Developing an International Resume

Written in March 2015 for Aureus Consulting:

Applying for a job in a foreign country contains a myriad of communication challenges. How do you translate your school records? Should you use British or American English in your cover letter? What if your references don’t speak the language of the company you hope to join?

Business standards and professional expectations can be tough to navigate, particularly when it comes to the crux of your application: your resume.

The UK and the US wish to know nothing about you but your qualifications in order to minimize the amount of influence your gender or race has on the decision to call you in for an interview. Many people even forgo listing hobbies. Singapore, on the other hand, normally wants a photograph and a date of birth, and you’re more likely to be selected if your experience or previous titles directly overlap with the position you’re applying to. In addition to a photo, the Philippines sometimes go as far as expecting your height, weight, religion, and even parents’ occupations. Be prepared to fax your resume in Japan, where cultural/organizational fit often outweighs hard technical competency. Inappropriate email addresses are grounds for immediately rejecting a CV according to 38% of employers in Brazil and 36% of employers in China.

Research has shown that it takes just 6 seconds for a potential employer to decide to reject your resume or get to know you better, which means no matter where in the world your career takes you, the first impression of your curriculum vitae is crucial. So how can you develop a resume that is impactful worldwide?

Regardless of cultural norms and expectations, some elements of a strong resume are universal. Your contact information should be near the top and your email address should be professional (no “Iheartmartinis@hotmail.com”). Formatting should be consistent and clean – bullets should be neatly aligned; bold and italics are great ways to highlight achievements but they should be used sparingly; and don’t mix and match fonts. The descriptions of your work experiences should be evocative and your accomplishments should be quantified. Don’t say you were the number one sales person without including the net gain you earned for your company. Don’t say you increased the efficiency of production without including by what percent you increased it by. Numbers are clear markers of success in any language.

Put the effort in to make sure your experience is accessible to a person who knows nothing about your country. Every employer in Malaysia will know that Petronas is a Fortune 500 company, but odds are that employers outside of Southeast Asia will not and so it’s up to you as an applicant to include that detail. Generic job titles can also work against you. A potential employer won’t be able to visualize your responsibilities from “Marketing Manager” alone. Even if that technically was your official title, add a qualifier – like “Head Marketing Manager for APAC Region” or “Digital Content Marketing Manager” – to give readers a shortcut.

And lastly… Spell-check. A careless error makes a poor impression in any culture.

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How to Achieve Work-Life Balance

Written in October 2014 for Aureus Consulting:

There are a lot of tips and tricks out there for juggling a career and a personal life, and they run the gauntlet from reasonable time management to abject selfishness. But it really all comes down to one thing: knowing when and how to say No.

Knowing when to say ‘No’ is tricky and it’s different for every person because it depends on values. We all need to oscillate between periods of activity and rest, but the type of activity that matters to you and how long you need to rest can vary greatly from the next person. For example, someone who highly values spending time with friends might not understand someone who chooses to study instead of go out on a Friday night. What is more important to you right now: a future goal or living life to the fullest today? Note that the factors we consider when choosing to say No change throughout our lives. You might prioritize working late when you know a promotion is coming up, but then later prioritize spending time with your family because your wife just gave birth or your mother has become ill.

The main enemy to a work-life balance is guilt. Guilt over what you should do. Guilt over taking time for yourself. Guilt over letting down a client or a colleague or a friend. Guilt over not trying as hard as you can. We each only have one life and what you decide to allot the majority of your time to is completely your choice; but don’t waste the limited time you have on feeling guilty over your decision. Allow yourself to fully commit to both your periods of activity and of rest. If you’re working towards a goal, ignore anyone who tells you you’re “working too hard.” And when you go on vacation, go on vacation. Turn off your phone and leave the laptop at home. If you work in an industry that occasionally needs real time responses (like urgent client needs or crisis control), then figure out a system with your co-workers.

Remember: just because you can take on that project at work, doesn’t mean you should. And just because you technically have the time to volunteer to be the leader of your daughter’s Girl Scout troop, doesn’t mean that’s what you should spend that time on. Saying No doesn’t just mean declining to work overtime some days, it also means turning down social events you don’t want to attend. It means understanding what you want and what you need before making a decision or taking action.

While figuring out when it’s right for us to say No is a path we all must forge alone, learning how to say No is much simpler. All you need to say is something along the lines of: “I’m sorry, but I have a lot on my plate and I can’t do that at this time.” Be confident. You don’t owe anyone explanations. As author Elbert Hubbard said, your friends don’t need them and your enemies won’t believe you.

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