In the past few weeks, several people have commented on how cool it is that I have created so many opportunities for myself and that it was something too difficult for them to do for themselves. Specifically, they were referring to how I secured a free trip to Warsaw as a result of creating a research project for myself; how I sent one email when I first arrived in Sweden which, several months later, manifested itself into a job offer; and how I causally mentioned my interest in change management, which landed me a spot on an exclusive committee of 4 of a global alumni association as well as a free trip in Europe.
For me, #ProfDevAbroad has been the way to legitimize my time abroad by using different strategies to strengthen my professional profile. But it’s not as difficult or complex as people think. Below are the steps I’ve taken, over and over again, to create paid and unpaid, professional opportunities for myself around the world:
1. Identify a skills you want to develop.
Related to the research example above, about a year ago, I became interested research as a career path. But I knew it was a long ways away since I’d never published an article in a peer-reviewed journal or even taken a class on research methodologies. So I decided that, instead of enrolling in more schooling (I already have my master’s), doing research and getting feedback from experts in the field would be the best way to learn how to do it well.
2. Identify an organization you want to work with.
Next, I knew I could do research for a number of organizations, but I wanted to take advantage of three main factors: prestige, networking potential and my professional niche. The organization I chose fit this criteria since I’d not only be able to achieve my goal of improving my research skills, but I’d also develop some credibility in my niche area, meet people in my niche and get to list a really impressive organization on my resume. #score
3. Research the organization until you find one way which you can add value.
Hiring someone or taking on an intern/volunteer, even unpaid, takes a lot of resources. I didn’t want to be a burden. In fact, I wanted to do the opposite: add value. By creeping on social media, I was able to identify a few things I thought were ways I could add value while also getting what I wanted out of the deal: refined research skills.
4. Pitch an idea to the relevant person in the company.
The pitch or idea doesn’t have to be long or complex. But it has to be well thought out and clear. I’ve pitched using full-on proposals to an informal email. In this case, once I had two solid ideas, I reached out to my network to vet my ideas and to ask for an introduction. This is probably the second most important step; the most important being #3: finding a way to add value.
5. Under promise and over deliver.
After pitching my idea and having it accepted, I worked my butt off to efficiently produce great work. The research project I’ve been referring to is still a work-in-progress, but as a result of executing so well so far, I was able to get another pitch approved, resulting in my upcoming training in Warsaw.
Even though the project isn’t finished yet, I can already see the fruits of my labor. Not only will I list my experience working for a prestigious organization on my resume (practical experience), but I will also gain specialized knowledge and grow my network during the training in Warsaw. I have implemented this process dozens of times and each time it results in a project, free trip or an introduction to someone else in the field.
As you can see, the steps aren’t hard. They just take intentional action and a bit of patience.
Take action today and start the process of creating your next global opportunity! And if you get stuck along the way, reach out to your mentor, read a blog post about the think you need help with, or work with me to get unstuck!