Building an international career is a dream for many professionals. But – unless you work for a large multinational – it may seem impossible. How can you cultivate the contacts you need, or bridge the cultural gap? Ask Scott Friedman. A former President of the National Speakers Association, Friedman has developed a robust business across Asia, working for clients such as the government of Singapore and Hyatt Asia. Here are his strategies for cultivating a successful career abroad.
Focus Your Efforts. The first step, says Friedman, is determining where you want to spend your time. “Every year, I sit down and think, what do I want my year to look like?” he says. “I love Southeast Asia so I focus more time there and put energy into building relationships.” Especially with the Internet, you can form and maintain connections easily. “Wherever you put your focus, you get results,” he says.”
Be Patient. Most likely, you won’t immediately land business, says Friedman. “I used to spend 25% of my time in Asia and make 10% of my revenue there,” he recalls. But his steady investment has paid off:“I put in time to get to know people, and when I gave a speech, I’d try to build in some days to see friends and clients.” Today, he makes a far larger share of his profits in Asia.
Enjoy the Lifestyle. A grueling travel schedule isn’t worth it if you’re not having fun. “I’m a believer that there really isn’t a line between friendships and business associates,” says Friedman. “Our careers are tools to create whatever lifestyle we want to lead, hang out with people we love, and make a difference in the world.” Friedman enjoys organizing tours to bring other professional speakers to Asia – sometimes to address corporations and sometimes as part of a goodwill tour visiting orphanages.
Start with Your Connections. Social media is a great way to explore working in other countries, says Friedman. You can find LinkedIn connections who may have experience in a particular country, or begin following people on Twitter and start a dialogue. The American Chambers of Commerce Abroad provide a strong network in most countries and may be a good starting place. Finally, you can create opportunities to interact with people internationally; for Friedman’s new book, Celebrate!: Lessons Learned from the World’s Most Admired Corporations, he made a point of interviewing contacts in more than 35 countries to learn about their best practices.
Overall, says Friedman, it’s a matter of imagining what you want your life to look like – and then putting in the effort to make it happen: “You can figure out a way to make a living in the places you want to spend your time.”
What does your dream job (or life) look like? Where would you like to spend your time?
This post originally appeared on the Forbes website.
Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the Ford Foundation. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.