaking with an advisor in the Career Services office will be useful.  Even if a student has not yet settled on a clear career path and feel it’s too early, there is much to be gained in having a conversation with a career advisor about plans to study abroad.  Think it through at each stage:

  •  When you are deciding: build opportunities to see connections between study abroad &  your career goals
  • When you are abroad: build opportunities to describe & analyze impacts of new intercultural competencies that you are developing
  • When you return to campus: build opportunities to re-frame and articulate what you have learned

WILL EMPLOYERS VALUE AN INTERNATIONAL INTERNSHIP? Yes, but not the experience itself; they value what is learned, how the student gained new skills such as language competency, increased cross-cultural knowledge and sensitivities, and critical thinking and analytic skills.

How International Education Impacts a Global Career

Do Employers Value Education Abroad Experience?

At first glance, the answer seems quite self-evident. How could they not? In a domestic economy which grows more linked to overseas markets and investors each year, companies must be on the cutting edge of new technological developments; always looking for opportunities in emerging markets in the developing world; constantly assessing their workforce requirements to insure that managers and workers understand the inter-related economic forces which impact their performance and the firms’ bottom line. Globalization is the most powerful economic factor influencing the job market in all regions of the world. Can we imagine the look of our global economy in 2025 and the skills and experience students will need, and employers will expect? What will the geo-political landscape look like? Will students be interning and working in North Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya or Cuba? Can we predict the industries and workforce needs which will emerge from the current political chaos in these regions?

Employers Do Value Education Abroad

In a report prepared by J. Walter Thompson Education for the Institute of International Education (IIE), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and the Australian Education Office, the company sought to determine employer acceptability and market value of an international degree among U.S. audiences – specifically students and employers. Its findings showed that “…employers most important selection criteria in recruiting a candidate are interpersonal skills, and when questioned employers believe that these skills are likely to be strong in a candidate who has had an overseas education experience. The challenge really is to more effectively link and promote this connection…[emphasis added]” (Thompson 2002)

In addition, the study reported that employers also found that candidates with international study experience possessed a wide range of skills desirable in their employees: these included, among others, cross-cultural communication skills, leadership, maturity, independence and cultural awareness. While this finding would likely warm the heart of any international educator, one of the ironies of the research is that only 3% of students surveyed stated that they expressly chose to study overseas because they believed that employers see those with some sort of overseas experience as more employable!

This finding points to a key issue, if not a vexing conflict, for international educators: Should students be encouraged to go abroad for altruistic reasons – i.e. to widen their world view and experience another culture (a goal cited by 60% of students in the Thompson study)? Or should their decision to participate in an education abroad experience(s) be linked more directly to future career goals and professional aspirations? Are these two points of view fundamentally incompatible, or are there opportunities before students depart, during their period of study abroad, and after they return to campus, to integrate their international experiences with both their career goals and the hiring criteria of employers? More on this in later posts.

Martin Tillman, President

Global Career Compass

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