Working abroad may seem like a daunting prospect for some, and for others it may seem like an exciting adventure. Being asked 4 weeks into a JDX project to travel abroad, in a country where English wasn’t the native language, to deliver training for a role you’ve only just started, you can only imagine the trepidation! Below are some of the invaluable lessons from this experience, and if offered the chance again ‘no’ would definitely not be the answer!
Communication is more than words. A combination of 70% body language, 20% tone of voice and only 10% the words, excellent communication is an intrinsic trait to master. As the client trip was to Poland, the language barrier meant that there was an even greater emphasis on body language and tone of voice. So always be aware of what you might be communicating through the way you hold yourself, because 90% of it isn’t coming from your words. Approachable body language speaks louder than words.
Whilst away, the locals, particularly waiters and waitresses, really appreciate the effort when you say “dziękuję”, instead of just saying “thank-you” in English; even Passport Control at the airport smirked at attempts to say thank-you in their language, but maybe that was due to poor pronunciation! My point here is, even a small effort can go a long way when communicating in a foreign situation.
- Developing an international perspective from a new culture
Travelling and working in an international environment can come as a shock to some, however gaining an international perspective at the beginning of your career, is an invaluable life lesson. Although Poland may not have been as much of a shock as landing in South East Asia, there are still cultural differences. It is extremely important to be aware of these and respect them, especially in social situations. For instance, starting work at 10.30am was a definite bonus in working life in Poland… On a more serious note, however, once in the office you had to make the most of the working day, so it was important to embrace a new cultural change from the start to be as efficient as possible. More ironically, it’s a small world and despite our differences, we are similar and interconnected and must respect cultural working practices.
- Find your “zone of courage”
Naturally you would be nervous at first but planning and preparation go a long way to meet client requests. “Zone of courage” lies outside of your comfort zone and you know you are in this zone when a situation feels uncomfortable but not impossible. Finding your “zone of courage” is a great place to be and offers opportunities for personal and professional growth.
So, returning from an experience that was initially not in my comfort zone, my advice to you would be, any experience that JDX (or life in general) offers you – TAKE IT! You can only learn and grow from it.