Heather the International Career (breaking) Panelist

Heather the International Career (breaking) Panelist

Written by Heather

Topics: Planning & Reflection

Of course it’s a good idea to do your homework, but don’t let the logistics keep you from committing to what you really want to do. Be ready to act before you know exactly what you are getting yourself into. -Colleen Kinder, Delaying the Real World-

Several years ago I picked up a copy of Colleen Kinder’s Delaying the Real World out of personal interest and to help me better help my college-aged advisees who wanted a gap year in the US or overseas. When I read the quote above, I realized that I would never become a career breaker if I didn’t take a risk and leap into the unknown. As a natural planner, I was going to have to be okay with more ambiguity than ever before if I was going to quit my job at 30 and live in Australia for a year.

When I returned to the US this summer, one of my former colleagues asked if I would be willing to serve on an “International Careers” panel. I immediately said yes. I had helped dozens of students interested in international experiences in my four years as a career counselor, and speaking to students at my alma mater would be another small way to give back to the university. I wasn’t sure who the other panelists would be but hoped that something I would say would encourage or inspire at least one student.

Two weeks ago I spoke about my experiences as a career breaker who ventured overseas to a room of 75 or so students. It turns out that the other panelists were people who truly had international careers, working for the government or an international organization. I felt a little out of place with the caliber of my fellow speakers, but my career counseling colleagues assured me that my experience was one students needed to hear.

No matter how often I speak in front of a group of people, I will always get nervous. While the moderator introduced us, my heart was pounding to the point that I thought surely someone in the audience had to notice.

I was introduced as a “freelance career counselor” — when my colleague suggested the title, I thought it was a bit of a stretch. With a little thought, however, I realized it was kind of true. Since returning from Oz, I’ve been paid for my career counseling skills through four very different projects.

What was my most valuable contribution on the panel? It turns out that the thing I was worried about most (not being a good fit as someone with an “international career”) was no problem at all. My story was proof that even if you’re not interested in or ready to pursue an international path after graduation, you can and will when you’re ready and it becomes a priority.

After the panel, I spoke with several students individually. One was a former advisee and we caught up on his latest adventures and projects — he’s a dreamer and talented and I can’t wait to see where life takes him. A couple of students followed who eagerly asked questions and were shocked to learn I didn’t have a job or flat lined up before arriving in Oz. With wide eyes, one exclaimed, “That would be so scary to just go with no guarantee!” It took me a moment to realize she was right. Not knowing where I’d live, where I’d work, or where I’d go was overwhelming at times, but the entire experience was worth every moment of uncertainly. After a while, you become more comfortable with ambiguity and the unknown. One day I found that NOT knowing what would come next was actually kind of nice because it allowed me to be open, flexible, and free.

Seven months after returning from Australia, I still have only vague ideas of what comes next work and lifestyle wise. The uncertainty drives me bananas some days, but I’m also trusting that small ideas are coming together and will slowly begin to piece themselves together to form a clearer picture. As a career breaker, this is what I asked for, and though I’m wrestling with uncertainty just like many of the students I spoke to, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

18 Comments Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Gav says:

    Wow, amazing post babe.

    I’ve said it a lot and I’m sure I’ll say it thousands of times in our lives….you ARE and amazing person.

    The advice you have given people has almost always brought back to you positive feedback. Yet again here, someone you advised way before your trip has given you feedback of the positive influence you have had on their life and continue to do so from the advice and help you’d given them.

    I am so proud of you and what you do, the people you help and the advice you give.

    Back to the post….great writing again, love it :-) There are also some elements you’ve touched on that I myself will be going through in the coming months. Nervous about the changes? Yes. Worried about the future? Yes. Happy about what the future holds? Most definitely YES and can’t wait for the up and coming year :-)

    I know you get nervous before presentations, dramas and talking in front of big groups like above, but you have never failed to deliver and exceed peoples expectations :-) I think you’d find that most people who do these things get an attack of the nerves before doing them, but they go-a-head, step up and deliver to the audience. Just like you, you are an amazing person :-)

    • Heather says:

      Have I mentioned that you’re one of the most encouraging, supportive people I know?! *HUG* Thank you for always believing in me.

  2. Erica says:

    I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think being open and free has helped my Type A something fierce. Instead of being so concerned about certainty, I can put my efforts elsewhere.

    • Heather says:

      I feel myself slipping back into being concerned and stressing about things I didn’t stress about in Oz, and I don’t care for it. Keep doing amazing things, and I continue to be interested to see where your story takes you two next.

  3. Dad says:

    Your journey presented many risks….Eleanor Roosevelt would have been proud!

  4. Jaime says:

    Agree being open and free is the best way to go. Sometimes we make huge changes with out knowing what the outcome will be but in life do we ever really know what’s going to happen next? I think we never do even if we are living a regular life… so i think when we do something so out of the ordinary people, don’t comprehend it. We have to live life to the fullest and sometimes it means not know what’s next. We live we learn and we found out more about ourselves than ever before.

    • Heather says:

      I agree…we never (or rarely) know what the outcome of our choices will be, but there’s an extra element of uncertainty when we take a leap into the “unknown” and stray from the well-trodden path. You’re living life and having a full experience, and I am so happy for you <3

  5. Nicole says:

    Heather, I know I never would have packed up & moved to Oz like I did if I hadn’t seen you in action first! I thought it would be so scary to come here without having a job lined up, but when I visited you & saw where you worked & saw your flat & heard about you made it all happen, I started to think – hey, maybe this really is possible! I’m sure you’ve helped many students realize that seem thing & get one step closer to fulfilling a dream. :)

    • Heather says:

      I’m so proud of you for making the decision to head to Oz! I know you had a few things to overcome in making that choice, and I hope you’ve never regretted it and never will :-)

  6. It’s so great that had you there to inspire them. I wish I had someone come to my college when I was there to talk about all the opportunities abroad. I found out about the work holiday scheme by accident and it turned about to be one of the best things I’ve ever done. You should go on a college tour and talk about it. It would make such a change in so many students life. Plus, more travel for ya!!!

    • Heather says:

      I wish I had someone there to speak with me too, but then again, I strongly feel that I did this at the right time of my life! And chica, I’m really liking that idea…something to seriously think about…!!!

  7. Rebecca says:

    So love it. I guess in America we are taught to always go the safe route and “planning equal success” and anything else is crazy. I get the same response when I tell people about New Zealand (and the fact that I had never been before and didn’t know anyone, just shocked most people!) and it’s one Americans need to embrace more.

    • Heather says:

      I think we need more ambassadors like us to say “IT’S OKAY — GO!!” I’m always surprised by how shocked people are that I didn’t know anyone. Maybe we should create that college tour that Bobbi mentioned and speak to students to “normalize” living overseas for a year or two. Yes, fellow Americans, IT’S OKAY!

  8. Kyle says:

    You are amazing, I am not surprised that you are and your story were a big hit! I think that people let fear paralyze them. Fear can be a good thing when it drives you forward, for example — fear of never getting up and going to Australia drives you to go even though you have fear of not having a job lined up when you get there. You channeled your energy and the things you were afraid of and made it work!

    • Heather says:

      True…fear either propels us forward or stops us in our tracks. Sometimes it’s to keep us from doing things that we shouldn’t, but unfortunately it probably keeps us from what’s good more times than not.

  9. Great post! Reading stories like yours helps the rest of us travel dreamers going!

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