We live on an island here in the UK.  We also live in an age of the global economy and a more mobile workforce.  We are seeing greater exchanges and integration across geographic and cultural boundaries.  That means you are competing for jobs with anybody, anytime and anywhere.

What does that mean for today’s students and graduates?

Mindset and skills

Being employable today means embracing the realities, challenges and amazing opportunities the global economy offers.  Your actions locally can have consequences elsewhere in the world.

It’s also a mindset that recruitment company CEO, James Reed, says is about “how far you see, reach and go to understand the everyday challenges and issues.”

If you broaden your horizons, prospective employers get someone who will be….

  • Open to new experiences, ideas and perspectives
  • Curious and can see possibilities beyond their immediate sphere
  • Flexible and adaptable to change

People are increasingly inter-connected through technology.  You can learn from, and have an effect, way beyond your everyday environment through working collaboratively.

It’s also about intercultural competence – being able to work in different linguistic or cultural settings, being able to see your discipline and professional practice from a cultural perspective and respecting those differences.

According to a British Council study, the key soft skills for intercultural working that organisations value are “demonstrating respect for others”, “building trust” and “working effectively in diverse teams” beating “job-related qualifications” and “field expertise”.

Developing your competence

Here are 11 ways you can develop your competence and increase your global awareness:

  1. Learning a foreign language
  2. Studying a degree outside the UK – the US is the top desired destination for UK students
  3. Going to a UK university that is committed to growing global graduates
  4. Doing an online degree and mix with students anywhere in the world
  5. Volunteering abroad in the summer holidays
  6. Taking a Gap year abroad either before or after university
  7. Working in an international work-study team, either online or abroad
  8. Studying abroad on a student exchange programme while at university
  9. Assessing your intercultural competence using questionnaires and scenarios
  10. Working in groups of diverse generations, cultures or people with varied skills, working styles, and values
  11. Being mentored by someone who has a different personality, experiences and perspectives from you, then leverage your learning when applying for jobs or furthering your career

Finding information about studying overseas is not that easy.  A recent study of UK and US students by the British Council, Broadening Horizons, found the vast majority of students are still not considering studying overseas, and over three-quarters of them feel there is not enough information to make an informed decision.

Yet, as Dr Jo Beall from the British Council says, “It’s vital for young people now to gain intercultural skills. Employers have made it clear that they greatly value people with overseas experience.” 

Making your case to employers

By demonstrating you are globally and culturally aware, you can gain a competitive advantage in the job market.  You can make the case to employers that you would help them to impact on the bottom line through:

  • More efficient running of teams
  • Accessing more diverse options and solutions
  • Being better able to bring people together and integrate them into their global infrastructure
  • Retaining or increasing their competitiveness in different markets through new custom and enhanced brand identity
  • Avoiding  the risk of cultural insensitivity, project mistakes, loss of custom and reputational damage

Having a global perspective means looking beyond your immediate world, seeing the world as boundary-less, being virtually connected and flexible, and tapping into a wider range of influences and resources so that you add value to an employer.

What first step can you take today to develop your global and cultural awareness to be more employable for the 21st-century world of work?