How millennial expats can find their calling

How millennial expats can find their calling

A global citizen’s journey through the world

By Claudia Koerbler

Originally published in Global Living Magazine – Summer 2017 issue

To me as a global storyteller it all boils down to people, places and stories, and I would like to tell you a global story.

As a global citizen, I lived in Madrid ten years ago where I met a stranger waiting behind me at the famous La Churreria. We both impatiently waited for our morning coffees and churros and, while queuing, we engaged in a lively conversation. Little did I know back then that the words of this elderly Spanish man with a thick Madrileño accent would be instrumental to me in finding my life’s purposes many years later. He told me that he realized, in the midst of living in Franco’s dictatorship and the rise of Spain after 1975, what the two most important days of his life were: the day he was born and the day he realized why. Throughout building a global and diversified career over the last 10 years, I have cherished these two simple thoughts and still build upon them with every experience I indulge.

My pledge to you, the millennial global expat out there, is to help you understand that your calling defines nothing else but you! For starters, know that there is your talent and then there is your gift. Your talent allows you to have a wonderful career. A career is what you are paid for, which can ultimately turn into your calling, but your calling is truly what you are made for. As millennial global expats, we sometimes have difficulty in fully realizing our gifts, which is a natural phenomenon that stems from the sheer absence of anchored roots that global expats experience. But on the flipside, it is also the greatest potential you carry inside yourself that helps you to embrace a world full of cultural possibilities.

How can you embrace those possibilities and make them your own? Here are some steps toward how you can create a career that will be your calling, leave a social-impact-driven dent in this world, and find your legacy.

Be a Millennial Tastemaker

The definition of a tastemaker is a “person who decides or influences what is or will become fashionable and is on par with societal trends.” The Millennial Tastemaker is a product of numerous cultures, numerous ethnicities, numerous countries and numerous experiences. Now, what is more fashionable to a tastemaker than combining appetizers and entrees on their global plate of experiences? Global millennials have more opportunities than others to live, work and study outside of their home countries. As a global citizen, I have realized that we are the Millennial Tastemakers bearing a uniquely-equipped sense of cultural understanding. We have a choice to be diverse and to immerse ourselves in a global community that will help to build a purpose-driven life.

Use your diversified toolbox of talents

As a global citizen, Third Culture Kid (TCK), and Adult Third Culture Kid (ATCK) you are already equipped with a diversified toolbox of global change-maker qualities. Find your unique tools and embrace them. My toolbox throughout my global expat life has been languages and cross-cultural communication, which ultimately helped me to become an effective international development professional. Go inside of yourself and find yours!

Choose a sustainable development goal close to your heart

In my work for the United Nations, I realized that the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are indicators for anyone to create their own social impact business card. My calling has led me to work towards a Zero Hunger generation by 2030. Finding your calling through an SDG does not only have to be true for an international development professional. Choose an SDG and goal that is closest to your heart, embrace it, and it will guide you to your purpose.

Do not follow someone else’s dream

Find your global calling based upon what you want. I understand it is hard; I get it, believe me. Your parents want you to be a certain way. Your boss wants you to be another way, and the culture you live in forces you to adapt. Lastly, society is clamoring for you to be someone entirely different. You can’t please everyone, but if you do what you think you should, you come pretty close to your heart’s calling. 

Listen to your “glocal” intuition

Let your global experience speak for itself. You have lived in many different countries, experienced many different cultures and you know that your global and local (“glocal”) intuition guides you in the right direction. Do not be shy about listening to it and embracing it. Manifest a lateral and global thinking, which comes naturally to a millennial global expat.

Be your authentic global you

Just as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, we create many different personalities along our global expat journey. The way we soak up experiences is what helps us to integrate into new cultures. Our authentic global self makes us unique, and people will be able to learn from it.

Blend your talents

Instead of doing something that only takes advantage of one skill, create a mash-up of several things you do well. You’ll set yourself apart and feel more satisfied with what you’re doing. Ignore the future and just deal with the present. The question, “What should I be when I grow up?” is wrong. Ask instead, “What is next today?” People become adults one hour at a time, so what we do today matters and is a natural progression towards our path of finding our calling. 

Create your own blueprint of your potential

Map out your potential on a blueprint and make yourself aware of what it is.

Live from the outside in, not the inside out

People are taught from a very young age to look to others for guidance. Social norming is an important part of childhood – you figure out how to act in relation to everyone else – but the problem begins when you extend that process to include something as personal as your life purpose. Listen to your gut; it is right most of the time.

Shop around and try out different flavors 

Unless you taste the dish, you’ll never know if it is the right one for your palate. Do the same with vocations, avocations and skills. You’ll need to sample every flavor to know your true favorite taste. The tastemaker in you will realize what the right flavor is.

Say yes to odd opportunities

Say yes to the things that intrigue you, instead of the things that bore you. They will all guide you on your journey of creating a career that will be your calling.

Build your multicultural and multifaceted personal Board of Directors

Surround yourself with others that are aligned with their calling. When you stop and think about it, you realize that some of your closest friends or mentors are also connected to their truth and are succeeding from that. You realize that you already have your personal Board of Directors around you. Celebrate diversity and learn from the way other people inspire you.

Well then, bon appétit and bon voyage to you global millennial tastemakers out there. I encourage and support you to continuously shop around in this global cuisine plate we call life! Along this incredible journey, never forget that your global experience already is your social impact business card, and every experience along the way will bring you closer to finding your calling. When you are there, do not forget to be informed, be challenged and be inspired along this global journey called life.

If you are interested in finding out how global citizens can find their own Sustainable Development Goals, listen to Claudia’s TEDx talk “United Nations of I” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jo2KGMpXX_g.

[Images courtesy of Claudia Koerbler]

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