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JULY President’s Perspective

14 Jul 2019 11:10 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

How do you respond when asked, “What should I do to get my intercultural career going?” This question can come from someone who has just earned a degree in intercultural communication so they are just starting out, or someone who already has a career and wants to add an intercultural element, or someone planning to leave what they were doing and transition to intercultural work.

Having been asked that question a number of times over my long career, as well as quite recently, I am always unsure of what I can say that might really be helpful. Reasons for that abound. One is that those of us in the intercultural field have taken many different paths to get where we are, which means that there are as many ways to become an interculturalist as there are people in the field. A suggestion would be to certainly develop a game plan but don’t consider it the only game in town.

Another reason is that whatever your game plan might be, opportunities come along that you need to grab. For example, an opportunity to work with someone you hadn’t expected to work with or an unexpected project you apply for and are invited to join. I certainly did not set out to be a trainer and the first few times I ran BaFa BaFa were rather pitiful as I look back. My advice would be that you need to be open to new opportunities so you recognize them when they come along and be ready to say yes.

Make it easy for people to find you and give them a reason to look for you. The reason will be what you bring to the table. When a company or client wants someone who knows about working in Japan or Ghana or wherever you have expertise, they look to you. When they want someone who can do a session on re-entry or coping skills or cultural assessment, they think of you. Further, when they want someone who has worked in the hospitality industry or health or the military, they contact you. That is your niche. As far as accessibility in our technology-centric society, an active social media presence is becoming a must, especially for independent consultants—but really for every person or company. Blog regularly so that your website pops up closer to the top of a search when someone in your area is looking for the kind of skills and knowledge you have.

Make direct contact with people or companies you’d like to work with or for. Send an article (get it published if you can) to the HR department that you’ve written on a subject of interest for the kind of company where you want to work. Arrange for an informational interview and ask if they know a company that might be a good fit for your talents. (Be sure to have researched their company and identified the reason why they might need you.)

Network. Network. Network. Join and stay in touch with the intercultural network. If the intercultural piece is what you are interested in adding to your resume and your career, the best way to do that is through the SIETAR associations local, national, and/or regional. Attend the conferences; do a presentation; find someone to co-present with; volunteer for a committee, the conference, the Board of Directors. People need to know your name and that you are someone they can rely on to get things done. This will also help develop what you become known for—your niche

My suggestions tend to be generic and based on either my own experience or that of others I know well. I’ve focused on the intercultural pieces because that is what I know, but I am quite sure that people in diversity and inclusion, and social justice have similar suggestions. I am hoping that someone in SIETAR USA who is more aligned with the D&I and social justice fields will write to tell us some of their ideas. And I look forward to some interculturalists sending their suggestions too. I would be happy to collate the ideas and make the resulting document available and easily accessible on our website! That way when someone asks The Question, you can point them toward our combined effort.

Watch for the SIETAR USA 2019 conference registration that is right around the corner!!!

Happy summer!

Sandy Fowler

President SIETAR USA


  • 17 Jul 2019 9:20 AM | Anonymous
    Great advice!!!
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  • 19 Jul 2019 8:27 AM | Patricia Malidor-Coleman
    Dear Sandy,

    Thank you so much for you insight. Indeed, different suggestions will come across based on personal, professional experience, education and areas of practice of a D&I or Global diversity (Intercultural + D&I). I am very sad to see that too many companies cut corners hiring people who have no, out dated or insufficient global experience including specific country or area specific expertise. A one and/or short time expat assignment, as an employee or spouse, is not sufficient as it is always one sided. A degree in the intercultural field is a good foundation, but only that. It needs to be fed with seeds of living, working abroad and watered, nurtured with immersion in language and culture. Let's us not forget the rich diversity of our country. Each region and state of the USA due to its distinct historical, regional, cultural making must be approach with a very local lenses to avoid the generalization an stereotypes such as AMERICANS are. I live in Florida, have lives in Alabama and Hawaii, to name a few. Different cultures, different life styles, communication, work styles etc.

    Take teaching a language: A long time ago learning a language in school, getting a degree in that language to teach it was sufficient with not even spending considerable time in a country where that language is spoken. Tourism travel sure does not count as it only gives experience of the tip of the iceberg (Referring to the "intercultural iceberg).

    Nowadays it is not sufficient as most language is attached to a country's culture will vary socially, regionally,culturally, economically etc. There is nothing like living & working in a country and truly engage with the community, to truly get immersed.

    I am a born interculturalist. Being multi-cultural, racial and having lived, studied and worked globally give me solid credentials. THAT WAS and IS STILL NOT ENOUGH. My competitive edge is having up to date additional certification to support my practice such as coaching, tools such as Cultural Navigator, Culture Wizard and other and especially currently and consistently engage with locals, teams, companies, schools, government institutions globally as daily local and global trends make culture a moving target. One must be sharp with current events, not just by searching the internet, reading about them but living them.

    Last but not least, of course being part of an organization like SIETAR USA or other global national SIETAR groups, gives one access to a wonderful network of seasoned international colleagues in various fields and countries. The SIETAR family is committed to support ethical interculturalists who walk the talk with passion to share experience and help others have a successful, safe intercultural life.

    Working in this field is about the gift to make the world a better place by sharing one's experience and not see it just as a job.

    I hope this helps.

    Patricia aka Miss Globaliscious® ;-)

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