Op-Ed: Go Global! How Your International Experience Can Improve Your Career

by Carrie Field, Deputy Director of International Exchange

Carrianna Field
Deputy Director of International Exchange
(via law.uconn.edu)

What no one told me before I started practicing 6 years ago was how important networking and marketing skills were going to be to my career. Networking is important to build a web of contacts for future referral sources.  Marketing ensures that people inside and outside the firm know you and what skills you bring to the table.  International exchange is an educational and cultural experience that helps you effortlessly develop these skills.

First, building your network of contacts across cultural boundaries will improve your ability to connect with people from all cultural backgrounds, to create bridges of understanding through language challenges and to reach out and make people feel comfortable in new environments. All these skills are useful in private practice settings because you will tackle the unknown daily.  You may be asked to attend an event where you are expected to reach out cold to potential contacts, you may be asked to understand a client’s reasoning for requiring certain contractual language, or you may be asked if you can speak to a client who does not speak English.  When you have stepped into the unknown yourself, it is easier to reach out to others and bring them in.

Second, going global helps you understand how you come across in another country, which helps you learn how to properly present yourself and navigate environments that impose different expectations.  In private practice, you will be dealing with partners and senior associates (your first clients), with the firm’s executive committee, associate committee, diversity committee, recruitment committee and any number of other groups, and you will need to successfully participate and interact with all constituents.  Understanding what you bring to the table helps you understand what to present to others and allows you to become your best asset.  Learning to navigate firm life can be tricky, so can studying internationally. Practice these skills early and often through UConn Law’s numerous exchange programs.

Finally, learning to actively participate in firm networking events can be a daunting process, particularly if you are walking into a room of 50+ clients as a first-year associate.  An international experience helps improve and practice new skills in an environment where you do not know the social norms.  Learning to feel comfortable in your discomfort and willing to reach out and connect to others in a personal way will help you strengthen your international competencies.

Going Global is about getting out of your comfort zone and then creating a new zone.  It is an unmatched opportunity to grow your personal strength, your ability to relate to people, and your overall confidence that you can survive situations that are new, sometimes difficult but also extremely fun.  Don’t miss out on this fabulous way to grow useful skills that will improve your success in law and in life.