The one thing you need to change about managing your career? Your mindset.

What I have learnt starting my career abroad in a non-traditional way?

Yesterday I attended a big event from HEC business school on the Art of Switch (Career transition 2.0). I was co-running a panel on how to succeed at a career change combined with a spatial change: a change of country, city, generally a change to work with more flexibility or an increase in lifestyle.

Hearing other people in quite traditional careers talk about how they navigated their work life so far, I got so surprised at the difference between the way the people I talked to manage their career and the way I do. Their concerns were: “if I change city, I’ll never be able to find as many clients”; “ I’ll loose work if I change country”; “ if I get pregnant when I arrive in a new city, I won’t be able to find work”. Fair concerns. But still… I realized how I had never thought this way.

“they did not know it was impossible so they did it”-Mark Twain

I started my career going abroad straight to Emerging Markets where none of the people I was surrounded with really followed traditional paths. To me it was the norm at the time: first decide what you want, and then make it work; That is the way. I will use an example from one of the amazing client of my career transition programme. She said about a similar potential blocker to her current career transition:

“(this blocker) is not an option because I want this career change to happen. So I took the fear out of my head and decided I will be creative about solutions of how to make this work. That’s the only option.”

Let me illustrate…

The first year of my work life, I moved to India to work in social entrepreneurship. I had read about the space, researched it deeply and I just was dying to get started. At the time, it did not frankly seem like a reasonable career start… Or so would say my fellow friends from business school who started in consulting or banking. Don’t even ask what my parents said. BUT. It made sense to me since I was passionate about it and I had immense confidence that it made me happy and therefore I would find a way to make it work long term.

It worked. I built an incredible field experience, was just as well paid as my fellows back in Europe, and created a unique path that I managed to sell successfully later on.

Fast forward 8 Years later. I decided it was time to follow my boyfriend at the time back to Europe and leave the best job I’ve ever had, running The Microfranchise Accelerator in South Africa. (More on microfranchising here) Pretty mad decision: I had the best mentor I had ever had, something that I loved and had built from scratch that was receiving awards from SAP and Ashoka, and a pretty amazing lifestyle in Cape town. Why? I was again confident that there were no rules to make it work. That I could find whatever I wanted if I just set my mind to it. I did not let any doubts stop me or make me think it could not be done.

It worked again. Yes, the first months of coming back to Europe were hard. But I am now running something I’m passionate about again. It’s getting better: I am now running a career transition programme for other global citizens that want to believe it is possible, something I would have never dream of being able to do before. The move back to Europe did create an opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone. My only north star was that I felt at the time it was the right thing to go and I would find a way to make it work.

What you can learn from me: Forget obsessing with risks, embrace opportunities.

  • An atypical career and following your guts is definitely not always easy. But don’t let your fears define your career path, or even worse, the fears of others stop you because they tell you that your plans seem unrealistic.
  • You can have a successful career having a very untraditional path: I have tons of counter examples. Examples I’ll be sharing with you in the interview series that is starting soon (get on the newsletter from my website!)
  • Changing jobs, country or even lifestyle to go after what you deeply want is worth it. It is worth if you know it will make you somehow happier. Focus on that, on knowing what makes you happy. That’s the most important step.
  • Be open to see everything as an opportunity and not only a risk. Opportunities will arise equally when you embrace change. Moving and changing career is an opportunity to be different, be happy and create your own unique path. It’s the opportunity to find new markets, new clients, or why not to re-think what you do. Be open to see the endless possibilities. Leverage any transition in your career to think out of the box and get the chance to see things with fresh eyes. All this could be a way to be ever closer to a career that makes you happy.
  • When you are changing your mindset, you will be ahead of the pack. Because the rest of the pack is busy worrying and letting opportunities pass by. Trust me.

You set your own rules. There is not one way to manage a career and all of them can be successful.

“May your choices reflect your hopes and not your fears” — Nelson Mandela