Working abroad is a chance to develop both professionally and personally. It isn’t all dreamy sunsets and non-stop fun, though. You will come across challenges as you adapt to working internationally, and when times get tough you might need some help getting through. Positivity is a powerful thing, so we’ve put together these tips to help you glide over any hurdles thrown into your path and find success working abroad.
Take responsibility for your transition.
The first and perhaps hardest truth about adapting to life working abroad is that the responsibility for transitioning is exclusively yours. “Be the change you want to see in the world” as Gandhi said, and do not expect any special attention. You have to be the driving force behind the success you want to achieve.
Things might not always go as planned, so when your experience starts to look a little pear shaped, focus on positive thinking and action, rather than dwelling on the major contrasts or letdowns to your expectations. For example, when you encounter unexpected disappointment while working internationally, try and look at how you can rectify the situation, rather than wallowing in self-pity. Your job might end up being mind-numbingly boring, your apartment might have a little mold, or you might not make as many friends as you thought you would. When these things happen, it’s easy to get sucked into the downward spiral and “woe is me” way of thinking.
This won’t help change anything though, so adapt your mindset and try to be positive. They don’t call it “working” abroad for nothing – sometimes you may have to put in the hard yards. Once you take responsibility for your transition, you will find you have more control over your situation and solutions will present themselves more easily.
Being open-minded and willing to explore alternatives to the vision you had for yourself in your head will help you adjust to working internationally.
Positive thinking brings positive action.
You can prepare for working internationally by making a list of all the positive aspects of your year working abroad (i.e. the job, the lodging, the social life, the journey, etc.). It is good to make this list as affirmations in the present tense too. For example, someone going to Spain to teach English could say:
- I am a natural when it comes to learning new things.
- Learning/teaching Spanish/English is easy.
- I effortlessly pick up new Spanish words.
- I love what I do and I do what I love.
- I am open to different people and cultures.
- I am sensitive to what others need and want in the classroom.
Take a leaf out of The-Little-Engine-That-Could book – for those of you unfamiliar with the adorable little locomotive, he is the one who overcame a challenge by repeating “I think I can, I think I can.” This kind of positive thinking has a basis in science. Visualization was “discovered” by NASA researchers who realized that the brainwaves of astronauts were the same whether they visualized a routine or actually performed it.
Furthermore, when athletes visualize running faster, jumping higher, or shooting a perfect basket, they are able to actually perform their “perfect vision” in a real life performance. This technique is the secret to the success of star athletes, so let it be your secret to success working abroad!
Positive thinking of this kind be applied to anything you want, to get to the next level in business, studies, or personal relationships. That’s why many professionals, firms, and college sport teams hire psychologists or coaches to teach visualization!
Celebrate the small victories.
Working internationally is a whole different ball game. Things you can do with at ease in your home country become huge challenges abroad. Differences in language, customs, even things as simple as hand gestures, can complicate day-to-day life.
Focus on the small wins you make and celebrate any victory to avoid getting overwhelmed. Something as simple as knowing your way to the grocery store or ordering a drink in the local language can be an accomplishment. If you redefine what success working abroad looks like for you, you’ll be able to celebrate these seemingly small (but actually kind of huge) accomplishments.
Most importantly, remember how much YOU wanted to this experience and how hard you worked for it. Don’t let it go when you hit the first bumps in the road. Working internationally will increase your cultural awareness, independence, and attractiveness to future employers, but only because you have to overcome challenges. If it was easy, it wouldn’t change you!