In my professional career I have been working on diverse projects in many countries – teaching seminars and academic courses, consulting, research, coaching, moderating panel discussions and workshops, and much more. I find it fascinating and very motivating! My latest trip to Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan two weeks ago proved once again that meeting people, learning from their experiences, sharing, connecting, exchanging knowledge and ideas is an immense way to advance professionally and personally.
I like when I develop new projects and when I experience the advancement throughout the implementation. I enjoy diving into a new program or project and exploring it to an extent where I push my own limits to achieve better and more. I like assisting others to do better what they usually do, and to think “outside the box”. I like to help and to accomplish projects that have a long-term impact in the society: building capacities in the cultural sector and assisting professionals in the cultural and creative sector to be more innovative, to work more efficiently, to be more satisfied of what they do, and to bring more audiences and supporters to their projects and organizations in an engaging way.
It is great if throughout your career path you do not think about your work as “this is what I do living” or “this is my job”, but feel that what you do is so inspiring and so much needed that you can not stop doing it: there is no working time, limits of sufficient space: you open new spaces, explore new subject matters and accomplish projects – in close collaboration with others. People to people connection matters a lot, and together with what you do and why, it is of utmost importance with whom you do it.
Working as an independent educator and consultant brings a lot of flexibility and autonomy. Every day is different, every client is different, and every new audience has its own profile, needs and expectations. Working internationally and changing not only projects but also countries is certainly a pleasure, as well as a challenge. Here are my quick tips for all of you who are young professionals and plan to work internationally:
- Learn as more as possible about the country before you go for the business trip. Learn about the lifestyle, economy, history, religion, traditions and culture of the people there.
- Expect to face unpredictable situations and be ready to take risks. When you travel, uncertainty is everywhere through the road, despite of your preparation and online orientation.
- Be open and accept differences. Do not complain that people have different habits, eat food that does not fit to your taste, or have a working schedule which is not your preferable one, etc.
- Be curious and explore the new realities. Ask questions to not only show that you are interested in something. Use the professional trip to collect and leave as more memories as possible in your career path and personal life.
- Be prepare to go not to “consult” or “teach” your colleagues, but to learn from others, to share and look at their ways to do business and to manage organizations. Every country and region, every organization and team have their own unique style and specificity. Applying ready-made models in management, marketing or strategies never works.
- Mind the sector you are in: government, business or nonprofit. Each one of them has specificity and needs a tailor-made approach.
- When preparing to cross borders, mind in advance all practicalities and logistics. Be careful to follow up visa requirements and to have with you all necessary documents and invitation letters.
- Mind the language and the symbols of cross-cultural communication in the targeted country. People express themselves in diverse ways using gestures and non-verbal communication – the more you learn about it in advance- the more comfortable you will be when you work there.
- Be diplomatic: do not push too much to just “do” the work: take your time to listen, collect feedback, monitor and observe the processes. Make sure that the project progresses based on a collaborative mode.
- Be prepared to hear sometimes very controversial opinions from your colleagues on one and the same subject matter. If this happens, stay objective as far as possible. Do not be judgmental and try to avoid conflicts.
Finally, when you work on an international project always meet deadlines and set up the level of quality which you aim to finally deliver at the level of the professional standards in your field. If there aren’t agreed standards – set up your own by pushing your own limits and surprising yourself with the results. After coming back you your domestic country: keep contact, continue getting feedback and maintain very good relations with your clients and colleagues across the border. Not because they will be your reference for any next project and work you will undertake in the future. But because working internationally is a unique change-making and people-related activity, which brings you not just monetary rewards, but much fun, friendship, learning experience and happiness which last a lifetime!
Images: My recent trip to Dushanbe, Tajikistan: working in a creative mode with the great team of the International Documentary Film Festival “Didor”: www.didoriff.com (March 2014)