I always dreamed of traveling the world. I studied languages at university, spent time abroad, and have a thirst for seeing new cultures and having new experiences. So I always knew that when I graduated I wanted to live and work abroad.
In my career as a legal recruiter, I’ve been able to do just that: work abroad and travel the world, from London to Hong Kong to New York. It’s not easy—it takes a combination of the right industry, company, and person to make it possible. Here’s how I used my job to travel the world, and how you can too.
Learn a widely applicable craft
You can’t just dive into a global profession without learning a skill that you can bring with you everywhere you go. For me it was recruiting, which values people skills, networking, and business development skills. But a wide variety of jobs—programming, consulting, etc.—can be made global if you build up solid experience and the demonstrated aptitude to thrive abroad.
Choose the right company
I chose a global firm, Major, Lindsey & Africa, knowing that there could be unique opportunities given the firm’s international footprint. If you settle for a job that closes off this path, you might regret it later. Recruiters can be useful advocates and help you find the right fit that allows for a global career.
Have the courage to ask and push for it
Even if your company has an international office, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be offered a position there. Plan ahead and talk with your supervisor about possibilities for your future early and often. I was lucky to have an extremely supportive manager with whom I could have frank and open discussions, but it took time to build that relationship. By expressing my willingness to go overseas early-on, my manager became my advocate when an overseas opportunity arose.
Often, we are fearful of showing our cards, worrying that our supervisors might think less of us. But if you can articulate a long-term view of what you want to achieve, with a well-thought-out timeline and business reasons for a move, you make it easier for management to accommodate your ambitions and growth.
Seize opportunities when they surface, and accept that the timing will never be perfect
Keep an open mind and don’t jump to conclusions too quickly or reject the opportunities that do come your way. I changed my job, moved countries, and got married all in the same year, but only grew all the more for it. If you keep waiting for the perfect place and time, you’ll never end up going abroad.
You also need to balance your own plans with external factors—staffing levels, office needs—and be flexible with your manager. Show that you are willing to work with the business big picture situation.
Public holidays are your friend
Take your free time to travel at every opportunity—weekends and any public holidays available. When I was in Hong Kong, I traveled to Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, China, and Australia without taking any substantial time off. I plan to do the same while I’m in New York: to go to South America, the Caribbean, and as many U.S. states as I can. Use your vacation days on the front and back end of public holidays to allow for longer trips.
Don’t be afraid to plan for the long-term
Five year plans help you visualize where you are going and avoid getting stuck in one place. Keep your long-term goals in mind at every stage of your professional advancement. Moving is also a great opportunity to reflect on how you have grown and what you want to improve.
It’s okay to not want to be in one place forever. In fact, after working in one location for a few years, you should seriously consider whether that place can be your long-term home. One of the reasons I left Asia was because I didn’t want to stay there long-term and become a specialist in that market.
It’s worth it for you and your company
By living and working abroad, you get the ultimate opportunity to develop both personally and professionally. You experience new cultures, gain new skills in different markets, learn from mistakes, and develop your personal style.
Your company also benefits. You can help your company realize a global perspective, enter new markets, and achieve greater diversity, which is proven to help with business outcomes.
Above all, travel truly makes you richer. Pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone is the surest way to grow.