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What Skills Do You Need for a Career in International Business?

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You need more than “hard skills” to succeed in an international business management role. In addition to your degree, and perhaps some knowledge of a second language (which is invaluable in this context), you need to be communicative, flexible, motivated, and empathetic. These are considered “soft skills”, because they are non-technical, based on attitude and how you relate to people rather than specific skills you learn in a classroom.

International businesspeople need the right balance of both in order to survive the volatile, uncertain, and complex environment that is the global recruitment market.

The challenges you will face as part of an international team can include language barriers, irregular working patterns, remote management, and problems that occur hundreds of miles away from where you are located.

It is imperative, if you are considering a career in international business, that you have the right blend of hard and soft skills to manage all of the above—and more. Let’s look at the top three skills that are important for success in international business, and learn how you can develop them further to increase your chances of securing a role in this field.

1. Communication

Effective communication, in all its forms, is the most important skill for any businessperson to develop. You need to know how to reach people, both in person and on paper, and learn when it’s better to listen than to talk. But this is especially important in international business, because you are commonly working with distanced teams where there might be a language barrier.

Knowledge of a second language, while not always a requirement for a role in international business, will often be an advantage. It allows you to communicate with diverse teams more effectively, and is an attractive skill to hiring managers in global organizations.

At the EU Business School Language Center, we offer a range of courses in modern European languages, including German, French, and Spanish. These are aimed at students of all abilities, from beginners right through to advanced speakers. Our Business Spanish program will give you the fluency you need to succeed at highly respected international companies like Telefonica, Santander, and Inditex.

But remember, not all communication is verbal. In addition to maintaining good eye contact and displaying positive body language—which is important in any professional setting—international businesses are staffed by people from different countries, whose cultures may be different from your own.

Eye contact is a very good example of this, because while it is polite to look someone in the eye while you are talking to them in Europe and the USA, in parts of Asia, South America, and Africa, it is considered rude to look at someone in this way for too long.

Always be mindful of the traditions of the places you’re working in and the people you are working with. Otherwise, you risk alienating your colleagues or an important client.

2. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (also referred to as your Emotional Quotient, EQ) is defined by an individual’s ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions. Someone with a high EQ is well suited to a career in international business because their ability to manage their emotions allows them to respond calmly in high-pressure situations.

Additionally, having a high EQ enables excellent problem solving and interpersonal skills, which will allow you to work effectively and form strong connections with people—both extremely important skills in international business.

What are some hallmarks of people with high levels of emotional intelligence?

  • Self-awareness: The ability to understand one’s own strengths, weaknesses, emotions, and motivations.
  • Self-regulation: The ability to recognize positive and negative emotions, and either harness or regulate them in order to work at their best.
  • Empathy: The genuine ability to relate to other people’s experiences and emotions.

Here are some tips on how you can improve your emotional intelligence and optimize your performance in the workplace:

  • Listen: In order to understand what other people are feeling, you first need to pay attention to what they are telling you. Sometimes, it can be difficult for them to do this out loud, so you need to watch for cues from their body language as well.
  • Learn: Instead of viewing feedback on your work as criticism, look at it as an opportunity to learn, develop your skills, and improve your performance. Emotionally intelligent people are receptive to all kinds of feedback—both positive and critical.
  • Reflect: Moments of reflection are vital to self-awareness. Take the time before you speak, before you make a decision, and at the end of every day to think, how are my emotions affecting me, is this the right choice, how did today go? Evaluating your own actions this way will make it easier for you to understand and empathize with other people.

3. Resilience and Stamina

Resilience and stamina are both important international business skills. Of course, you will face problems and setbacks in any workplace, but the world of international business is even more demanding, because it often involves working longer and more obscure hours to accommodate different time zones and cultures. Resilience will help you to overcome this. That is where stamina can come in, too: if you’ve got to work late or in irregular patterns. If you can be flexible about your hours, all the better!

Your levels of emotional intelligence will have a big impact on how you are able to manage these challenges, so it is important you take the time to Listen, Learn, and Reflect. These techniques will contribute to a more positive and inclusive outlook that will improve your ability to collaborate with coworkers and overcome challenges.

Where can I develop management skills for international business?

The EU Business School offers multiple undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in disciplines relevant to international business, including:

BSc in International Business

MBA in International Business

MBA in International Marketing

MBA in Global Banking & Finance

MSc in International Management

All of these programs will teach you the hard skills you need to succeed as a manager in an international business. They will give you a strong foundation in general knowledge regarding the culture, business regulations, and legal systems in different countries. Plus, if you choose to specialize, the MBAs in International Marketing and Global Banking & Finance will teach you how to connect with diverse people abroad and understand the worldwide financial market.

Our campuses are located in some of Europe’s busiest and most diverse cities, including Barcelona, Geneva, and Munich, and all of our courses are taught by leaders in European business. Altogether, the experience helps students develop all the skills they need to succeed as an international business manager.

To find out more, click on the links above, or download one of our campus brochures for free today.

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