This article was originally featured in The Huffington Post.
One of the greatest benefits of working with students is the ability to positively influence tomorrow’s leaders. As the founder of an educational consulting company, I have the opportunity to guide students’ academic paths and broaden their perspective on what comes after high school, and even college: graduation. That’s why I encourage recent graduates and young professionals to “think globally.”
My company is very aware of the potential for discovering teammates, clients and opportunities abroad. While our instructors live in close proximity to our main hub in New York, our software is developed in Bath and Oxford, England, our data entry is outsourced to India, and we have an office in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Without our ability to draw our resources from different countries, our company’s growth efforts would certainly not be as strong or even, dare I say, as exciting. Yet many U.S. students don’t consider the fact that our world is becoming increasingly international. Future co-workers and clients alike may be from across the globe. This is the business landscape we must prepare our students for.
So, how can we get graduates to “think globally” as they enter the workforce?
Go Beyond the Classroom
So many students lament the foreign language requirement in high school or college. But learning how to navigate a new language allows for meaningful growth opportunities. While the traditional college path is to intern over the summer, international travel can be just as valuable. Studying — or better yet, working — abroad cultivates a unique perspective and set of skills that a traditional internship most likely can’t offer: entrepreneurship, creativity, cross-cultural understanding, and not to mention, a greater foreign language proficiency.
Graduates should seek out experiences where there will be as few English speakers as possible. Sure, you may run into funny and sometimes awkward situations, but you’ll learn a new language and figure out how to problem-solve. While I still haven’t perfectly mastered my Spanish or German, I try my best to speak it when traveling and know that locals are at least appreciative of my attempts.
Hone Your Written Communication
In our increasingly globalized world, articulating ideas clearly — both in speech and text — is important if you want to be able to give and take direction, especially when you’re not sitting at a desk right beside your co-worker. Many of our international students are attracted to the idea of undergraduate business education, believing that the nuts and bolts of accounting and finance are more applicable than liberal arts courses.
While I agree that studying business fundamentals can be important, learning how to write effectively underlies all forms of business, whether you’re developing a marketing campaign or just sending an email. As a recent graduate entering the business world, in order to compete globally, it’s important not only to emphasize your “business experience,” but to also show evidence of strong, written and verbal communication: the hallmarks of a liberal arts education. This is especially relevant for young people seeking opportunities outside of the U.S., where a liberal arts background becomes a uniquely competitive advantage.
Develop Cross-Cultural Relationships
When I visit our students at their colleges, one of my favorite questions to ask is: What percentage of your friends are international and what percentage are from the U.S.? In some cases, our international students overwhelmingly choose to befriend other international students, and I can’t help but think that the entire population is missing out.
It’s not enough to just attend an internationally diverse school; you have to be willing to break out of your comfort zone. College students, and by extension, young professionals, are building their networks from the moment they step onto campus. But it’s important they see it that way.
Though colleges do host networking events for current students and recent alums, look beyond them for opportunities to expand your network. Many schools host foreign language meet-ups where native speakers and current learners can converse, or internal banquets where students from around the world share their favorite dishes. These events may not be traditionally business-oriented, but as our world grows and innovates, young professionals need to change their definition of what is “standard.”
As our U.S. students further their global perspectives, I am committed to encouraging them to not only think outside of the box, but outside of their country. Now is the time for students to learn new languages, study histories other than their own, and expand their world views on their path to college — before they take their first steps into the workforce. Besides, venturing outside of your daily routine offers some pretty amazing chances to meet new people, eat new foods, and perhaps bump into your next big idea that could change the world.