‘We’re all in this together’ Featured

7:00pm EDT November 24, 2006

For many people, the first images of Earth sent from space in the late 1960s ushered in a global awareness that has only intensified with the advent of TV, the Internet and cell phones. Suddenly, the world has become smaller and there’s a greater feeling that “we’re all in this together.” The global economy and global awareness have left many businesses more conscious of the environment and the impact that individual actions can have on the rest of the world.

As a result, today’s employers are seeking employees who are more than just “task-masters” — who are globally aware and willing to give back to society in some way, according to Sister Mary Bookser, the coordinator of service learning at the College of Mount St. Joseph, and Liz Seager, the college’s career development coordinator.

Smart Business spoke with Bookser and Seager about the ways that colleges are preparing students to work in the global economy and how employers benefit from this trend.

How can an employer benefit from hiring employees who are more globally aware?

Seager: In order to function globally, students need the skill sets that liberal arts colleges offer, and employers have started to value such an education. Employers can teach employees the ins and outs of their business, but employees who bring a global awareness and skills such as the adaptability to change, critical thinking, problem solving and recognition of the importance of diversity generally make for successful employees.

Sister Bookser: Obviously, multinational companies benefit from hiring employees who have an understanding and appreciation of different cultures and world views. These companies, in particular, need employees who are willing to travel, learn the culture, learn simple greetings in the local language, and possibly even live far away from home.

How are colleges preparing students to work in the global economy?

Sister Bookser: Many colleges have seen the need for students to get out of their own local way of thinking and get a more global perspective through culture-and service-immersion courses where students get experience with, and exposure to, other cultures. Some colleges provide opportunities for students to earn course credits while studying abroad for a semester.

Seager: Colleges often include cultural awareness and diversity as a part of their mission, so that filters down into the curriculum. Whether you’re taking a psychology, a basic career development or even a business class, each learning objective will include a global component.

What should an employer that is seeking a globally aware work force look for when interviewing and hiring?

Seager: I recommend that employers be on the lookout for a breadth and depth of experience, including co-ops or internships. Employers can also look for students who have had an opportunity to travel abroad or participate in an alternative spring break, during which they performed community service. These experiences demonstrate adaptability, flexibility and a willingness to try new things. When looking at volunteer experience, employers should look for those who were willing to push themselves out of their comfort zone by working with groups of people who are different from their peers.

Sister Bookser: It’s also important to look for prospective employees who have had some kind of service learning experience where they had an opportunity to participate in a community-based service that tied into their coursework. This shows an awareness of the importance of civic engagement and a desire to integrate life, their beliefs and values, and their learning.

How can employers best use their globally aware employees?

Sister Bookser: The desire to give back to the community has become an important part of many businesses, whether or not they consider themselves to be global companies, so hiring employees who share this interest helps them to further that part of their business mission. Many companies are recognizing that not only is it the right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense to be a good corporate citizen.

Seager: Globally aware employees are looking for a lot of stimulation. Even companies with a purely local customer base should find out where their employees’ strengths are. And if they’re globally aware, don’t chain them to their desks. Give them service projects to coordinate. The globally aware employee is constantly looking for the next challenge and the next way to use his or her strengths. It’s important to keep those employees engaged and give them the opportunity to try new things and be challenged.

SISTER MARY BOOKSER is the coordinator of service learning at the College of Mount St. Joseph. Reach her at (513) 244-4634 or mary_bookser@mail.msj.edu.

LIZ SEAGER is the career development coordinator at the College of Mount St. Joseph. Reach her at (513) 244-4484 or liz_seager@mail.msj.edu.