If I had a time machine, would I travel back in time to change anything if I could do it again? Should I have taken that job offer as a public relations guy on a treasure-hunting dive boat in the Philippines? No, I do not think so. All experience makes us who we are, and some say they would not change a thing. On the other hand, if I have to change one thing I would have striven harder to learn the languages of the countries in which I have previously worked and would recommend the same to anyone with similar opportunities. I also recommend pursuing variety in one’s career. Change brings opportunities and challenges. Only through change, is progress possible.
When I was growing up in northern Canada, we were offered career advice in high school to learn a trade and work as a welder, truck driver, or get a job on the rigs. I did not feel these career options suited me as I was thinking in terms of further education and I have always enjoyed traveling. Hence, weighing both of these, I decided to pursue a university degree abroad. Since then, I completed my university studies, joined the oil and gas industry, and have enjoyed a diverse career overseas.
Throughout my career transitions, maintaining objectivity has been the most recurring challenge I have dealt with. Through experience, I have learned an important rule when it comes to expatriate life (which applies equally to other career transitions): Never make career-altering decisions in the first 6–12 months after moving to a new country or taking up a new role. It is human psychology to feel excited and motivated about any new location or job immediately after arrival. However, after about 6 months a period of negativity (or reality) sets in and one begins to see only the downside of a new position or new location. My experience suggests that the period of negativity does pass, and when it does, the experience can be truly objective—bringing the positive and useful aspects of past experience to bear while learning and experiencing the best that a new role has to offer.
Over my career, I have gained a lot through changes in my role, career path, or location. Changes in setting can often provoke one to become more open, a better listener, and more patient. I have learned the importance of clear communication and that “communication” involves explaining, listening, and confirming that both parties truly understand both directions.