Category Archives: Career

Etiquette for International Business People

In our globalised world, we often find ourselves needing to do business with people who live on the other side of the world. However, every culture has their own way of doing things. What’s acceptable in your home country might be offensive elsewhere. And a simple misunderstanding can damage a perfectly fine business relationship.

Here are some basic guidelines on social interaction in a multi-national business context.

Cultural awareness

There’s no universal set of business etiquette rules that can be applied around the world. Every nation will have its own set of rules and standard practices, so it’s important that you familiarise yourself with the particular culture of the people you’ll be doing business with.

Make the effort to find out what’s going on in their home. That way, you won’t appear ignorant and insensitive. For instance, if you understand the concept of “face” in many Asian cultures, you will know the implications it has for business conduct. Never “lose face” in front of contacts if you want to be respected, and avoid causing your Asian contacts to “lose face”.

Take cues

When doing business in another country, take your cue from your overseas colleagues. This is especially true for where to draw the line with personal space. In some cultures, men might be very unreserved in their affection with one another, so it would be normal to greet business associates with a hug. However, in that same culture it might be highly improper for a male associate to greet a female contact in the same way.

If you’re not sure how to act, hang back, observe your environment closely, and check what the locals do.

Time zones and language barriers

Aside from the cultural differences you’ll encounter, there are the more obvious differences of language and time. It’s important that where you can, you make allowances for these differences. Want to send a brochure or report to colleagues in China? Remember that not everyone speak English, so provide a Mandarin translation. Need to make a phone call to Hong Kong? Check the local time first.

Be tolerant

There’s always going to be something that will seem like a strange way to go about conducting business to you. For instance, Germans are well-known for their punctuality. But in many African and South American countries, on the other hand, scheduled appointments are often treated like a general guideline rather than an absolute rule.

In occasions like this it is vitally important that you be patient and adaptable. Be tolerant and non-judgemental towards everything that is new and different.


Finding Your Own Leadership Style as a Manager

Definitions abound for what exactly a leader is. Thing is, there are many different kinds of leaders. A leader doesn’t necessarily have to be someone who is loud and authoritative, or someone who can spontaneously come up with passionate motivational speeches.

And while some people are natural born leaders, this doesn’t mean that not everyone can step into a position of leadership. So if you have your eye on a managerial role, but worry that you won’t be a good leader, don’t worry. You just need to find a style of leadership that suits you. Here are some common leadership styles -. Which ones suit your personality?

The charismatic leader – Some people lead through sheer force of their magnetic personalities. By simply being themselves, people are naturally drawn to them and want to follow them. Oprah Winfrey, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King – these are some of the most famous examples of charismatic leaders.

A holistic leader – You realise that an employee is a person with many different aspects. You don’t just push to make your team perform, but take an interest in their lives in general. You don’t just want a productive workplace, but a healthy environment where people can really flourish. People look up to you and respect you for this. And at the end of the day, this approach gets results because you bring out the best in people.

A leader who leads by example – You aren’t the type of person who says “Do what I say, not what I do”. You lead by inspiring people by your own conduct. You understand that leadership isn’t an end in itself, but a means to encourage and motivate people to commit their energies, skills and talents to be the most they can be.

The democratic leader – People appreciate your leadership style because you don’t act like it’s not all about your vision. You give everyone the chance to participate and be heard. Even the quiet ones in the corner, because you realise that everyone has value. You create a positive office culture and build a team around you that can work well together.

The take-charge leader – If you’re this kind of leader, you’ve just always been the type of person who in any situation can stand up and take responsibility. You don’t run away when the pressure gets too much; you can make difficult decisions, and you have the initiative to get things done.

The introverted leader – You know that the best leader isn’t necessarily the loudest person in the room, so you don’t fight to be heard. You sit back and let everyone have their say, because you know the importance of listening to others and thinking before speaking. Once all the commotion has died down and everyone has given their two cents, you say what you have to say. And it’s thoughtful, valuable and to the point. There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about how introverts make great leaders, so you’re in good company.

Being a manager doesn’t automatically make you a leader. Think back to all the managers you’ve worked with. Do you think they were all leaders as well as managers? Probably not. If you want to be a good manager though, it’s important that you learn how to lead. Business management training will certainly help. But remember that it’s also about accepting the type of leadership style that suits you best, without trying to be something you’re not.




Is Your Elevator Pitch Ready?

If you need to prepare a proposal for a meeting, you have the time to sit down and really think about what you want to say. You can do your research, choose your words carefully, and you know you have a certain allotment of time to get your point across coherently and persuasively.

However, what if you happen to run into someone in the elevator who has the power to make or break your dream? Or perhaps it’s at a conference or cocktail party that you’re introduced to someone who is in the position to make things happen. You have less than a minute to pitch on the spot and make an impression.


Will you know what to say? Will you know how to say it?

Having your elevator pitch ready to go at a moment’s notice is underappreciated. Some people have the gift of the gab to say the right thing at the right time – whether it’s to land a job, bag a sponsorship or outline an idea. But for the rest of us, it takes a little preparation to not let the opportune moment slip through our fingers.

Elevator pitches aren’t just for the elevator, however

While the idea being described here is that you should be able to pitch an idea in chance encounters or casual meetings, elevator pitches work well even for appointments. It’s a good strategy to always be able to sum up your proposal in less than a minute. Remember that companies hear any number of proposals, and the ones that stick out are often the simplest. You make a far bigger impact by distilling your pitch into its essential points because your core message can so easily be diluted with the nonessentials. So it’s always a good idea to be able to summarise your idea into an elevator pitch.

How to write your elevator pitch

Grab your pen and paper and write out your ideal proposal. Make sure that you really capture what the core points of your pitch are. Remember that this isn’t the time to elaborate. What you want to do is pique someone’s interest so that when you hand over a business card, it will be remembered.

Read it out loud and time how long it takes to say. Chances are that it’s more than 30 seconds. Well, that’s pretty much how long you will have. So you have some editing to do.

Distil the most essential points. The more summarised the better. What is the hook of your idea? Concentrate on the most essential point, maybe two, and build around that.

To help you along, ask yourself what your unique selling point is.

Very importantly, keep it conversational. Don’t try to impress your listener with jargon. Even if you are at industry functions, like oil conferences or corporate dinners, your point will be diminished if your listener needs to decode what you’re trying to say. Simple and direct is best.

Dreams can be made in chance encounters, as you’re both making your way to the ground floor. With a little forethought and practice you can pique someone’s interest in only a couple minutes, and in your metaphorical elevator you’ll get to where you what to be.

Careers for second language speakers

While English is the most popular business medium spoken the world over or the second language of choice (known as a lingua franca), being proficient in only one language can have a limiting effect on your career.  Being fluent in a second language could serve you and your work well in a number of career paths, such as these:

Second language teacher

Teaching foreign languages abroad is something great to do while you’re young and just starting out your career.   A teaching degree or even a post graduate diploma combined with being fluent in French or Spanish could open many doors as a second language teacher in countries such as Canada and the US respectively.

Au pair

Working as an au pair is another great way to travel the world or live abroad for a few years. While there are certainly many opportunities to take advantage of as an English-speaking au pair, many clients are not willing to even consider an au pair’s application unless the applicant is fluent in their native tongue.

Cruise ships

Cruise ship careers have really taken off in the last few years. This is an amazing opportunity to travel the world and experience different cultures.  There are possibilities to work on the ships for years and even relocating to a new country.  This cultural experience will only be more enriched by learning the languages of the places you may visit or relocate to.

Interpreter / Translator

Interpreting has become a really lucrative career to pursue. Whether or not you do it full time or part time, you stand to make a lot of money for your work.  Mandarin translation might not seem like a great career path; however you may change your view once you realize that clients are willing to fork out up to 80 dollars per hour for this valuable skill.  Many companies also pay translators per word to translate documents.  Translating from English to a foreign language such as Danish or Arabic may get you up to 19 cents per word.


The challenge with writing has always been getting your work read by as many people as possible. This is not as easy as it sounds as the majority of all content written today uses the English medium. Amazingly English does not have the most speakers, let alone the most readers in the world. There are approximately 1 billion Mandarin speakers and readers in the world.  Learning to write in Mandarin would immediately open your writing to a huge market that you may never have reached had you only written in English.

Aside from the amazing career opportunities that learning an additional language have, learning a second language will also make your traveling experience easier.  Learning the language of a country such as France is seen as a sign of respect. While French people have a reputation of being somewhat abrasive, they are more than accommodating if you are able to converse with them in their native tongue.

How to get started as a consultant

There’s a nice sounding ring to being a consultant, isn’t there? The idea that readily comes to mind is that you get paid a big bundle of money to be an expert with a sought-after opinion. But what does a consultant really do, and how do you become one?

What does a consultant do?

A consultant will have a particular niche that they know very well. Well enough in order to be paid by a business simply for advice. For example, control room consultants would need to know the field of security very well. They’d be well-versed with the technology, policies, and trends of security. They’d know how to integrate this with buildings, as well as what different businesses or institutions would require in a specific security strategy.

A consultant needs to be able assess a situation and make informed decisions that get results.

Where do you start?

You generally don’t just graduate from school and become a consultant. Stepping into a consultancy role generally isn’t the first step on your career ladder. It’s a job title you can take on when you have the knowledge and experience to qualify you to tell a business what’s what.

Even if you’ve paid your dues and consider yourself ready to consult, it can be tricky getting started.

You need a network. Now, what does that involve?


Never underestimate the power of having a few good references behind your name. As a consultant, having good words spoken on your behalf from a trustworthy source is particularly important. When you consult, you aren’t just drawing from the qualifications on your degree. You’re drawing from experience, which gives you the hard-earned knowledge that justifies what you have to say. And a potential employee will want to get a closer look at that experience from your references. Especially when you’re first starting out as a consultant and still establishing your reputation.

A client base

Once you’re sure you have good references to draw from, it’s time to get a client base. Referrals are a good way to get new clients as a consultant. You just need to start out somewhere to get your first clients, who will be able to go on to refer you to others. Seeing as how you should have experience and references already, it stands to reason that you already know some people in the industry. And those people know more people. Fish around and see if anyone you know knows of someone who could make use of your services.

Also, learn the essentials of establishing yourself as an industry expert through the web. This may entail having a professional website, doing some content marketing, and diligently using social media. The calls will eventually come.

Finally, remember that when you’re starting out, it might be good to keep your rates low. It’s for this reason that people often begin doing part-time consulting in their spare time, while still holding on to the security of their old job. Once you get the swing of things, have a more steady supply of work and have happy clients, you can start charging more and enjoy all the benefits that come with calling yourself a consultant.