Expat Women: Alexandra, what would be your top five tips for women looking for executive positions abroad?
- The best strategy you can adopt is to be posted by your own company to an international assignment. When you are relocated by your employer, all of your major expenses (including moving costs, housing, children's education and tax equalization) should be covered by your employer. Also you will need the support of your company to obtain work and residency visas, particularly in a country like China where the visa application process is long, tedious and mysterious.
- Companies are most likely to send their business leaders (as opposed to staff leaders), so position yourself in the business management career path. Skills and experience in sales, business development, product management, finance and supply chain are most valuable to companies that are growing internationally. Companies are most likely to send people who have been with them a long time, know the brand and the business.
- In order to win an international assignment with your company, you should let your management know that you are interested. Express your enthusiasm for an international assignment loudly and regularly.
- If you work for a large company, get to know the international business heads. Look for opportunities to work with them. For example, do you need to prepare a global sales proposal for one of your clients? Use this opportunity to involve your colleagues in your international offices. It might be time-consuming and slow things down but it is worthwhile in the long run. Your foreign office colleagues will get to know you and trust you. When it is time for them to advocate someone to be relocated from head office, they will think of you first.
- Learn a language, preferably one spoken by a lot of people, such as Spanish or Chinese. Take advantage of any opportunity you have to study abroad. This will allow you to meet people who share your passion and who may have opportunities for you later.
Alexandra: The Shanghai Expo is a fantastic, unique event. I encourage everyone to see this astonishing, huge exhibition before it closes at the end of October. It is one-stop tourism. You can visit the entire world here on the banks of the Huangpu River.
In terms of the economic environment, manufacturing is driving Shanghai's economy now, however, the Chinese government has set a goal for Shanghai to become a future global financial center. I notice that when the Chinese government makes a public commitment, they make good on it, so I expect that, in the next ten years, China will reform its currency and Shanghai will become a major financial center as well as manufacturing hub. This will create even more opportunities for expatriate women interested in working in China.
You can read the rest of this interview at www.expatwomen.com. It will be featured through the end of August.