In my career, I have seemed to have ended up doing equally as much work outside of Canada as I have within it. Along the way I have learned a number of tricks about how to work internationally many of which apply to the work that you will do at home. Call them my "environmental desiderata" - I hope you can learn from them as have I:
When travelling, learn to hit the ground running, no matter where you land. The ability to focus on the job at hand is of paramount importance no matter the location. You don't have time to "get settled".
Always stay healthy! Never eat street food or meals that you don’t know how or where they have been cooked. Drink only from sealed bottles and yes you can never go wrong with beer!
Always learn about the hazards where you will be and prepare for them. You will find many hazards away that you won't ever find at home
Safety first! What can I say - your biggest risk in international work ironically is a traffic accident - always look both ways before crossing the street.
Plan for nothing working where you will be, be redundant - bring everything with you that you will need, because you will most likely never find it where you will be.
If you can sleep on a plane do it and sleep well. Jet lag and disorientation can throw you off and affect how you can do your job. Learn how to beat it.
Be observant – if you see one thing that isn’t right, it’s likely that this is systemic. Learn how to see patterns and relationships. Join the dots….. think out of the box and also laterally.
Learn a language or two, the ability to communicate locally has a huge impact on your effectiveness and how you will be appreciated.
Recognize the importance of finding local partners and associates. After 25 years around the world, I have seen the growth of excellent environmental and social consultancies in emerging economies with many highly skilled specialists - plus they can write in the local language. What these individuals only lack is experience – this is where you come in, recognize your added value and what you offer that they do not have. This is your true value.
Always strive for excellence, be good at what you do. As a consultant, you will only be remembered for your last bad job, not the good work that you do. But good work will always lead to more work.
Bring your international experience home and take your local knowledge internationally. You can do both! But eventually you must choose one over the other.
Mentor, mentor, mentor – international experience does not come quickly nor easily. You must spend much time in the trenches. But you can help others learn faster from what you have learned and sharing the mistakes that you have made. By helping others learn, you will learn much about yourself.
Keep current and keep reinventing yourself – do not do now what you did 25 years ago! Look to build, develop and find new areas in which to contribute. The combination of years of experience and thinking as you thought in college is unbeatable.
Nurture your professional relationships. The field in which you choose to work will inevitably be a diminishing one. Those who you know now and who you work with well will become valuable resources and contacts later in life.
Never forget your family - life on the road is hard, it is busy and there are always things to do. But not enough to take you away from your family. Technology allows us now to keep in touch in ways never possible before. Take the time to make sure you do.
Finally have fun, life is far too short not to, loving what you do makes you good at what you do and brings joy to all those you work with.