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Critical International Job Search Skill: Cross-Cultural Confidence

By Megan Fitzgerald

There are numerous skills required to conduct a successful job search - among them are networking on and offline, as well as expressing your unique value or personal brand in a culturally relevant, compelling way to your target audience both verbally and in written form.

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Those interested in finding work abroad do learn those skills as they realize they are important to international job search success.

However, there is another skill not often talked about all the time to which I want to bring your attention. That skill is the ability to express yourself and communicate with confidence.

Is Confidence a Skill?

Many people would not consider confidence a skill, but something you possess. Indeed, confidence is defined as "a feeling of self-assurance arising from one's appreciation of one's own abilities or qualities."

However, all the confidence in the world is not worth much if you can't use that feeling to communicate your thoughts, perspectives, and what you offer with conviction at key moments - namely when networking, interviewing, or writing your resume, CV, or professional bio.

How the International Job Search Can Lead to a Loss of Confidence

The reality is, if you are human, you cannot feel equally as confident about yourself and your abilities 100% of the time. There are always situations and circumstances when confidence can falter - especially when in new or unfamiliar environments like operating in, or communicating with, other cultures. And those cross-cultural moments are part of every international job search.

When those moments of uncertainty happen while you are networking, interviewing, or writing your career marketing documents, that self-doubt can also be conveyed with your message. Expressing doubt in yourself or your ideas naturally generates doubt in the receivers' minds. They can question whether or not they can trust that what you are saying is true.

Hence the power of your message can fall flat or the engagement can ultimately be unsuccessful. So, regardless of which international job search strategies you use, that lack of confidence is going to greatly reduce the likelihood of getting desired results.

How Do You Know if You Are Communicating with Confidence?

Lack of confidence in any moment can show up in many different ways. Verbal lack of confidence may come through in:

  • Being hesitant to speak up, share your thoughts, or advocate for yourself
  • The tone or volume of your voice
  • Qualifying or downplaying the importance of what you are saying

In written form, lack of conficence can show up as:

  • Using less powerful and clear words
  • Not conveying all of the value you have created and can create in your CV and bio
  • Burying your most distinctive qualities behind more generic or neutral qualifications
  • Less thoughtful and service-oriented language and questions when networking

Having helped hundreds of new and seasoned executives and professionals alike across the globe in clarifying their goals and their unique value or personal brand, the loss of confidence is something that everyone experiences at one time or another - especially when communicating across cultures is involved.

Developing the ability to draw on your confidence when you need it most is a skill that everyone conducting an international job search should do.

How do you Prevent Loss of Confidence from Sabotaging your International Job Search?

There are numerous ways that one can develop confidence and learn to leverage it in important moments in a job search. However, when we are talking about the international job search, communicating across cultures is one of the most common triggers for a person's confidence faltering.

One of the most effective ways to insure you can maintain your confidence when engaging across cultures is to learn more about the culture in which you are engaging.  FInding the answers to these questions can help:

  • What are the primary values of this culture?
  • How are those values expressed?
  • How important are having the right relationships or credentials to being seen as credible?
  • At what pace, and how, are relationships built?
  • How might their attitude toward gender affect your engagement?
  • How are cover letters and CVs normally formatted and sent to target employers?
  • How should I present myself in an interview?
  • How is salary negotiation handled?

It's also important to consider that the ability to engage and communicate in culturally relevant ways is another factor that employers are using to evaluate you as a candidate.

Bottom Line

Being able to leverage your confidence and communicate with respectful conviction in key moments both verbally and in writing is critical to international job search success. It's important to recognize that regardless of their level of experience, every executive's and professional's confidence can falter - particularly when dealing across cultures.

Learning everything you can about how to best engage and communicate effectively in your target culture is one of the best ways to insure your confidence will be there when you need it in key moments of your international job search. It will also make you a much more attractive candidate to employers who are evaluating candidates based on their ability to perform in a new culture or multicultural environment.


About this author...

Megan Fitzgerald is an expat career and personal branding coach, CEO of Career By Choice, and your guide to the world of international careers. With two decades of experience supporting professionals and entrepreneurs in 40+ countries across 6 continents, Megan uses a 360°approach to help expats and international job seekers become highly visible, sought after, and land work abroad. You can read about expat careers at CareerbyChoiceBlog, and also find her on Twitter as @ExpatCoachMegan, on Facebook and Google+, and, of course, on LinkedIn.