Seeking an International Career

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Students gathered to learn about international careers at a lecture hosted by the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies.

Nathan Seifert is a foreign commercial service officer who has spent more than a quarter of his life abroad. He works for the U.S. Commercial Service under the Department of Commerce. Seifert told students what his profession involves and characteristics that have helped him carry out successful business relations.

Seifert described elements of his profession that may go unnoticed but prove beneficial in the long run. He related a story when his brother sent his backpack to JanSport and took advantage of their lifetime warranty. While waiting on repairs, he received a postcard with a personal “hello” from his backpack. That extra ingredient makes the company stand out among competitors and Seifert said they strive to provide a similar service by going the extra mile for clients.

“Just our presence in international countries around the world gives us a chance to go to the events that are important and represent companies on the fly . . . We’re there doing good even if we don’t have specific, tangible results for everything we do,” he said. “It’s a very important aspect of what we do.”

Seifert also highlighted the benefits of their international network of 1,500 officers and specialists. He said the specialists are the locals they rely on to filter their products into a country. These people are essential for their business to flow smoothly.

“The key is I’m going to manage maybe four or five locally employed staff,” Seifert said. “They really know the language and their culture. They know how to help our American companies avoid the pitfalls and have success abroad.”

However, Seifert advised students to remain cautious when dealing with diverse business cultures around the world. At one point in his career, a colleague insulted their client and they were never able to repair the damage. Seifert said the best way to avoid those complications is to be polite and curious. Showing interest in their culture will come in handy when getting down to business.

“I think it’s important when you’re traveling and working with these people to ask them questions especially when it comes to the Middle East and the Far East,” he said. “When I am there, I usually know the answer to these questions because I’ve been there so many times. But I still ask the questions because they love to share the information with me.”

Seifert also told students language skills are needed to enter the U.S. Commercial Service as well as five years of international experience or a background in the Foreign Service. The application process is rigorous to determine someone’s potential for the profession.

“They have to see that you have the capacity for a language, see that you can live abroad, be happy, thrive and do well,” Seifert said.

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