Most of us follow a rather traditional path in our career. We do our undergraduate and maybe add a masters degree usually within the same or very similar discipline. We do an internship at a larger corporation and then start our career working our way up, changing positions maybe every 2-5 years. Once you come back, you will have lost those years in working your way up the ladder and are therefore dragging behind your peers. Or are you? Maybe this freed you from the hamster wheel and is your big break in taking a leap forward. Even though it comes with what feels like a step backwards. Let’s ask ourselves the following 3 questions:
1) What makes your CV stand out from the rest?
There are cars, and then there is the Tesla. When the Model S came on the market it was the only electric luxury sedan on the market, breaking ground for a new period in the history of carmaking. There was no one else like it. Meanwhile the rest was competing in bling or rain sensors or other minor differences from the rest.
The HR manager will be going through a hundred applications exactly like yours, right? We know she’s throwing out those who don’t stand out, or have names he can’t pronounce. After skimming through the pile of CVs, think about what makes your CV stand out. A flashy image? A colourful header? Or an interesting experience on your resumé that evokes enough curiosity for him to want to ask you more into it? That last one is the only one with substance enough to actually land you that interview. And what you are now about to create.
2) What’s your magic combo?
Any chef will know the importance of adding crunch to give you something to chew on after that first sweet, soft bite. Just like the musician knows how to give the melody a deeper substance and drive through the bass. The magic lies in the combo. Just ask the brilliant inventor who actually didn’t invent anything new except combining two existing knowledges together in a way that hadn’t been done before. Your expat years are not just an opportunity to add a little spice to your offering but to actually create a totally unique combo. A skillset that makes you unique and standing out in your future job search. This combination, if done correctly, might actually be your opportunity to jump into a new field once you get back or leapfrog ahead in your career. Which brings us to question three.
3) What’s your story?
An important element in storytelling that is too often overlooked is the role of the challenge. Think about Hollywood, the masters of storytelling. Has Hollywood ever produced a film about someone who never faced any challenges? Nope. And if they ever did, that film would flop and no one would ever remember it. A story where everything goes smoothly is a boring story. Interesting stories may be about normal people like you and me but what makes them interesting is how we overcome challenges. The challenges we need to overcome to proof our worth. To earn our aknowledgements and status in the world. And the force that drives you through these challenges is purpose. Almost every story has a hero with a purpose. A goal to achieve.
So this is your opportunity to reevaluate your story. Where you are coming from and where you want to go. Not where you thought you were going, because you’ve already detoured from that path. You’re off the highway and this is your opportunity to go explore. Explore new territories, new challenges both outside and within yourself. Who you really are and what you want to become. Then think about what you need to get there and how you can start that journey right now in your new environment. And don’t go for the most obvious choice. This is your best opportunity to think out of the box and do something out of the ordinary. What challenge can you take on in your new home country that will provide you with the skills or experience that make you interesting or more capable to fulfill your newfound purpose.
When you get back from your expat years and apply for that dream job you had buried under the category ‘fantasies never to be fulfilled’, you will have a new element to grab the attention of the HR manager, and a purpose with your life that you see you can fulfill through the job you are applying. The next generation is all about purpose driven job careers and you just found yours.
Now is the time to think about what you are going to do. Not just to do something, but to evolve your story, whether that is through volunteering, writing, working with local startups or adding to your education. This is your opportunity to become your own unique story. Grab it.
Hjörtur Smárason is a travel addict, story teller and brand specialist. Hjortur is the Founder of Scope Communications and co-founder of Phønix, the international place branding panel. Hjörtur has worked with clients in over 20 countries all over the world on storytelling, place branding and innovation and is a popular speaker on the subject.