Career Tips for International Students

2024 Triumph Through Adaptability

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🎙️ Welcome to the Season Three opener of “A Career Guide for International Students” podcast, presented by ICAway! 🌐 Join your host, Kwan Segal, as we dive into the dynamic landscape of 2024 with our special guest, former CEO of BMW Group Financial Services Asia Pacific, Alan Crookes. In this episode, we explore the pivotal role of adaptability in navigating global careers, discussing cultural adjustment, the art of balancing technical prowess and interpersonal skills for recent graduates, and invaluable advice on overcoming challenges and building resilience in the upcoming year.

[00:00:00] Coach Kwan: Happy new year, everyone. Welcome to our first episode, season three of a career guide for international students podcast brought to you by ICAway. I’m your host, Kwan Segal. And today is a special, very, very special episode for me because our guest speaker has had a significant influence on my early career right after college. I have the former CEO of BMW Group Financial Services Asia Pacific region, Alan Crookes with me today. Alan is an inspirational, authentic Business leader with 40 years of experience in the banking and financial services industry.

[00:00:43] Coach Kwan: He retired in 2017 after 26 years of dedicated service and leadership at BMW Group Financial Services. I first met Alan in my early 20s, during my initial corporate job at BMW, and I began my career as a personal assistant at that time to the managing director. My first boss was Joe Hall, and also I worked alongside with Christoph Stockhoff,

[00:01:11] Coach Kwan: both of them are my amazing leaders and mentors. So Alan, do you know that you are one of the reasons I am now living and working in the U.S. Because of your guidance, your guidance has transformed my role from a personal assistant to an internal communication lead to our organization at that time. It was like back in 2004, right?

[00:01:37] Coach Kwan: And building on that experience and armed with my MBA, I transitioned into a role in human capital consulting at top consulting firms like Accenture and Deloitte, where I led change communication for Fortune 500 clients, Alan, I’m so thrilled that you have accepted my request to be on my show today.

[00:02:02] Coach Kwan: Thank you for being here.

[00:02:04] Alan: And thanks for, um, the offer to, to join you, Kwan. And, um, I’m really proud of, um, what you’ve achieved and, and really impressed. With, um, your success and where you are now, um, from an initial role as the personal assistant to Joe and having the influence in Bangkok to, um, now living and working and making a successful career in.

[00:02:30] Alan: in the U. S. Congratulations and great to be able to join you today.


[00:02:35] Coach Kwan: This is such a perfect way to start the year and I’m sure that students will enjoy learning from you. Can you share with our audience where you are calling in from?

[00:02:45] Alan: I’m calling from Melbourne, Australia.

[00:02:48] Coach Kwan: Melbourne, Australia.

[00:02:49] Alan: 1030 in the morning and it’s, I think today, it’s 28 degrees. So we’re in the start of summer for, for Australia, but, um, a great day to be outside as well.

[00:03:03] Coach Kwan: That’s so wonderful. I’m here in Chicago with like 10 Celsius, I believe so, or lower than that.

[00:03:10] Coach Kwan: . And, you have worked with people across the globe. You have seen cultural differences . You have worked with so many expats transitioning to their new careers in a different part of the world, similar to international students that coming here from their home country and adjusting to the new culture in the US. I know that you’re not in the US right now, but I think something that quite practical is. Some tips on how to adjust to the new culture effectively.

[00:03:45] Coach Kwan: Can you share that insight to our students a little bit?

[00:03:51] Alan: Yes, that, that was always a challenge, um, of putting, uh, or moving expats in, into foreign countries. And. Um, I observed that very closely and one of the clear messages that I gave to, um, expats coming into a new country was to know the culture, get to know the people, go and spend some time outside.

[00:04:21] Alan: And the one that did that Um, very well adapted and were very successful in that country. Um, I, I, I saw some examples ,Kwan, of, um, some people coming in wanting to bring in the, um, the work style from their home market into that country. Mm-Hmm. didn’t really work, rather than adapting themselves to the culture and the work style.

[00:04:51] Alan: Um, it, it was more successful. That the, um, the person come in, observe the culture, observe the work style, and then adapt to that, and then, if need be, make some changes. to, um, get the organization, um, performing better. Um, so adaptability work was a critical part of success. Um, and you experienced that with, um, Joe Hall, who was fantastic at adapting to the Thai culture, appreciating the, the hospitality, appreciating the work style, which was different than what The experience when he came from New Zealand and, um, as a result was very successful and he, and he was also then, um, the same when he went to Malaysia, adapted again to that Malaysia culture, which was different than, than the Thai culture, which was different than his home in New Zealand.

[00:05:51] Alan: So it was always important, the adaptability, but it is difficult because you want to then, you’re used to that stuff in your own market or home country. Why can’t we bring that into this country? But I think it’s more successful to go the other way, Kwan.

[00:06:08] Coach Kwan: Yes, great insight. Right, adaptability is the key.

[00:06:13] Coach Kwan: And with this, you know, global market, global presence, talent mobility. It’s happening at every organization and, um, you just remind me that actually for international student, this could be their selling point during the interview as well, you know, to sell their ability to adapt to the new culture and their understandings about cross cultural differences.

[00:06:39] Alan: Exactly, and I think that’s a great selling point in their interview to say that I’ve come from a foreign country, I’ve had to adapt to studying and in some cases they may be working part time in the U.S., I’ve handled that, I’ve coped with that and if I move into a new role I’m experienced and have the mindset to be able to adapt again.

[00:07:05] Alan: I think it’s a great selling point because as you experienced adapting from coming from Thailand to live and work in the U.S. wasn’t easy but um, once you got through that and it was challenges along the way, A lot of challenges, I’m sure, um, but that is a great selling point for a student coming in to an interview process, convincing the potential employer, that that adaptability is a key strength they have and have proven.

[00:07:34] Coach Kwan: Absolutely. And let’s say, you know, for any reason that they needed to go back home, their skills earning from like working in different cultures will be an advantage. When they join a global company, like for example, BMW back home as well.

[00:07:53] Alan: Yes, exactly. And, and that was, uh, um, one of the great advantages of.

[00:07:59] Alan: of having internationals move around is that in a number of regions, Kwan, we, we moved people, um, from one market to another. And an example was Joe, who had come from New Zealand, was successful in New Zealand, CEO, first role in, in Thailand and did that well. So we moved him to Malaysia again, adapted and did very well.

[00:08:25] Alan: And then from there went to Japan. So that. Skill set and that ability to adapt was a was a great asset to come in the organization.

[00:08:34] Coach Kwan: Such a great example, Alan. Now we, you know, talk a little bit about skill sets like adaptability. I would love to hear your thoughts on the dynamic field of Our industry, financial services, both technical skills and soft skills are essential, right?

[00:08:54] Coach Kwan: And we talk about adaptability, which may be a little bit too much soft skills. Um, how can recent graduates strike a balance between showcasing that technical proficiency and also demonstrating strong interpersonal skills in order to excel in their roles?

[00:09:15] Alan: It’s a great question. The primary reason they’ve got the position is their technical skills.

[00:09:21] Alan: Mm-Hmm. . But technical skills is one, one of only one aspect of, of success. I think then if they can, um, ensure that they have the, uh, EQ, um, skills and they develop that, that will. Serve them, um, much better in the long run. So having the technical skills, having the, the ability to, to understand and do the job is important, but then their ability to, um, convey the messages, um, um, sell some of their, uh, ideas to the organization, sell some of their ideas to, to their boss or, or their superior.

[00:10:06] Alan: Is really where the EQ skills come in and then their ability to use that technical knowledge, um, as well to together with your EQ skills, um, to work with other teams is critical to their success. So, the technical skills, as I say, is, is very important, but that’s only part of the, um, journey. The journey is. How can they develop their EQ and continue to invest in themselves in that side to develop that further.

[00:10:43] Coach Kwan: Amazing insight. And this is the last question for our episode today. I believe that 2024 is not going to be an easy year. So we all need to build our resilience. Before we wrap up, can you please leave our listeners with one final piece of advice when it comes to overcoming obstacles and building positivity through their career development journey?

[00:11:14] Alan: Great, great question again, uh, Kwan. I think 2024 will be challenging and, and, and, um, I think we’ll be some, um, issues both economically and politically, but, but, but that doesn’t change. We’ve had those over a long period. Again, it comes back to what we spoke about. It’s the adaptability. I think it’s what you, just before, it’s the resilience to be able to, to move through those, but, but then I would recommend that the students continue to learn, continue to, uh, invest in themselves in terms of training, development and, um, uh, reading and studying.

[00:11:59] Alan: And as you mentioned, just. Keep a positive mindset that yes, there’s going to be challenging times, but, but life is challenging. It’s a journey. Um, and, and the journey sometimes can be up and down, but it’s the adaptability and the willingness to change to get through these maybe challenges that come, uh, will serve them well in the future.

[00:12:25] Coach Kwan: It’s like, you know, we can control what we can control and what we can control is to invest in ourselves. Yes. That’s great advice. Thank you so much, Alan. I think we have lots of great key takeaways today. One thing that I, you know, want to wrap up is adaptability is a key. And for international students that you go across the countries, being here in the U.S., you already show the skills of adaptability and you’re on your way, you know, to be leaders in any organization that need adaptability. Thank you so much for all these words of wisdom. It’s such a pleasure having you on my show.

[00:13:07] Alan: It’s a pleasure to be able to join you and again, Kwan, and congratulations again on your success.

[00:13:13] Alan: And thanks for having me as a guest today.

[00:13:17] Coach Kwan: Thank you, Alan. All right. Thank you everyone for joining us today. Have a great day and we will see you next time. Think big and live your dream.​

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