What skills are needed to succeed in global trade?


global trade

global tradeInternational business professionals in our Twitter community came together last month for a #TradeElite chat on the topic of competencies in international trade.

Speaking from a variety of backgrounds, levels of experience and geographic locations, they discussed the skills, knowledge and abilities that are needed to succeed in the industry.

The idea for the chat was inspired by our latest project here at FITT, which involves using international research to create comprehensive skills profiles for jobs that are at the core of international business.

So here’s a sneak peak at what individuals in the industry are saying are key to thriving in global trade!

Q1: What are the skills necessary for success in global trade with regard to team members?

This question pulled a broad range of answers. Some of the skills and assets mentions are more individual, such as technical skills and cultural awareness; others require teamwork and cooperation.

When it comes to team members, everyone agreed that honesty, trust and support are vital, in addition to being able to work together to achieve common goals.

Christian Höferle of Höferle Consulting agreed with regard to cultural awareness.

International trade professionals also need to look deeper into issues and challenges.


Q2: What are the skills necessary for success in global trade with regard to service providers?

We expect a lot from our team members, but perhaps even more, we expect a high level of competency from the service providers to which we choose to give our business. Customization and adaptability are assets our chatters noted as being of highest importance in their service providers. They want their providers to know their company and its products and services, and to be well acquainted with their markets and the challenges and opportunities they present. Providers need to be able to offer their customers’ tailored services that complement their customers’ specific needs.


Q3: How do you build on your current team’s international trade skills?

The concept of ‘controlled immersion’ came up as this particular question was discussed. This might mean lunch and learn sessions on specific topics such as incoterms, pallets and the journey of a container, seminars that enable everyone to learn and grow as a team, and personal professional development that you can apply to your job as you go.

Brian Dakers, International Trade Manager at NECC, also discussed the benefit of job shadowing, stressing that it’s best to engage and learn in this way early on, even before the information is needed on the job.

Is the FITTskills program for you?

Developed by business for business, FITTskills meets the needs of those who are

  • seeking to enhance their import-export career standing,
  • new to exporting or importing,
  • and those who simply want add to their expertise or gain valuable educational credits.

Learn More about FITTskills

Finally, team goal-sharing surfaced again, as it can be difficult to build your team’s overall competency if you aren’t all working toward the same things. Sharing mistakes and pitfalls can also help the team learn and grow together, and avoid making the same mistakes over again.


Q4: How do you determine what international trade skills to seek when hiring for your team?


Another approach is to look for bottlenecks as well as ways to create efficiencies in your supply chain.


Q5: “Trading smarter” – What does that phrase mean to you and your company?

We had some great input on this question:





During the chat, several trade practitioners also pointed out the overall importance of resilience.

Expect that failures will happen, regardless of your competency and planning, and share in the learning experiences when you can!


Turning information into action

A week from today, we’ll be holding our first focus group for our International Competency Standards project in Toronto, Ontario. Our participants range from small business owners to professionals in larger organizations in both public and private sectors.

“The variety of experience and background is really going to set the stage for an interesting sharing of ideas and opinions,” says Kathryn Ohashi, Manager of Product and Service Development and FITT.

Participants will be discussing which competencies are vital to the jobs at the core of international trade. Once consensus is reached, a draft outline of these key competencies will be developed, and will serve as the foundation for further discussion for the following four group sessions that will take place across Canada over the next six months (Vancouver, Halifax, Saskatoon and Montreal).

Interested in getting involved in one of our focus groups, or in a variety of other ways? Get registered!

Join us on Thursday, September 4 from 2:30-3:30pmEST for our next #TradeElite Twitter chat: How to set up your supply chain for the busy holiday season (and how to manage it throughout!)

About the author

Author: Daniella D'Alimonte

With her background in writing, marketing and business journalism, Daniella focuses on crafting quality stories and relevant content to inform and inspire the international business community.

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