During this “Zwischen den Jahren” timeframe or the transitional zone between the years (and in this case decades), I’ve benefited from reading other people’s reflections and predictions. This sparked me to post some of my own learnings cultivated over the past decade — as someone who went from America to Europe, from non-parent to parent, from non-tech to tech.
Hopefully, other ex-pats or people who uproot their lives and join new communities will be able to relate. Here are seven life hacks to encourage exploring the world and trying out new things with your career in 2020.
I keep testing my own boundaries and invite you to exit your comfort zone, too!
1. Try another Continent 🌍
If you’ve been waiting to move abroad, don’t wait any longer. You’ll discover new cultural values and enhanced work-life balance. That’s what I found swapping the San Francisco Bay Area for Berlin, Germany. Yes, you’ll miss the golden state, but you’ll unearth new resilience, opportunities, and entire ecosystems. It’s refreshing to redefine yourself and be seen in a new light for skills that you bring to untapped communities.
2. Handpick your Network 👼
When I first got to Berlin 5 years ago, I had less than 10 local, professional contacts on LinkedIn — more globally to be sure. Now here in Germany, I’ve grown that national number to over 700. While that will keep increasing, I’ve got a great base of people to call upon for advice and technical information, to connect people with opportunities, or invite guest speakers and panelists, etc. Valuable connections came from attending Meetups on topics I care deeply about (including digital health, entrepreneurship, and diversity in tech), working at startups and accelerators, joining Factory Berlin, and supporting diverse organizations and impactful groups through writing.
It’s been an eye-opening ride to encounter people who are curious and passionate about similar topics and run open events catered to those interests. Having the right people in your network means more to me than sheer volume. If in Berlin, I suggest checking out Clustered for networking, APX events with LinkedIn groups like Nasty Womxn, and Factory Berlin events – just to name a few worthy options.
3. Provide Value Upfront 💗
When I started covering takeaways from conferences in Berlin, my aim was to get to know this ecosystem and share knowledge useful to people internationally. But one memorable request to gain entry to an event was met with a blunt NO. The response was, ‘you just don’t have the (social) reach.’ Although that felt harsh at the time, I’m now grateful for the refusal. It successfully nudged me to disprove that judgment.
By aligning with world-class conferences to allow me to broadcast their contributors’ key insights via Medium, I earned my way closer to thought-leaders and got featured as a top writer on women in tech.
I’m now appreciative of invitations to attend annual gatherings across this city and country. The lesson here is: keep at it. Always put forth value upfront, regardless of the outcome. Keep spreading messages you believe in; you’ll meet like-minded folks and people are attracted to the help in evangelizing.
Some personal highlights included: covering patient-centered ingenuity at a Roche Diabetes Workshop, catching rising startups and insights from healthcare conferences like Frontiers Health and World Health Summit, gleaning advice on approaching investors, navigating career and salary negotiations via APX, empowering youth with Girls Gearing Up, judging a Techstars event, or interviewing leaders like Heather McGough from Lean Startup, and Elena Poughia of Data Natives.
4. Grow in a Startup 🚀
A startup is a perfect petri dish to work on yourself while supporting the growth of an organization. The dynamic vibe contrasts starkly with my prior experience in steadfast science publishing. Ideally in an organization of any age, there’s consensus on the general direction, but even if that takes time getting sorted, you can learn a lot from observation; I’ve seen folks come and go, get promoted, burn out, launch new projects, etc.
Meanwhile, my aim is to learn from absolutely everyone. This way, you pick up lessons on effective leadership styles, perseverance, business, and finance knowledge from every direction, sorting out what fits you. So be a sponge. It’s a chance to roll with the punches, exercise maturity, live by your values, and contribute to something greater.
5. Learn another Language 🙊
Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Being bilingual, or trilingual, is fairly common in most of the world. And for good reason. Language opens up trust, possibilities, and opportunities. Even though the Berlin business world operates heavily in English, I’m glad I’ve invested the time to continue learning German. I appreciate employers who offer this chance – take them up on it!
Learning the local language is a) respectful and b) allows you to connect on a deeper level to those around you. Speaking your host country’s language breaks a secret code to unlock cultural nuances, history, and makes your experience more profound and meaningful. Check out my recommended teacher, apps like Duolingo, and a great podcast on learning from The Family.
6. Become a Parent 👶🏼
In all seriousness, parenting allows one to distinctly feel the boundaries of what you can and can’t control; you soon realize that what you CAN control is yourself, or at least your reactions. If circumstances permit, parenting is humbling and awesome. It’s a great mirror of how our actions affect others and deepen bonds. It’s made me hyper time-aware and has sharpened my work ethic and ability to prioritize, compartmentalize and focus.
With parental leave (Elternzeit) and preschool (Kita) available, Germany is a wise place to raise a kid while developing your career. Listen to interesting voices on the topic of entrepreneurship plus motherhood here.
Note: exploring this distance between input and reaction can also be refined without having kids. :) Check out the SearchInsideYourself leadership workshops!
7. Pump up the Podcasts 🎧
Media is the ultimate democratizer of knowledge. I’m loving podcasts that help me grow and expand my Twitter radius. Yes, it’s all connected: The more I listen to podcasts, like FemGems, Punkt, Radical Candor, The Family, and Visionaere Gesundheit (in German), the more I discover interesting organizations and people to follow and learn from.
This combined approach of Podcasts + Twitter + LinkedIn networking exposes you to massive available knowledge to be consumed and shared. It also saves you from dumb mistakes, adds to your arsenal of tips and tricks, and is enjoyable. Triple win! Part of why these podcasts appeal is that they feature honest, first-hand stories of entrepreneurship, where people are working on solving problems that improve the world.
Entrepreneurs reflect what we all commonly struggle with: carving out a purpose, excelling at collaboration, building something from scratch, finding support, and creating longevity in our pursuits.
If you want to know how to get started with podcasting yourself, check out tips from a session at CoWomen. So in sum, hope you tune in to yourself and take time to reflect, and that these 7 hacks here add spice to your future. Let’s hope 2020 lives up to the clarity of vision that its name implies!
I look forward to your comments. Thank you for reading and 👏🏽if inspired.