Building a Global Career

It is hard not to get excited about this topic as this is my life and I am still shaping it even now. For this article, I’ll share some of the principles that I found useful. If you want to know, ask me more feel free to contact me on Linkedin.

Start Early

Thinking and planning to travel abroad for your first/second degree is certainly a good place to begin. After my second year at university, I knew I wanted to travel abroad. One of my favourite lecturers was leaving for the University of Leeds on a 2- year sabbatical and I was fascinated. I began to write to schools abroad requesting for brochures (yeah it was that long ago – nobody does that anymore). I had ideas of travelling abroad to get my master’s and coming back to work as a lecturer in my department. Of course, it didn’t happen, but it was the important seed that sparked the desire to travel and possibly work/live outside my home po9’country. Years later, I had a mentee that was a Chemical Engineering undergraduate student at the University of Lagos. His final year project attracted interest from a lecturer at a university in the United States and he was offered a full scholarship to do a Masters and he has since gone on to complete his PhD in his field of study. This is to offer you the thought that you can start while you are in school. If you are reading this, and you are thinking ‘I have missed that boat’ as you are already in the workplace. Then…

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Start Choosing

Choose to work in companies that will help achieve your desire to be global. One way to build a global career is to join and work for global/multinational organisations. When I started my career in KPMG, it was not clear that I could pursue my desire to be international. But my dream was given life as I saw a lot of my colleagues depart for Ivy League Business schools every September. I chose to leave KPMG and move to Accenture as I realised my professional goals would take much longer to achieve. At Accenture, I got my first taste of international collaboration and acclaim. I was one of the best participating members during a session with several other employees from around the world. It was exhilarating! I moved again to achieve another career goal and this time I had potential offers from 3 great companies. I sought guidance and I made a choice that was considered unpopular – I joined British American Tobacco Nigeria (BAT). BAT was the only company willing to take a chance and offer me a job I had little direct experience. I demonstrated my interest and passion during the interview. Even during that interview at BAT, I was offered a choice of 4 different roles in the hr team. I chose the one that was most aligned to my professional goals. I had a great first interview with my future line manager and I chose to work with her. All these choices made the difference and got me to where I am today. Make the choices that are in line with your career ambitions.

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Start Local

The best of you that the world wants to see and know always starts from the performance you demonstrate locally. A former colleague of mine that worked on my team had a flair for dressmaking/ fashion design. She worked with BAT for a while but later moved on to pursue her career goals at another company. With the desire to succeed so strong in her, she quit that job and focused on fashion design full time. First, she got properly trained in the art of fashion design and completed an international master’s degree. She began making fabrics in Lagos with a special niche using eco-friendly materials. Armed with her portfolio, she joined several international competitions and won! She has since travelled extensively in Europe and has been to locations you would not consider typical – e.g Scandinavia, Russia etc. Now her designs and patterns are featured in a global best-selling fashion magazine. What I have always admired about her is the drive to start with whatever she had. Place/time/resources can be an excuse but don’t let it hold you back. If you were wondering how local gets you global, check out the kids from Ikorodu whose endearing movie spoofs have earned them a trip to an international movie premiere! If you are an employee at your dream multinational company, you must impress your local bosses with performance. The value you demonstrate locally will help them recommend you for international opportunities.

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Start Connecting

I learned to be deliberate in the choice of people in international locations that I wanted to associate with. I was always pro American coming from my time in consulting when over 90% of my colleagues went to US universities. So, when I began searching for my master’s program, I focused on schools in the US. Once I settled on the school choice, I found an alumnus of the school on LinkedIn and reached out to them to get their thoughts about the school and in the process connected with them. At work, there was nothing I did without the help of someone else recognising my contribution and deciding that I could thrive on a larger/global platform. I was offered the opportunity to work with international colleagues on a global project, in addition to delivering on the job, I built relationships with them. When it was time to recommend someone to join the team in England and my name came up, it was a name they were already familiar with and they were eager to have me on the same side. The thing to remember about building connections- by the time you need a connection, it is too late to build a connection.

Start taking action

Decide on your career and professional development goals. As you pursue them keep the global scale in mind. Make the most of every opportunity you have to demonstrate your value and competence. Dream and take the necessary actions to materialise your vision. Good luck.

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