Less Cachet in Working Abroad?

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If you assume an overseas assignment will place your career on the fast track, you may be in for a shock.

It's conventional wisdom that an American will get a career boost from living and working in a hot market like China. But that belief is starting to look dated, a top headhunter warns.

Global experience is as vital as ever, Dale Winston, chairwoman and chief executive of Battalia Winston International, tells eFinancialCareers News. But both financial and non-financial employers today define "global" experience more broadly than they did several years ago.

"You need global experience, but it isn't necessarily where you're sitting," Winston explains. In today's interlinked world, communications and frequent travel reduce the need for an executive or manager with global responsibilities to live in any particular region.

She cites a U.S.-based, non-financial company that's currently searching for a head of global sales. While foreign market experience is obviously necessary, Winston says the client doesn't care where candidates were "sitting" when they got that experience.

Because contacts and relationships are so critical in finance, foreign assignments still carry more cachet than among non-financial employers. However, Winston believes the financial industry will follow, and already is following, other industries in attaching less importance to residential history when assessing a candidate's global qualifications.

What's more, an American who seeks or accepts a posting to Asia or Europe needs to be aware of a downside. "You may not be able to get (transferred) back to the U.S.," says Winston. "You have to be careful you don't get stuck, if your ultimate objective is to come home."

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