6 qualities that would land you a job in a major US company
In 2013, American partners invited Kristina to California for an internship. For six months, she lived in the Silicon Valley, working with an educational startup. In this article, she will tell what qualities and “soft skills” are important when taking up a job with an American company, and give some advice on how to train them.
The US labor market is “internally oriented”: the Americans travel, move, look for, and change jobs within the country. According to the statistics, only 37% of US citizens have a valid international passport, and 38% have never been issued one. European employees, in general, are more mobile: they may look for positions in, say, both France and Belgium, and are usually ready to move to another country.
On the other hand, the US goods and services market is aimed both at “internal” and “external” customers. Major US companies and startups strive to enter the international market as soon as possible, on the early lifecycle stages. That’s why an international background is highly valued in the US, be it studying abroad, volunteer activity, or a history of working in an international team or with foreign clients.
Tip: never miss a chance to showcase your international experience and expertise. Your flexibility, ability to function in different cultural frameworks and assess the situation from different viewpoints may contribute to the company’s progress towards new markets.
Ability to fit in into the corporate culture
Generally, in Asian countries, employers value the employee’s hard skills the most. If you are a qualified experienced professional, you may be sure to be hired even if you possess no skills allowing you to adapt to local general and corporate culture.
In the US, on the other hand, these skills are extremely important. The employer expects you to blend in the corporate culture, following the social and company codes, and fitting in with your colleagues’ lifestyle. High flexibility and adaptability are a requisite for working in the USA.
Advice: take a good note of the corporate culture nuances. Observe your co-workers’ actions, examine the behavior patterns accepted in the company.
For example, you may take note of how your colleagues care about the environment and sort their waste. In the San Francisco Bay Area, they will most likely drink their coffee from a personal tumbler instead of a disposable cup.
Willingness to go an extra mile
In order to get a foothold and work successfully with a major US company, you should be ready to walk an extra mile. Americans have a highly competitive work environment, where members of the staff vie with each other for career progression and better employment terms.
Employees of US major companies and startups really work a lot. Regular overtimes are just a small part of what you should brace yourself up for. Your work-life balance may falter, and sometimes you will have to give up your personal life and partying with friends.
Advice: ask your prospective co-workers what’s the company’s position regarding overtime and working weekends. Answer yourself, whether you are ready for it or not. If it doesn’t bother you, make it clear at the interview that you are ready to commit yourself fully to your work.
To have a general understanding of how the law works in the US is an equally crucial skill for everyone, from a trainee to a senior manager.
Legal awareness is important both in your professional and personal life. Is it all right to send a customer invoice over e-mail? What is the legal framework for interacting with contractors? What should one bear in mind when drafting a labor agreement? What about tax law? What legal rights and obligations do you have in the US territory and within the relations with the company you work with?
Advice: in order to prevent unpleasant surprises, improve your legal awareness. Get an overview of statutes and case law, know your rights and respect the boundaries – these simple rules will make your work and life in the US more comfortable.
Non-invasiveness and observing business etiquette
Non-invasiveness means the skill to maintain distance from your peers and superiors, respect their choices and personal space. Avoid interrupting one’s activities or bothering them without a sound reason.
Healthy and friendly relations between colleagues are very important but don’t forget that an office is no place for overfamiliarity. The main bond between all of you is business. To comment on one’s work and to be judgmental about others’ actions in the workplace is considered to be in poor taste everywhere, especially in the US. Discussing a dubious decision of your management in the smoking room or giving unsolicited advice would be a major screw-up in an American company.
Advice: hold on to common sense and basic knowledge of business etiquette. Try not to bother your colleagues outside working hours. Opt for sending a letter or a message instead of calling. Before proceeding to your main message, ask your coworker whether it is comfortable for them to talk. Turn your phone off at the meetings.
Friendliness and politeness
To be friendly and have a positive attitude is the “default mode” of all professional interactions in the US. It does not mean pretending to be in a good mood or faking a smile. Everyone has bad days, but it does not mean your coworkers and management should be forced to look at your grumpy face. Try to keep down your negative emotions in the office, and express them in an “ecological” way.
American politeness means not saying “thank you” and “please» all the time, but being considerate. May I ask you a personal question? Would you mind if I opened the window? May I call you instead of sending the info in an e-mail?
Advice: learn how to be easygoing and friendly in any situation. Before the start of my first day as an intern in California, I received advice from my director: “Smile and be happy!”. Clearly, you should smile when talking with your clients, but how can you be happy when you are definitely not?
However, the more you learn about the American mentality and communication culture, the more you understand how important it is to adhere to their standards in the world of business.