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Do I Really Need International Experience to be a Player in HR?

I know, I know.  You've got to check off that international box if you want to have a rockstar career in any field - even HR, if you listen to the folks at the pinnacle of our field.  Heck, I thought I had the biggest letters I could get with the SPHR, but then they went and put up a bigger one - the GPHR (with the "G" aptly standing for "global").

But, here's the deal - I'm not going to live internationally - I've got two young kids, and while I can respectPassport-mexico the families that see relocating abroad as a big "enrichment" experience, I'm not after that type of enrichment.  My kids are going to grow up in the USA, which means I'll just have to figure out if that derails the momentum of my career over time. 

Will others leapfrog me?  Without question, but it probably won't be due to the value of international experience if you believe the latest from the Academy of Management via BusinessWeek:

"With eight years of international experience on two continents under your belt, you figured you were on a fast track to a C-suite job. Well, think again. Monika Hamori and Burak Koyuncu of Spain's IE Business School examined the careers of 1,001 executives from the largest companies in the U.S. and Europe and found that the number and duration of foreign assignments did influence how fast an employee rose up the ranks—but not in the way you might expect. Those who spent more time away from headquarters actually took longer to get to the top. And posts taken at later stages of an executive's career were especially detrimental to advancement. Time spent abroad with other employers didn't do anything to help one's chances, either.

The working paper, presented at the Academy of Management's annual meeting, held in Chicago Aug. 7-11, makes a good case that face time still counts for a lot in corporate life. Executives assigned to work abroad can lose out because they are unplugged from the valuable social networks at corporate headquarters—what Hamori and Koyuncu call "the out-of-sight, out-of-mind effect." This is consistent with previous studies that found that nearly half of repatriated executives left their company within two years of returning to their home country, largely because of concerns about career advancement. The pair's advice for those who have their eyes on the corner office: Go ahead and take the job in Shanghai. But do it only for a year or two, and do it when you're young. And don't even think about jumping to another company when you get back."

Out of sight, out of mind.  So, get the international experience, but make it experience supporting international operations rather than living in Instanbul.  Or Turkistan.

Not that there's anything wrong with Instanbul.  That used to be Constantinople, by the way.  Don't get me started on geography.  Next thing you know, I'm breaking off the knowledge that Saint Petersburg used to be called Petrograd (you were thinking Leningrad, right?), and then it's on.

Me? I'll just concentrate on specializing on the domestic side.  There seems to be plenty of need there...

Comments

Jennifer---Just another People Mgr

I think that you can still have international experience without moving out of the country! If the company you work for has business outside of the US and you help support that business or division on a regular basis. Doesn't that give you international experience??

For example: if you are VP of People and your company decides to expand oversees and you assist with the onboarding of those employees and you are involved with every aspect of human resources and supporting those people, doesn't that give you international experience?? You would still have to know all the international laws and have to know the specifics regarding hiring local nationals in that particular country, right??

Maybe not but I think that would give you the international experience without traveling abroad.

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