Accounting and finance professionals looking to advance their careers may want to consider accepting an international assignment. The accelerating pace of globalization and the likely near-worldwide adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) are key factors driving demand for financial professionals with global business experience.

It’s also becoming easier to gain international experience. Barriers to world markets have been steadily eroding in recent years, and a nationwide survey of senior executives by Robert Half International found that three-out-of-five respondents (61 percent) said their companies are doing more international business today than five years ago. As a result, more employers are offering expatriate assignments to top performers, knowing that the experience gained will be mutually beneficial. In addition, a worldwide shortage of accounting and finance talent has increased opportunities for professionals with sought-after skills to secure work outside of their home country.

The findings of the Robert Half Global Financial Employment Monitor underscore the acute need for skilled professionals around the world. According to the study, which surveyed finance and human resources managers across 20 countries, 56 percent of respondents reported difficulty finding skilled job candidates. Globally, respondents named accounting and financial management as the most troublesome areas, followed by financial and business analysis and controller positions.

Public accounting firms and multinational businesses increasingly recognize the value of offering international assignments to high-potential employees. To meet client demand for professionals with global experience, some large accounting firms are giving hiring priority to entry-level candidates who studied abroad during college and are offering international internship programs. In addition, international assignments, often lasting about three months, are becoming more commonplace at public accounting firms. These short-term rotations offer professionals a chance to increase their cultural business knowledge and gain exposure to other countries’ tax, compliance and legal issues.

A Career Advantage

International know-how is becoming a career imperative for tomorrow’s top finance executives as well. Many multinational businesses now require high-potential employees to gain international experience before being considered for positions such as chief financial officer (CFO). In another Robert Half survey, nearly one-in-five U.S. executives surveyed for the Global Financial Employment Monitor cited an understanding of international markets as one of the most sought-after attributes for financial executives.

Gaining Global Experience

As opportunities to accept global assignments continue to emerge, ambitious accounting and finance professionals may find that working in another country is one of the best ways to broaden their global business knowledge and accelerate their career advancement. The following tips can help in landing an expatriate assignment:

Work for an international firm.
Perhaps the easiest way to build your international resume is to join a company that has offices around the world. Would-be expatriates receive employer assistance in obtaining the clearances and practical support needed to work in another country. The trend toward short-term assignments also means that employees may have the option of gaining international experience without a permanent relocation. If you’re hoping to land an international assignment, inform your manager and, possibly, the human resources department of your interest. In addition, check to see if your company has an online job board that allows you to monitor internal opportunities that may arise in overseas offices.

Develop a global network.
International professional associations can help you expand your network of contacts in other countries and build your knowledge of global business issues. By attending conferences, tracking job postings, participating in online discussion groups and informing your contacts about your desire to work abroad, you can enhance your chances of finding out about or being recruited for an overseas post.

Seek out resources.
Do your homework and research visa, travel and career information in a country that interests you. Robert Half offers an all-in-one website which features job opportunities along with country-specific travel information for accounting, finance and banking professionals.

Keep in touch with recruiters.
It’s wise to maintain a relationship with a specialized recruiter even if you’re not currently looking for a position. Recruiters often have knowledge of both permanent and interim assignments. The latter can be an attractive option for financial professionals wanting to add international experience to their resumes while weighing their next move.

Besides the intrinsic benefits derived from international assignments, working abroad can enhance professionals’ ability to gain faster promotions and improve their ability to land a new position, whether they want to move into a new role with their current employer or with another company.

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