We’ve recently covered the topic of travel and study abroad on this blog as a key toward gaining cross-cultural competence for American students and professionals. But attaining a level of comfort in unfamiliar settings applies equally to international students studying business in the United States.
Recently, the Wall Street Journal explored how some MBA programs are teaching American-style networking to students from other countries who feel uncomfortable with what can be perceived as an overly casual, artificial, or outgoing approach to making professional connections.
To smooth the road for international students who may find their employment prospects limited by these cultural differences, the WSJ says schools have recently increased their efforts to train foreign students in the soft skills American employers expect, from appropriate email greetings to making small talk at networking events.
The majority of international students at U.S. MBA programs come from Asia, where the cultural differences related to networking are stark. However, even European students often find it awkward to send introductory emails or chat up strangers at networking events, the article notes, even though both practices are commonplace in the job-search process in this country.
International students see Americans as “all hellishly extroverted,” Dan Beaudry, author of “Power Ties: The International Student’s Guide to Finding a Job in the United States,” tells the WSJ. “They think, ‘isn’t it rude for me to call up somebody I don’t know to ask for their time and their advice?’” he says.
Career centers worry these cultural differences put international students at a disadvantage during their internship and job searches. But, through forums discussing communication differences, coaching workshops designed to help students develop elevator pitches for potential employers, and mock-interviews to troubleshoot areas of weakness, today’s MBA programs are making the networking customs of the U.S. less daunting for international students.
Cultural acclimation can challenge even the most well-traveled individuals, but international MBA students have much to offer their American peers, and learning how to network “American-style” will put them on equal footing with their classmates when competing for those prime employment opportunities.