(Part 2 of 2) How does Global Experience Factor into the Search to Fill a US Corporate Communications VP Position with Overseas Responsibilities?

Judith Cushman Latest Topics, Transitions 0 Comments

judith cushman associates career advice transitions global experienceHow can you describe overseas experience so that it relates to organizational structures in the US? When a company says it is seeking global experience do you know what they are really asking for?

Answer: Even though you may have worked for a major US corporation or an agency overseas there are very real differences between practices and titles there and in the US. A resume is a marketing tool and simply talking about what you have done is inadequate. It is essential to understand how to translate, e.g. market what you’ve achieved into “corporate speak.”

Often, the hiring team often has no frame of reference to know how to translate international experience into a comparable role within their structure. They can be too polite or lack the knowledge and ability to ask the questions that will give them a sufficient understanding to draw the correct linkages. This can happen whether the role overseas has been with an agency or a corporation.

A returning expat with over 7-years international experience will find it extremely difficult to compete for senior corporate communications jobs. It is the job-seekers role to bridge the structural differences. Titles overseas must be translated into corporate headquarters equivalents. Often Director titles in Europe are equivalent to Corporate VPs in scope and budgetary authority. While a candidate must list his official title, he may need to first focus on his reporting lines, function and scope of his role before listing his “official title…” Stories about innovation, strategy and scope of achievement are particularly important to helping the hiring organization appreciate the level of success.

Also, global experience can have different meanings. In organizations with a US-headquarters focus, their “global operations” support and take their direction from corporate leadership. It is a US-centric model. There is no ambiguity about what the business strategy and priorities are. Being sensitive to and aware of local practices and ways to conduct business are critical considerations and cannot be ignored. However, the overarching policies and strategy are centralized.

In companies where there are dispersed headquarters operating autonomously in different regions, global operations and practices are fundamentally different. They are complex, more sophisticated and require a world view of company priorities. Setting goals is a balancing act, sometimes with competing business operations each demanding support from the parent. Here no one set of market factors determines the direction of the company; it is global thinking in every sense.

With that distinction, it is essential to understand what experience hiring organizations are seeking. Most likely it is the US-centric business model gained from working in a corporate setting. The skills required are managing resources, retaining agencies globally, building programs and hiring limited internal staff to support marketing opportunities. Ultimately if your goal is a Senior VP Corporate Communications role, finding a corporate position that includes (US- centric) international responsibilities is an excellent approach to gaining the needed credential. That experience translates directly into the work you are expected to manage.

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