Shape Up or Ship Out: How to be Globally Relevant

Get hired/promoted/noticed—anywhere in the world—in five easy steps

By Nikki Constantino

(Originally published on Wednesday, July 6, 2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)

Miranda*, 47, was on top of her game when news about the approval of her petition to migrate to the U.S. arrived. She was at executive officer level here in the Philippines, had a total of eight managers reporting directly to her, with a daily cup of coffee (black, two sugar) always waiting on her desk when she got to the office.

Settling down in New Jersey two months after the office despedida, it hit her that she was going to have a hard time finding work despite her stellar resume, when one morning she intended to make herself a cup of joe and realized she didn’t know how to work the coffeemaker. Without the managers doing her spreadsheets, Powerpoint presentations, and a secretary to sort out her schedule, she knew only how to fire e-mails in Outlook.

With the American economy still looking bleak, there was absolutely no company that would hire her—at least for the big decision-maker position that she was accustomed to. Three long months later, Miranda found a job delivering medicine samples from one department to another in a local pharmaceutical company.

Rachel*, 29, on the other hand, was a dean’s lister in college—lowest grade 1.5, a regular at the library. After graduation she quietly established a career in writing and later on editing manuscripts by sticking with her company where she is known for being consistent and dependable. When the recent economic downturn forced her company to downsize, she was spared, but it meant that the remaining employees had to take on more work—and go out of their comfort zone.

Rachel was tasked to make cold calls and sell their product abroad by phone apart from her usual editorial work, but without giving it a try, she decided she couldn’t do that new aspect of the job and called it quits after two weeks.

Globally Relevant

“Grow with your job and promotions,” says Susan M. Heathfield, a human resources expert, in an article published in About.com. “You may be a valued employee but if your skills and contributions don’t accelerate over the years, when crunch time arrives, you may find yourself out of a job.”

This is most probably what happened with Miranda—the higher up the ladder she went and the more people there were at her beck and call, the more out of touch she got with technology. She learned too late that operating such technology comprises the skills that headhunters look for at hiring.

With Rachel, however, it was her inability to adapt to change, be flexible, and challenge her skills that did her in. Had she tried making even just one call, she would have known that it was not at all difficult, and she could have held on to a job that many would kill for especially in these bad times.

So if graduating cum laude or having a master’s degree does little in enhancing one’s career in the open global workplace, what will? Letty Altavas, organization consultant for Profiles Asia Pacific and a 40-year veteran of human resources management, and career expert Dr. Greg Ketchum of Talent Planet (talentplanet.com), list down five new skills that an employee nowadays should have or acquire in order to thrive and succeed:

1. “Develop analytical skills.”  “Don’t just follow instructions like a robot,” says Altavas. “Always think why, how, what, where, etc. This will make you understand your work better and improve your skills and outlook on other jobs.” This may also mean exceeding expectations.

2. “Get to learn about other jobs around you and develop multitasking skills,” says Altavas.  Such is the case of Josie*, whose job was to come up with the monthly newsletter that her company blasts out to clients, but the artist she was teamed with often flaked out and often left her resizing images and polishing the layout herself. She was forced to learn Adobe Photoshop and Dreamweaver due to the artist’s absences. When her boss learned that the newsletter had become solely her output, he let go of the artist and gave Josie a significant pay increase.

3. “Keep climbing the skills (note: not corporate) ladder,” says Dr. Ketchum. “Remember the idea of the corporate ladder and how everyone was expected to climb that ladder to ever-higher levels of responsibility and success?” he asks. “Well, that ladder is kind of broken now, but we can take that same idea to describe what people need to do today: keep climbing up the ladder in building your levels of expertise and experience that enable you to do more complicated and custom work rather than work that can be reduced to a routine.”

4. “Develop proficiency in the English language,” advises Altavas. Or any language that you need to be fluent in, especially when you work for a business process outsourcing (BPO) company and have an international clientele.

5. “Develop specialized expertise that can’t be reduced to a simple formula,” says Dr. Ketchum. “Improve your communication, business, industry, and strategy skills. Your ability to see the big picture at work and understand how business works will allow you to see new opportunities and be able to personally add to the bottom line.”

*names have been changed

This article appeared in the April 19, 2010 issue of Business Agenda and originally published in the February 2010 issue of HIPP Magazine.

ll rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

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Posted on September 1, 2011, in Career Stories, Classifieds Cubicle and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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