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To Get Ahead, Employees Are Expected to Get Abroad

The Wall Street Journal reports that foreign postings have become a prerequisite - not merely a preference - for employees interested in being promoted to or hired for a C-level position. To advance to a senior executive position, employees must resemble their employers, i.e., be "multinational." They must be willing to travel frequently to their employer's overseas entities or accept temporary, longer-term international assignments to gain insight into global business operations.

In the past, employees often shunned overseas assignments, believing that they might signal a lack of importance to headquarters' daily operations. Today, however, staying put could prevent advancement. In the article, an executive search firm director contends that 70% of clients request international experience for C-level positions.

Individuals with overseas experience offer various advantages: they maintain a network of foreign connections that can aid a business with current or future projects, they understand consumer markets, and their familiarity with local customs and government practices aids them in effectively guarding against ethical and legal violations, such as illegal payments. The praise for extensive experience working abroad, however, is not unanimous. Some contend that individuals with multiple international assignments are nomadic and lack effective leadership skills, given that foreign assignments tend to reward workers for short-term accomplishments rather than long-term results. One advisor interviewed for the article recommends that, instead of lengthy foreign assignments, employers send high-potential employees to foreign sites for extended trips of up to two weeks every month.

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