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In his book “The World is Flat”, Thomas Friedman uses several pages to describe all the details that went into the making of his Dell computer to illustrate the “global supply chain”. “The total supply chain for my computer, including suppliers of suppliers, involved about four hundred companies in North America, Europe, and primarily Asia, but with thirty key players.”

No matter where you work, there is no escaping the fact that you will be part of the “global economy”. Consequently, employers seek workers who are “globally competent”. Various authors and scholars have created lists of skills that make one globally competent: knowledge of world history and events, foreign language mastery, understanding international dimensions of one’s field of study, interest in and respect for cultural differences, and higher level thinking skills that understand the impact and connectedness of the economic, social and technical changes that take place throughout the world.

That sounds like a pretty tall order! How is a person supposed to learn all of those things? Some can be accomplished by taking classes; but global competency is truly an example of “lifelong learning”. The beauty of being at a place like ASU is that there are several things that you can now do to start building a strong foundation of global competence. Studying Abroad is one of the best ways to get started; but, it does require advance planning. Take the time to check it out now, before the semester gets too busy.

Employers look for workers who are flexible and know how to solve problems. Students who have lived and studied in a foreign country will have lots of stories to draw from when interviewing; and, will easily be able to give examples of these qualities. Taking on this venture is evidence of self-confidence and a can-do attitude that welcomes challenges – other qualities sought by employers.

In addition to learning about the culture of the host country, students living abroad get the opportunity to see how American people and our culture are viewed by others. It is interesting to discover the stereotypes and perceptions of America and Americans that exist (many from television and movies). What has an even greater impact is being asked to explain the why behind things that you’ve never questioned because they are simply the way that things are done. I can speak from personal experience, from my own junior year abroad, that this experience was the most profound.

With the technologies that exist today, employers are no longer limited by geography in their search for top talent. We are competing for positions with applicants from all parts of the world. Organizations that will be successful in the global economy will find, hire, and be led by individuals who are globally competent.

Joyce Donahue is a career coach in the Engineering Career Center. She is a Nationally Certified Career Counselor and holds Master Career Counselor membership status in the National Career Development Association.