Tips and tricks for studying abroad in Spain! Junior Alex Jackson reflects on her Summer Global Internship experience.
It has been a couple weeks since I have been back from my Summer in Spain, and I already miss it! The people, activities, and of course the food, more specifically the 4 for 1∊ croissants you could get at any bakery. I also miss being with the other students in the internship. We were able to get so close to each other, I will at least get to see most of them when I am back on campus. However after reflecting on my trip, and sleeping for two days straight, I want to give you all a couple tips for when you also go abroad for the summer:
Always find the nearest McDonald’s to your home. It can be a nice reminder of the United States when you get homesick and it tastes way better than it does back in America. McDonald’s also is one of the only places that has public restrooms because sometimes you have to pay to use them in Europe.
Travel! Whether you travel around Spain or to other countries it is a great experience. Just think, when is the next time you will be able to travel to this many places in a short amount of time. It also makes you more global and it a great conversation starter with companies!
Try to speak Spanish as much as possible. Even if you do not know a lick of Spanish, it helps you immerse yourself in the culture. It also let’s your co-workers know you are trying and interested in the culture. Even if you just pick up a few words and phrases it is worth it!
Keep an open mind! This may be one of the only times that you are in an entirely different country. Keep an open mind about the food, people, and culture in general. Be open to trying new things and if you get a chance just talk to random people! Talking to people around your age they can show you the non-touristy things to do and take you to some great restaurants.
Have fun! Yes you are in a new country, meeting new people, and working a new job and it can get monotonous at times. However, you have to make the most of the trip while you are there. Do not be lazy when you are tired after work and someone asks you to go somewhere because you never know when you will be back!
Overall, this trip was worth it! Not only was I able to become a world traveler, but I gained so many friends from the trip, to hang out and study with when I came back to Fisher. There were many scholarships I applied to so I could get the cost down such as the FCOB Global Experience Scholarship the ODI Education Abroad Scholarship, these both helped to fund the trip. I was able to get real world business experience abroad, and not many people can say they have done that. Recruiters have been impressed with my experience, because not only did I work broad but I was able to make a considerable contribution to Fundación Aladina. I also gained many transferable skills, that helped me answer behavioral questions during interviews. As a bonus, the internship abroad also makes a great fun fact for when you come back to campus. I would recommend this trip to anyone and I am sure, if you follow these tips, you will have just as great of a trip as I did!
That’s a wrap! Junior Alex Jackson reflects on her final week in Spain and her final work presentation on the Summer Global Internship Program.
I only have one week left in Spain and I am going back to visit my favorite places as well as visit anywhere I have not been. It is kind of bittersweet being in my last week of the trip because I have made new friends, memories, and gotten business experience, but I cannot wait to see my family!
Everyday after work I would go a do a different activity that I enjoyed doing in Spain! One day, I went to Parque Retiro. It is so beautiful and peaceful there, plus there are a ton of people just enjoying their time in the park. My friends and I rented one of the row boats and spent an hour rowing around in the park’s pond. It was very fun, but there are fish that jump in that pond, so it was sometimes a little scary because you did not know if they were able to jump into the boat. On another day, I went shopping for myself and friends back at home. In Spain, they had an entire week of sales up to 60% off in all the stores to try to get rid of the summer clothing. I was able to buy cute, fashionable things at an amazing price so it was money well spent.
Not only did I do activities but I also ate at some of my favorite places around Spain. Of course, I went and got gelato in Plaza Mayor and visited the local market there that is similar to the North Market here in Columbus. My friends and I also splurged one night and went to Jack Percoca a little Italian place we found with the best truffle mac and cheese I ever had! Throughout the trip I ate at the McDonald’s a couple times because I was either feeling homesick or I was craving it. The McDonald’s abroad is ten times better than the ones in America, plus they have a dessert cafe in each one.
On my last day of my internship, it was so hard to say goodbye. I made sure before the trip that I brought Ohio State thank you cards and pens for the people in my office. I wanted to make sure that before I left, I would be able to give them a proper thank you for having me, so I gave it to them at my farewell lunch. I also presented my marketing strategies for the company and finished translating the final documents from Spanish to English. Both of these projects were to get more people to donate and become ‘Friends of Aladina, as well as expand into the English market’. Not only did they like my ideas, but I also presented the entire thing in Spanish. I presented a powerpoint presentation, on the best ways to get more donations. I presented my ideas just like I would in class at Fisher. One minor difference was that they asked me questions while I presented instead of waiting till the end of the presentation. It was a great way for me to see that I improved my Spanish and I was able to help the organization who helped me!
After a successful first weekend in Spain, Junior Alex Jackson talks about adjusting to working in an international environment as she participates in the Summer Global Internship Program. She shares her observation on the differences in business norms between Spain and the U.S.
Although my title is as a Marketing and Communications intern, they have me doing much more! It is nice though because some of my other friends on the trip are having trouble staying busy at work. My main function is to work on the website as well as my final marketing project on ways Fundacion Aladina can expand its image and into the community. Although it may not seem like a large task, working on the website and translating it from Spanish to English was helping the organization expand into English speaking markets, mainly the United States, because non-profit organizations are more common here. This is huge for them because a lot of their business runs on donations, so it is important for them to build relationships with as many people as possible.
Although I was mainly working on the website, I was able to see many different parts of the business. I was able to sit in on interviews to fill new positions, pack and ship merchandise to customers, and help plan a movie premier. It was really cool to see how a non-profit functioned and the multiple “hats” my colleagues would put on to accomplish their daily tasks.
Seeing these interactions in the office made me realize a couple of comparisons between business in the United States and in Spain. First, that time was not as important. Many times, meetings would not start on time and no one was offended. My coworkers would continue working until the meeting arrived and sometimes they would even continue working until they were ready to meet. In the United States time is very important, there is even the saying, “If you’re on time you’re late”. Another thing I noticed is that the organization was very friendly with their clients. They would all chat as though they have known each other for a long time and would greet each other with a hug. I do not know if this is because I am at a nonprofit organization or if it is just how business is conducted in Spain. I also found it interesting that all of the meetings were in the morning before lunch. After I asked some of my co-workers, we came to the conclusion that after lunch people may have other obligations such as family, health, or social. The work life balance in Spain is very important and I even noticed this with my boss when I was sick she told me to take the day off and get checked out. It seemed as though the person came first and the work came second.
These differences in the workplace were refreshing to see, because in the United States it seems like the job comes first and then the person. Or that we are very business oriented and worried about time that we do not get to know those we do business with or the best thing for the employees. The friendly and truly team-oriented culture, made me want to do my job even better because I know my work truly mattered. I also realized that jobs are not always about the money, but you have to fit well with the people and overall culture of the company. When looking for an internship for next summer, I will definitely make sure the company has good values and company culture. Although I think this idea is changing in U.S. business culture it was heavily a part of the business culture in Spain.
Summer Global Internship Program Participant, Alex Jackson, talks about her anticipation of working abroad in Madrid, Spain! She also shares some insights to the process of being matched up with companies.
I was just accepted to go to Spain for the Summer Global Internship Program! I am excited to learn about the culture in Spain as well as improve my Spanish speaking skills. That is the main reason why I decided to study in Spain, because I think it is important to know another language. I have been taking Spanish since I was a freshman in high school, but do not get to use it much at school. I am hoping through this experience I will be able to come back speaking more smoothly than I do now!
The job hunt process for the program was fast and easy. The partnering agency was personable and really wanted to make sure I was placed in an internship I felt I would enjoy! The first interview was with the partnering agency getting to know me, going over my resume, testing my Spanish, and figuring out what I wanted in a company. Be honest during the interview, because you are interviewing for what you want to get out of the internship. Also, know your resume, they will ask you questions about it! Because of my previous history with speaking Spanish, I was able to be placed at a company that only spoke Spanish! This was exciting for me because I knew I would be fully immersed in the language and Spanish culture. My preferences for a company were a little difficult because I wanted to work for a small nonprofit organization, because I wanted to see the differences between working at a for profit company and a nonprofit. Although they said it might be a difficult hunt, they were able to find an organization for me! The search for an organization took about three months, I actually forgot I was going to be working in Spain for a little bit! However, the wait did not disappoint!
The partnering agency was able to find two non-profit organizations who were willing to have an intern for the Summer! After weighing my options I decided to go with Fundación Aladina, a nonprofit that supports children with cancer. When I decided on my organization, I took to the social media to find out more about them. They were VERY active on social media and their Instagram was beautiful! I could tell by their interaction with the followers and office pictures they posted that their organization was like a family. I then had a follow-up interview with Ishtar Espejo, who is the director of the organization and fortunately we hit it off! She enjoyed my energy, was informative, excited to work with me, and was very clear of her expectations of the internship. The interview with my boss made me even more excited to go! She expressed that she wanted my internship to be a learning experience for both of us. This reassured me that I was going to have a great experience because the organization wanted me there as much as I wanted to be there!
All while I was waiting to hear back from the partnering agency, all the students going to Spain were taking a class on Spain and what to expect. This was very helpful because the campus coordinator for the partnering agency came to a couple sessions and we were able to ask her so many questions! The most informative class for me, was when students from the previous summer came to speak to us. They were able to give us tips, such as, do not leave your phone on the table when you eat and good places to visit in the city. In the class a lot of students seemed nervous to be traveling so far for so long, however I was so excited! Traveling has always been a passion of mine and being able to travel and gain more experience in my major was a win win!
Katelyn Mistele shares her experience working for a global company and how being culturally aware led to her success in her job. From working in a diverse team to working across borders, she says that being open-minded and receptive to different communication styles is critical to gain the respect of co-workers, to build your credibility, and to become a desired team member within the company!
With globalization impacting nearly ever industry and a lot of the companies that operate in a global environment it is inevitable that at one point in your career you will be a part of a global team or a team that does business with individuals from all across the globe. I have been fortunate enough to have had professional experience working both with global teams and on a global team myself and the communication style and dynamic is truly different and extremely important in facilitating project success.
The past two summers I worked at Rockwell Automation which is a large multinational corporation headquartered out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Rockwell operates in the industrial automation industry producing equipment and software that is used to automate manufacturing lines. Two summers ago I worked on a culturally diverse team within the inside sales department, and this past summer I worked in the logistics department and had a boss from Europe and high levels of interaction with logistics teams all across the world. Both of these experiences have taught me a great deal of how to work and communicate effectively with global teams.
My first summer with Rockwell placed me on a culturally diverse team. My boss was Indian by heritage raised in a household by immigrant parents. I had a team member from Russia, and also a team member who was raised in a traditional Mexican environment as his parents were immigrants as well. This added to a lot of diverse cultures, all operating towards the common goal of the team. I had high degrees of interaction with my boss and my coworker from Russia and I learned a lot about interacting with individuals from other cultures.
For starters the conversations with my boss were a lot more of a teaching style than what I have encountered in the past. My boss never was extremely direct in saying yes or no. After doing some research on the Indian’s communication culture the word “no” is considered very direct and hostile. Instead in the Indian culture individuals tend to have open discussions with each other and respect and place value in opinions that might oppose their own. I truly did see this when reflecting on my experience at Rockwell. My boss, even though I was completely new to the team and industry, always valued my ideas and wanted our dialog to be open in nature.
On the other hand, I experienced a dramatically different communication style with my team member from Russia. She was extremely direct and to the point and wouldn’t waver in telling me if a process I was using was wrong. This was helpful as she was training me on the customer relationship management platform, so we were able to accomplish a lot in a short period of time, but it did take some adjusting to the “directness” of her communication style. This summer my experience was great in exposing me to these differences that exist within teams and how they communicate. It was great exposure that allowed me to be successful in my second internship with Rockwell.
My second summer allowed me to have high degrees of interactions with teams from all over the world. Specifically, I had to contact teams in Brazil, Netherlands, and China and for each of these teams I approached these conversations very differently. I used the awareness I developed in my previous summer in order to be successful.
The very high level project I was working on required me to reach out to teams spanning the global and get data from them from their logistics departments. I knew that I had to be cognizant of the cultures I was dealing with due to my prior experiences with globally diverse teams. When approaching individuals in Europe I would explain high level why I needed the data because otherwise I found it common that they would ask why before providing what was needed. It was important to explain yourself whereas in the United States my team members would never explain themselves they would just expect it to get done. For the teams in the Asia Pacific region I had to reach out to it was important for me to be extremely clear in what metrics I needed since I found out quickly they had a different way of collecting data in their region. For example in the United States we were using $/lb, Europe was $/kg, and China had a metric cpk which was their own way of collecting data that they had to interpret for me. Finally, for those team members in Latin America I had to be more friendly and open to their family experiences. For example, one individual I was working with had to leave work at 2:00pm every day for her children and so our meetings had to be prior to this time. The Latin American working culture and family culture are much more intertwined in Brazil as opposed to the United States, so I had to be aware of this.
Additionally, another thing I had to take into consideration was the time difference. We communicated a lot via email, but these conversations would span over a few days when if they had taken place within the US the conversations would have lasted a day or two. Additionally, I had to have calls with those in Europe at 8am my time, so they could call in before leaving the office for the day.
The main take away from this post and my experience is to be open-minded and receptive to communication styles. They truly do differ from country to country, and it doesn’t take much time on our end to adjust our style and be adaptable to others we are working with. At the end of the day by showing effort of doing this will gain the respect of those you are working with. Also, it not only facilitates project success, but also builds up your credibility and desirability as a working employee of a global workforce. I personally love working in diverse environments because it is challenging and I always learn a lot not only about other cultures but also about myself, so I am hoping that I will be able to continue this in my future career.
Below are some photos from my time in Europe on Fisher’s Student Exchange Program, since I know this post was text heavy. I have the cultural differences I realized regarding communication in my captions to further emphasize just how difference this piece is in difference regions of the world!
“‘Everyone assumes that Cultural Intelligence (CQ) comes from understanding other people’s cultures, but you really have to understand your own’ (Middleton). Julia is so right about this point.” says Sydney Lapin studying abroad on the Student Exchange Program at Ecole de Management Strasbourg in Strasbourg, France. Read more on what she learned about CQ and how it related to her experience abroad, as well as how being abroad has helped her learn about her own culture and about herself.
The other day in my International Marketing Strategy class, we watched a Ted Talk that really spoke out to me. It was called “Cultural Intelligence: The Competitive Edge for Leaders” spoken by Julia Middleton. In the beginning, Julia defines cultural intelligence as “the ability to cross borders and boundaries between different cultures, and actually thrive in doing so and love doing it and never want to not do it”. Julia grew up in the time where IQ meant everything, where it was considered crucial. Then, EQ (Emotional Intelligence) came around and people realized that it would be good for leaders to have this trait as well. However, people who are “good with people”, may really just be good with people who are like them. That is where CQ (Cultural Intelligence) comes into play: “the ability to work with people, and lead people, who are not like you”.
Julia went around the world, studying and interviewing people who she thought to have a good amount of cultural intelligence. Through her conversations, she found one large thing in common: “They had sort of figured out which bits of them was core, and which bits of them was flex”. By core “bits”, Julia means the behaviors, values and beliefs that are absolutely crucial to you being who you are, and a part of you that you are not willing to change. By flex bits, Julia means everything else that you are willing to compromise, or be flexible about. She states, “The more core you are, the more people trust you. The more flex you are, the more people trust you”. By this I believe she means that one needs to find a good balance, and that balance is what people who obtain cultural intelligence have found. For example, a salesperson is extremely flexible, and you lose all parts of your core and no one trusts you. And then, as Julia mentions, you have people like your grandparents, who are so set in their core that they refuse to be the least bit flexible.
Julia stated that cultural intelligence is found on the linebetween one’s core and one’s flex, and it moves from learning new things, gaining new experiences, and meeting new people. This video really got me thinking about which parts of me are core, and which parts are flex. I thought about my life, and my culture, and I tried and am still trying to figure it out. I think it will take a long time, if not forever, for someone to truly figure out where they stand because like Julia says, the line is always moving based on the things you learn and the people you meet.
Being abroad, I completely see how this video connects with my life. I have met people from all over the world, and not only met them but have held conversations, been involved in group projects, and traveled with these people of different backgrounds. There are parts of me I have and still need to adapt in order to get things to go smoothly when I work with people from other cultures.
With that, I am talking about the part of the video where Julia mentions knots in the core. We all have knots: parts of our supposed core that are based on PRE-judgement, rather than judgement. These are things we should push at and work on changing about ourselves. They might not be pretty, but I feel like that’s the point. For example, something I know I need to work on is my emotional resilience. When coming abroad, I thought that I had a pretty good grip on the things that would be difficult: the language barrier, the bureaucracy, the new school system. However, I did not think about preparing myself for how to react when difficult things are occurring. This is emotional resilience, the ability to bounce back and be okay when something is extremely frustrating and difficult. I have bounced back, but there are situations that I know I could have been more flexible and less reactive about.
An important part of the Ted Talk was where CQ comes from: “Everyone assumes that CQ comes from understanding other people’s cultures, but you really have to understand your own” (Middleton). Julia is so right about this point. She talks about the need to understand how your culture helps you versus hinders you, how it could open doors or close them, when your culture causes other people problems, and when your culture causes you to miss opportunities. To quote myself from my application, I thought one of the most important things was for me to “experience new cultures, learn about different backgrounds, and immerse myself in these cultures”. However, I now realize that the most important thing I am doing here, aside from learning about other cultures (which of course is still important), is learning who I am and how my culture, my core and my flex, affect my life and the people around me.
It is actually extremely complex, because when I think about the many things that I thought I was flexible on, it turns out that in some situations here I have found these things as “knots” in my core: they are things I want and aim to be flexible about, but I am currently not there yet, like my emotional resilience for example. It also turns out that when thinking deeper, things that I thought were in my core are actually things that I am quite flexible on. The biggest example of that I can think of is my Judaism. Being Jewish has always been one of the most important parts of me. I grew up in Cleveland, in an amazing Jewish community, that gave me so many opportunities I am grateful for. While being Jewish is something I hold very close, this video has made me think about the fact that yes, I am Jewish. Yes, this is important to me, and a part of me that I will not change. But, Judaism is actually one of the most flexible religions in the world. For instance, I personally do not think I believe in God, or in a lot of the things that supposedly happened back then, but Judaism still accepts me as a Jew. I am flexible to new opinions that go along with Judaism, and my thoughts and beliefs about it are always changing. So while being Jewish is something in my core, something that makes me who I am, I am still quite flexible about my beliefs through my religion.
I am beyond grateful to have seen this video while being abroad, and to be able to relate it to my everyday life here in Strasbourg, France. I feel as though I am much more aware of my personal strengths and weaknesses, and what I need to work on in order to become more culturally aware and to gain cultural intelligence. I know that the journey to having cultural intelligence is not easy, and will take a long time, but I think it is so important to be open to changing things about yourself, while also realizing what you are not willing to change in order to be who you are.
Having aspiration of working abroad one day, Katelyn Mistele attends a professional speaker event at Copenhagen Business School (Denmark) about setting yourself up for a global career. She learns about the pros and cons of having a globally mobile career, and shares her insights on her experience studying abroad and what she gained from being abroad.
Copenhagen Business School is like Fisher in the fact that many companies and speakers frequently visit the school to give talks and recruit. There was an individual who is currently work with Maersk, the largest shipping company in the world, but also worked with P&G with Gillette, who put on a presentation one day. I decided to attend as the message of the talk was marketing yourself and setting yourself up for a global career.
The individual who was giving the talk has led a successful and extensive global career. He is from London but after working with P&G for a few years in London he made a jump to Switzerland. From that he changed companies and spent the next decade jumping between Singapore and London with Maersk. Today he sits in Denmark still working with Maersk and his career is still mobile and he will most likely make another career move soon. This background was so interesting to me because I have always heard about individuals being globally mobile with their career but this isn’t as common in the United States. Instead, we see intercontinental movement with jobs. The speaker proposed that the major contributing factor to his ability to be mobile in Europe is the European Union and how it is easier to be mobile for work here than it is across boarders in other parts of the world.
He asked us to brain storm a list of questions regarding what we would ask if we were asked by a company to confirm that we are globally mobile. As a class we came up with questions regarding the length of the assignment, the preparation in cultural terms before the project, questions regarding the location itself, and the opportunities for development during the assignment and after the assignment. There are a lot of deciding factors that go into deciding if an individual wants a global career and its important to keep in mind aspects regarding preparation and development. In terms of preparation the speaker told us that small moves as opposed to big ones have more problems. For example a jump from England to France is harder to adjust to than a jump from England to Singapore. Another key factor to take into consideration is the development opportunities during the assignment and after the assignment. A lot of times with expatriation assignments there is high failure rates upon arrival back to ones home country as readjusting seems to be harder. The speaker told us that during his return from one of his projects his mentor told him to not talk about his experiences that much because people back at home really don’t care that much. He said it was so hard to keep his thoughts and experiences completely to himself but he said in the long run it was worth it and helped him to get back into to the English culture faster.
This presentation was very interesting for me as working abroad or on abroad accounts is something I am definitely interested in looking into in the future. At a first glance I, as I am sure most other people would be, just think about the location. We all want to travel and work somewhere cool, but there are many important factors that contribute to what would make this a successful assignment and contribute to a successful global career. The speaker also suggested that if we have any inkling to go and lead a global career that we should. He said that the 70-20-10 model can be applied to working on international assignments as 70% of your learning in your career happens on the job and the best way to learn and grow in an international environment is to just take the job. The 20% is learning what happens with peers or mentors and the 10% is “classroom learning” which can happen in the class room or even on the internet in the form of training videos. All parts of this model apply to any assignment but the speaker was trying to point out that you learn the most from being on the job so if you want to grow your career internationally it makes the most sense to take international opportunities as they arise because that’s when you’ll learn and grow the most.
He also mentioned how the environment of global employment is changing. There are now an increase in short term assignments which last less than two years and this is a positive as it is making people more mobile. However, there is a downside as customers do not like when people continuously rotate as it is harder to build long term relationships. Also companies are starting to now really look at the cost of expatriation as it is very expensive. So the question that is facing employees and businesses today is what is the balance?
Personally, I hope that at some point in my career I have the opportunity to go on an expatriation assignment. After spending some time in Denmark, I have grown so much culturally and learned a lot. Only these international experiences can provide you with this personal growth. It is one thing to just read about a culture and learn about its nuances but you really do not reap all the benefits of cultural exposure and integration unless you go and live in the culture. I personally have become not only more mindful of my nature, but also have picked up some of the Danish cultural traits. For example, Jantelov is an integral part of Danish culture. At its core, Jantelov is the idea that everyone is equal and on the same level and the Danish peoples actions should be in accordance with this idea. It goes further to describe how if one fall the society will catch them and help them back up. After being here and living in this culture I definitely can see aspects of this part of their culture and I am hoping that I will be able to assimilate parts of it into my everyday life and bring this part of Danish culture with me back to my life in the United States.
I strongly believe that cultural integration and sharing is something that I think will not only benefit myself and my career but could benefit a lot of individuals. As the speaker suggested 70% of learning happens on the job, and I think this can extend to study abroad or any cultural experience. It is important for myself to take advantage of these opportunities, and I hope that someday I will have the chance to go on an international assignment and further learn and mold my own cultural identity.
“I would highly recommend reaching out to business professionals wherever you go abroad.” says Megan Reardon who attended Singapore Management University. She gives tips and advice on how you can set up informational interviews with professionals abroad to take full advantage of expanding your network while abroad!
One of the top reasons that I chose to go to Singapore is because I am really interested in working abroad once I graduate. That being said, I was excited to start grabbing coffee with Singaporean business professionals. It was surprisingly easy to find people to meet with once in Singapore. There are four different ways I was able to connect with people:
1. LinkedIn. I was able to search my LinkedIn connections for graduates of Ohio State who lived in Singapore. I reached out to several people this way and was able to meet for coffee with a few people in the banking industry and the fashion industry. More so – they were all impressed that I took initiative to reach out that they were able to give good recommendations for places to search for internships and jobs in Singapore. One of my connections brought me out to eat with his whole family, so they would understand what native English sounds like!
2. Leveraging professors. Before I went to Singapore, I spoke with my professors at Ohio State about my goals. Several professors were able to connect me with their peers in Singapore, which shows the power of connections given how small Singapore is. As it turns out, one of my professors at Singapore Management University (SMU) received their PhD in Finance at Ohio State! It was interesting to be able to talk to him about the differences between Ohio State and SMU.
3. Past work experience. I knew that one of my past internships in Cleveland had a location in Singapore that operated their Asian business. Since I knew that I was going to Singapore when I interned with this company, I was able to talk with the people who did business in Singapore before I went abroad then meet them in person while in Singapore.
4. Family connections. Though I previously believed that my family had no connections in Singapore, I asked my dad to reach out to one of his work friends that lived there previously. They set me up with someone else, and before I knew it, I was talking to my cousin’s best friend’s older brother who happened to go to the same college as my dad and had a cousin that I was friends with at Ohio State. What a small world!
It was typically very informal when I met with the business people. I would usually ask that they pick the place where we would meet – this gave the professionals flexibility and gave me good recommendations regarding the “local favorites.” We would usually meet at a coffee shop, and the conversation would start pretty naturally given that we had already exchanged a few emails by that point. Some of my favorite conversation topics were:
1. Do you see significant growth opportunities in Singapore in regards to business as a whole?
2. Do you do any business with the U.S., and if so, what are the major differences that you see?
3. I would usually ask about their family, whether it be a simple, “Do you live with your family here?” or “How are your kids liking school here(primary school in Singapore is much different than in the U.S.)?”
4. Would you recommend working in Singapore?
I would highly recommend reaching out to business professionals wherever you go abroad. This gives you the chance to experience other cultures at a more personal level and determine more about the working culture to decide whether or not you want to work abroad.
Megan Reardon, studying at Singapore Management University for a semester, talks about what she has learned on how to conduct business in Asia.
While Singapore is a very Westernized culture compared to other Asian countries, business is still built on the same founding principles as other Asian countries. Most of the principles here are applicable in the workplace, but also in the school environment. In general, business in Asia is more focused on the group rather than the individual. This stems from the familial ties in Asia. Business emphasizes family and kinship more than the individual, as in the U.S. To be successful in Asia, the first thing is to ensure that you are willing to put in the long hours to get to know the people you are working with. In Asia, it isn’t about just signing a contract. It’s only when your Asian business colleague is fully willing to trust you that you will make any progress.
“Face” is an important concept in Asia. “Face” is essentially preventing embarrassment at all costs. You can lose face, save face, and give face. You should avoid putting possible partners in situations where they are required to contradict their superiors, give black and white answers, or make them uncomfortable in any way. This is typically regarded as not only disrespectful, but will cause the partner to lose face and thus lose trust in your partnership. It is very much appreciated when you give face to another person. Giving meaningful gifts, complimenting them to their superiors, or other positive affirmations give face to another person.
Another important business etiquette is the importance of exchanging business cards. You should have your information printed in English on one side and your language printed in the local language on the other side. Have plenty of business cards, as they are exchanged frequently. When you first meet someone, it is normal to give them a business card, even if you never anticipate doing business with them. When exchanging business cards, you should hold the card with both hands and present it to your counterpart.
A final business etiquette is becoming fluent in popular phrases of the country you are visiting. While most business in Asia is conducted in English, it is important to recognize that English is never their first language, and phrases in their native language could go a long way. Essential phrases like hello, good to meet you, and thank you could make the difference between a business deal gone right or wrong.
In Singapore, business people are accustomed to Western business practices. Almost everyone speaks fluent English and is comfortable enough with Western practices. That being said, first impressions are important and being prepared and comfortable with standard Asian business practices will show strong interest in conducting business in Singapore.
Through one of his classes at Rikkyo University, Cayhil Grubbs had the opportunity to visit Adidas Japan! Hear about his experience interacting with business people in Japan on the Student Exchange Program.
My interactions with Japanese business professionals were fairly limited in number, but significant, especially in a class I took called Business Project. In this class, Adidas Japan came in and presented us with a marketing related problem that they are currently facing. We were tasked with finding the best way to measure Net Promoter Score (NPS), and where we could measure it best. We formed groups to solve this problem, and in mid-October and early December we went to Adidas Japan’s headquarters to present our research and solutions.
During my two visits to Adidas Japan’s HQ, I had several opportunities to network with current employees and Rikkyo alumni at Adidas. The employees were more than willing to talk about what it’s like to work in Japan and their experiences with Adidas Japan. I also met several senior executives and mid-level managers that were happy to talk about their career paths, and what they liked or disliked about working in Japan.
I learned a lot about searching for jobs from Japanese students. Looking for a job at a Japanese company in Japan is very different from the United States. Internships differ between the two countries as they usually last one or two days in Japan versus two or three months in the United States. These one day internships are unpaid. Students do most of their network through these internships and career fairs. In Japan, looking for a job once you graduate is called “Job Hunting” as they typically take time off of school to schedule a lot of interviews, do as many one day internships as possible, and go to a lot of career fairs. Japanese workers rarely change companies. As far as networking goes, reach out to your professors and counselors to find out about career fairs and potential job opportunities. Several of the professors at Rikkyo teach part-time and work at various firms. Most networking techniques that work in the U.S. also work in Japan, so put them to use and be persistent.