After gaining career freedom by teaching English abroad, I used my free time to find an area I wanted to develop professional expertise in. I then used my generous vacation days and extra money to attend a research seminar in Italy, where I grew my network tenfold (not so hard when you’re starting from scratch, but still…). After this seminar, I was jazzed about this new, niche area and wanted to learn as much as possible. One day I saw an email about the perfect training program for people wanting to develop expertise in this area, but after checking out the price tag, I quickly closed the email and filed it under my ‘someday’ tag in Gmail.
Making Things Happen
About 6 months later, as I prepared for my big move to Sweden, I approached a contact I had met in Italy and asked for advice on how to gain more experience in this niche while living in Sweden. He generously introduced me to one of his contacts in Europe and so began the process of creating a global opportunity for myself.
I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again, free work can sometimes be the best thing for your career! I knew that I could do something he needed while getting a lot in return; specifically, specialized knowledge, practical experience and access to professionals in our field. I had nothing to lose, so I did my homework, found a need and pitched my idea, which was enthusiastically accepted. Fast forward 5 months and I’m just returning from a trip to Poland! This trip was extra special not only because it was the 30th country I have visited, but it was the location of the ‘someday’ training program.
How you ask?
Once you choose a niche, the world becomes a truly a small place. The organization I’ve been working for happened to also be the host of this training program. So I asked my boss if he’d compensate my work thus far by sponsoring my attendance. Since my participation in this training would also help me with the research I was doing, he generously agreed and I was in Poland before I knew it!
It feels great to know that after 11+ years as a DIY Expat (creating professional opportunities for myself abroad since no business would send me abroad to work) and despite my nontraditional work history, my years of making strategic global choices (combined with proper branding) is finally paying off. I’m being recognized for my expertise and being rewarded for it. I strongly believe that the road less traveled is more challenging and scary at times; but the risk is well worth the reward. I am proud that I no longer feel desperate to live abroad because I know the strategies that will help me continue developing expertise in my niche while also seeing the world.