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Jan 12, 2015

My name is xxxxx — where are u headed?

I replied that I was heading to Dubai and the conversation started (which was eased by the champagne served in business class).

My seatmate was from Russia. As the conversation continued, our other seat mate chimed in, she was from India. The couple sitting across from us was from Cape Town, South Africa. As I looked around the plane, it seems that we had a mini-UN of travel aboard.

Where is Dubai, anyway?

I was headed back from holiday in the U.S. Our first stop was London, and then we all separated as I was headed back home to Dubai.

I told my Russian friend how just that morning my wife and I were discussing going to Russia for vacation. He told me about the great culture of Russia. We also discussed the financial meltdown that Russia is facing. His view was the inside view of someone that lives there.

Our India seat mate also talked about her country as well; she was headed back to Mumbai after spending the holiday in New York City.

I contrasted that interview with a conversation I had at my local gym in the U.S. over the holidays.

As I sat in the steam room, I was asked whether I was a new member. I replied that I was a long-time member of the gym but that I live in the Middle East and was here on holiday. His response was, “where was that?” As I discussed geography, I could see that he had no idea where this was or what I was talking about.

He finally said that he has never been outside of the States. He had been on plenty of vacations, but never “overseas.” Folks, when you use the word “overseas,” it clearly differentiates you in a way that says you have never traveled outside of the U.S.

Creating a thirst for globalization

I thought back to when my daughter was entering the 8th grade and we were discussing summer vacations. She mentioned the great time she spent with my mother in South Carolina the previous summer.

However, I  mentioned that I would like for her to go to Europe for the summer. By the look on her face I could tell that she was not in agreement. When I mentioned to her grandparents they were incredulous as to how I could even “think such a thing.”

That summer my daughter spent traveling Europe through the People to People Student Ambassador program. Over the objections of both grandmothers and other family members, she was off. At the airport she cried, saying she did not want to go. Undeterred she was off.

I wanted as much as possible to expose her to the world. Let her reference point extend beyond the U.S. Although we as a family had never traveled “overseas,” I wanted to create that thirst in her.

Yes, she actually had a good time

I will never forget the phone call when she told me breathlessly what a good time she was having. When she returned home after 3-4 weeks of travel, she was never the same. Her entire conversation was about the various countries she had visited — the cultures, the food, the people were all experiences that she would never forget.

During college, she lived in China for a summer and lived in London for a year and a half. Her ultimate goal is to head back to London.

That episode started our change in vacation plans. From that point forward, we started vacationing in Europe, starting with Paris one year and Rome the next, plus side trips with each. As a point of reference, this cost is really no more than a destination vacation in the USA providing you fly. If you choose an apartment instead of a hotel, it is even cheaper.

Where am I going with this?

I get a lot of inquiries about employment opportunities globally. How can I get this type of opportunities? I even heard from a few HR professionals that had been called about opportunities but they were “afraid” to take the leap. Afraid of WHAT?

The recruiters, in not only the Middle East but throughout the world, spend their entire days on LinkedIn searching for Global HR talent as well as other areas of expertise. What they look for is any type of global exposure along with a track record of success in your field.

My first global opportunity came with a SHRM executive exchange program [People to People] to travel to China as part of a delegation of U.S based HR professionals for the opening of the China office. This group was led by China Gorman, who was then the Chief Operating Officer of SHRM.

We spent the entire two plus weeks of the trip meeting with government officials, business schools plus multinational organizations such as General Motors. It was an eye-opening experience

A new career focus

When I returned from that trip to China, my reading list changed as I researched and read every HR article and HR magazine focused on Asia, the Middle East, etc. I was determined to get there in some way.

As I traveled to Europe for vacation, I would always seek out and meet with HR folks in those countries. I started writing for HR blogs in the UK, India and anyplace that would have me. (Side note: Everyone is looking for good content. I noted all these accomplishments on LinkedIn and on my CV.)

Eventually I did get a call, and within six months I made the move heading to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I worked there for about a year and half and got recruited into my current role. As I said, I was determined to get out of U.S.-based HR.

I read a recent piece of research on the percentage of America citizens with passports, and the U.S. is ranked near the bottom of the  list of countries. That article was suggested to me at a dinner party I attended in Dubai before the Christmas holidays. I was teasinging mocked about why U.S. citizens never travel outside of the U.S. After I read the article, I realized that yes, he was correct in his assessment.

Globalization is here, so take advantage of it

The world is changing at such a speed that globalization is on everyone’s dashboard, because there is such an interchangeable level of talent throughout the world. As a matter of fact, the majority talent population in so many countries are expatriates.

At that recent dinner party, everyone I talked to had lived all over the world. One couple with teenagers talked about how their kids had lived in 4-5 countries growing up. Everyone’s reference point was that wherever there is opportunity, you go. Since all expats have contracts, you can renew/non-renew at the end of your term.

So as we enter 2015, you may be worried about your position or the stability of your industry.

There’s no need to fret because the opportunities are out there. It may require relocating to a much different zip-code, but the benefits are beyond belief.