Going Global: How it all started

How does a global passion begin?IMG_3218

Personally, I had some life-expanding events that lead me that direction. It started when I attended my first sales training class when I was 22, and instantly knew that was the career I wanted. And when I got my first job in training, I knew that having a rewarding job I enjoyed was amazing.

I was born and raised in Kansas and Missouri, in the heart of the American Midwest. As a result, I did not experience a lot of cultural diversity. At the age of 25, I took a trip to Europe, where I drove with a friend on a road trip from Germany to Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France, and the Netherlands that blew my horizons wide-open. Bam, I was hooked. I did not know their language, which added to the excitement and adventure of experiencing such different cultures. I would find myself walking around in a restaurant and pointing to what I wanted to order. Friendly people helped when we found ourselves lost on a mountaintop in Italy—talking and gesturing, they drew a map in the dirt with a stick to show us how to get back. It was so amazing and life changing—I was hooked on global travel and knew I wanted to figure out how to incorporate that into my work.

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The next stage of my life was as a parent. I had the chance to bring my son with me to Ghana and India to do humanitarian work. If the initial Europe trip was life-expanding, these trips were positively life-altering. Helping people, getting to know them, seeing how they live—it fueled and continued the global passion. I was able to connect with corporations and universities on topics like leadership development, team building, and improving innovation.  My world was expanding.

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Frequently people ask me how they can get started on the global business trail. Here are some ideas:

  • Find a study abroad program to a place you want to go.
  • Learn or refresh a language.  My goal is to speak Spanish badly. People look at me like I’m crazy, but right now I’m learning.  So speaking it badly would be a great deal of progress.
  • Find a humanitarian or mission trip through a church or organization. You may even be able to leverage your career skills in the process.
  • Research in your current company any global learning opportunities, even if you have to pay your own way to gain experience.
  • Check American Chamber of Commerce for different countries. There will be news, events, programs and maybe more.
  • Volunteer and do a project for free. There are humanitarian projects all over the world.  This will help build some credentials but also a network.
  • Connect with a different culture where you live and volunteer to help. Sometimes there is need in your own backyard.
  • Submit speaking proposals to global conferences (you may need to cover your expenses as you get started). Do the same to local colleges or universities.
  • When attending a conference, hang out where the global folks are hanging out. Attend programs on the global track to learn more and meet people.

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I have had good luck combining a vacation with business development. I recently did this in the UAE.  I asked around my network to see if anyone had contacts in business or academia in Dubai. I set up meetings before I went with consulting companies. I found contacts on LinkedIn, including university faculty and deans. I made contacts and volunteered to do free programs while I was there. All of this helps to get to know the audience, to learn about customs, and to see how business is done.

I encourage others to add to this list of ideas in the comments. There are as many paths as people. And I wish you well on your journey.

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