Walking up on stage on graduation day and receiving my diploma felt like a rite of passage. I remember the exhilaration. “We did it!” I thought.
The next day, I wondered: “What now? Will I find a job? Will I find the right job?”
In this post, I’ll share with you what helped me figure things out and get ahead in my career.
My main concern at the time was: “How do I make sure that my career continues to grow and that I’m happy with it?”
I remember meeting a few people who came to speak in our classroom or at networking events who were 10 or 20 years older than me and were very successful, traveled a lot and seem to be happy in their career.
I wanted to be like them.
After graduation, I was considering either an AIESEC work exchange abroad to get some cultural and work experience at the same time, or finding a job in my city where I could do what I love and get paid well.
It’s been 15 years since the day of my graduation and I have come a long way.
The first person I ended up working with was someone I got introduced to through my network. After an initial conversation, he invited me to join the team. I liked his idea and I said yes to working together. The founder was Moroccan and we had a diverse and multicultural team including a remote development team. My ability to relate and work effectively with people from different cultures made me successful in this fast-paced startup work environment. Eventually I became a partner in the business.
Since then, I have founded 4 tech startups, and the most recent one has become a multi-million dollar company. I’ve also had the opportunity to coach and train clients on cross-cultural leadership around the world and I’ve spoken at conferences internationally on entrepreneurship, leadership and cultural intelligence. I continue to travel frequently to amazing places.
But this success has come with its own challenges along the way.
Let me share with you what helped me get success and what I’ve learnt along the way.
1. Building a Strong Network
I recently got invited to speak at a conference including an exclusive invitation to dinner with the most influential people in the space. I made excellent contacts at the event that led to some lucrative business deals for a new project I had started at the time.
The reason I got invited is because I made good friends and allies over the years by approaching every new relationship by looking at how I can help while not keeping score. When these contacts had opportunities to help me they reached out. They went out of their way to make sure they provide as much value as possible to me.
Strong human networks are still key to have access to resources and opportunities. A strong network can provide the type of leverage you can’t pay for and access to job opening you didn’t know existed.
How Strong is Your Network?
Think about your network: the people you talk to and hang out with.
Are you thinking about how you can help them, or are you considering what they can do for you?
2. Developing Cultural Intelligence or CQ
Early in my career, I was working on a project with a tight deadline with a team that did not get along well with each other. Since I was responsible to deliver the project, it was important to build rapport and trust with the various members so they would follow my vision.
Using my cultural intelligence skills, I was relate to each individual on the team even though they were from different backgrounds, listen to what was important to them, and as a result I was able to motivate them to follow my idea and help me deliver it. Everyone benefited from having succeeded in delivering on time and I got recognition for my leadership that helped me get ahead in my career.
Cultural Intelligence is the ability to relate and work effectively across cultures. Culture could be someone from another country, simply another profession, another gender, or another town. It doesn’t depend on where you have lived or how many countries you visit. The good news is that anyone can develop cultural intelligence.
How Do You Relate with People from Different Cultures?
Think about the people you hang out and interact with.
- Do the people you hang out with look differently than you?
- When people behave differently than you expect, do you judge them based on your own values or do you get curious about theirs?
- How comfortable do you feel relating to people from different cultures, especially in times of disagreement?
If you have a strong network and can work effectively with people across cultures, you’re on a strong start to your career. If you’re eager to further develop these skills to get ahead in your career and become a global leader, continue reading.
I’ll show you how to build a strong network of contacts and friends that you can count on and that will give you access to excellent professional opportunities now and over the years.
I’ll share ways for you to develop your abilities to work with and lead people effectively so you can achieve your goals and better results.
A lot of time has passed since I graduated and the world has changed in many ways.
There are two significant changes happening in the world today that make these skills even more important for new graduates and people early in their career.
The first is the increased diversification of the workplace.
There is more migration in the workforce, it’s easier and cheaper to relocate to a new town or country. There are more people who look and think differently than us in our offices and teams. The differences are not always obvious: people from the same country but another town or another generation or even profession may have different values and worldviews. Working effectively together requires us to be able to relate across these cultural differences.
In a study conducted with thousands of executives in 68 countries. 90% of leaders said the cross-cultural leadership is the number #1 challenge for the future.
What if you can develop this ability early in your career?
Another challenge is the increasing rate of technological change.
We have AI, machine learning and automation that are in their infancy and evolving rapidly. What skills will you need to stay relevant?
Technology may help travel and communicate across vast distances easier but it doesn’t help if we don’t have the ability to cross the cultural barriers. It still comes down to humans being able to communicate and collaborate effectively.
Technology makes it easier to collaborate but 70% of international ventures fail costing millions of dollars and many careers. In 99% of the cases it is due to cultural differences.
You don’t need to work in multinational company to face these challenges. Just look around, are you surrounded by people who don’t look like you?
How do you get started with building your network and developing your CQ so you can relate and work effectively with anyone, anywhere?
Here are 3 keys that have been the foundations to my success and can help you get ahead in your career.
1. Look inside.
Start by looking inside. Learn about your own biases and unconscious bias.
Our unconscious biases can often be in conflict with our values. We may not believe what we find out, but it’s the first step towards making change.
You can start by taking this free test about Implicit Social Attitudes created by Harvard University.
2. Become aware and curious
Practice mindfulness to become aware of your thoughts and feeling. When a situation is frustrating or you feel annoyance or anger growing inside of you, pause, and approach the situation from a place of curiosity. Ask yourself, “What is happening and why?”.
By holding judgement and trying to understand you will learn about yourself as well as about others.
Start by doing a few minutes of silent meditation where you focus on your breathing. You can also use one of the many apps that include a guided meditation.
Start with 5 minutes a day.
When you have an opportunity, always give at least a little. It could be attention, a few minutes of time, an email intro. Make sure it doesn’t get in the way of fulfilling your commitments, but beyond that giving should be your default.
Give and don’t keep score.
You’ll be surprised by the most unexpected ways that this will come back to you. My best opportunities came this way.
I’ll cover these tips as well as others in more detail in upcoming posts so you can develop the tools to success no matter what the world throws at you.
- What are your goals for your career?
- What would you like to learn most?
- Where would you like to be in 5 or 10 years?
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