If you are thinking about or are interested in pursuing a career in international sales, it’s a wonderful opportunity. In fact, with globalization, there’s an increasing demand for people who have international skills to fill these kinds of positions. Unfortunately, most Americans of traditional descent are not aptly prepared for such a profession. So a lot of international sales positions go to foreign nationals who already speak different languages and come from different regions of the world. If you want to prepare for an international sales career, my advice to you is this: first of all, learn a foreign language – or several! Don’t just take a year or two of language in college — actually become fluent, or bilingual. Immerse yourself in the language. In order to do that, you’ll need to follow my second piece of advice. Go live in the area of the world that you are most interested in and become completely immersed in that culture. Become a local in that area. If you do that, when you come back to the United States, being fluent or bilingual and having a deep appreciation of the area which you are interested in, you will be very attractive to potential employers which are targeting that area or already have operations. Third, if you want to pursue an international sales career, make sure that you gain overseas work experience.
Traveling abroad, moving around with a back pack while in youth hostels doesn’t count for practical international work experience when it comes to pursuing this kind of career. My own background: I spent 4 years traveling and working in international sales in Latin America, Europe and Asia before I came back to the United states for my first US-based international sales job. As a result of having that experience working in sales abroad, I was very easily employable and got snapped up by a great company. It was my language skills and foreign work experience that made this possible.
So, if you are thinking about pursuing a career in international sales or marketing, make sure that you move overseas, get practical work experience, and learn at least one foreign language related to the region that you are interested in. Those are the key attributes to pursuing this career. Wondering how you can get an international sales job or get international work experience? There are management internship exchange programs that allow for recent college graduates to get overseas work experience in their field of study. One of those is AIESEC, which offers an internship exchange program worldwide.
Look into study abroad programs as well, if you can’t find an internship or work experience. While it’s not as powerful as working overseas, it’s another path for gaining an international background that is attractive to global employers.
An international sales career is a very interesting and rewarding job and one that I would recommend highly. You get to travel the globe; you get to experience the wonder of diverse languages and cultures; you get to grow a lot faster than most people would who are pursuing a domestic job, because of the diversity and skills you acquire.
An international sales position is a great fast track into general management. Why? Because people who work in international typically have a much broader set of responsibilities than people in domestic positions.