Breaking the Global Career Path Mold

Finding your ideal global career isn’t always easy but it IS possible. Carrie, SPS’s Associate Relauncher, shares her thoughts, experiences, and tips on breaking out of the global career path mold in today’s blog post. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments section!


As you begin, continue, or question your global career path, it’s hard to think outside of that infamous proverbial box.

If you’re anything like me with your international education career, you’ve thought the main place you could work was in universities organizing study abroad programs or advising international students on their educational pursuits in the United States.

You’ve scoured, the NAFSA job registry, and the Higher Education Recruitment Consortium, among many others.  However, upon attending conferences like NAFSA and SIETAR-USA, you’ve soon discovered that these areas are simply a gateway to an unlimited amount of career choices…if you know where to look and the right questions to ask.

Allow me to explain. 

But before I do that, let me share some thoughts with you.

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If you read my last post here on Small Planet Studio, you can get a sense for my frustration on paving my own global career path. I thought I was doing all the right things by following what I thought was the “right” way to go about my career development.

Get your B.A. Realize the B.A. isn’t enough, and get the M.A. Assume the M.A.=not only good job, but high paying job. And that it’d mean getting that job instantly after finishing school.

The pressures of society told me that if I followed this formulaic strategy, I’d get whatever I’d want. That’s the U.S. American dream, right? Work hard and it’ll pay off exactly how you want? Not necessarily.

I eventually thought I was going to have to give in to the rat race and start applying for boring 9-5 jobs to make ends meet. Much like in the picture, I thought I was going to have to give up on my dreams.

Thankfully, I realize now that I don’t have to give up on my dreams.  Ever.

It’s all just a matter of knowing where to look, knowing who to talk to, and knowing what questions to ask.

One of the best things you can do for your professional growth is to talk to as many people as you possibly can.

Even if you think, “well, I can’t “get” anything from this person nor is (s)he in the area I want to work, so it’s not worthwhile.”


Biggest.  Mistake.  Ever.

You can *always* learn something from anyone in the professional world, even if it’s what you don’t want to do.  Process of elimination can be your best friend!

Networking can be quite intimidating, but it’s the most helpful, necessary skill to cultivate for your career.  For folks that know me in real life, (whether you believe it or not), this was difficult for me at first.  I didn’t know what to say, how to approach people, and felt as if I was an annoyance or a bother.  The reality is quite the contrary!

Nearly everyone loves to talk about themselves and tell their story to interested parties.  Luckily, I learned early on from a now dear mentor that it’s best to approach networking as transformational rather than transactional.

If you approach it as a “you scratch my back and then I’ll scratch yours”, you won’t get very far…especially in the global career world.  Approach it as relationship building, and relationships go both ways.  Add value to the relationship because it will “pay off” eventually.

Put yourself out there!


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The more people know about who you are, what your goals are, and where you want to be, the more dots they can connect for you.  It’s human nature for us to want to help one other reach our goals.

One such example is talking with family and friends–your best network!  I shared my seemingly winding and endless career path woes with my brother and as a result, he connected me with one of his contacts in Minneapolis.  I learned about an entirely new area that I never knew existed before.

Armed with years of experience, his contact helps college student hopefuls determine the best fit through a customized, personal coaching process to determine the best college fit via College Connectors.

High school students (and their parents) are guided by experts on determining where college students will best the most successful in their university studies based on who they are, their goals, and what school will help them reach their best potential.  Not only did I learn a great deal about her business, but she also helped me realize how I can better market my skills, experience, and background.

And from that conversation, she introduced me to a similar area, but in coaching students from international high schools around the world on selecting a university.  Who knew!?  The first step in discovering these two brand new areas was by putting myself out there.

And if you want to REALLY break out of the global career path mold, a budding area is social entrepreneurship.

If you take advantage of the aforementioned tip of talking to as many people as possible, you’ll meet a LOT of amazingly wonderful folks, including entrepreneurs.  Social entrepreneurs are a-plenty in this field!

These folks start businesses to, of course, create a means to an end financially, but more so to fill a void to benefit society in some fashion.  I could write an entirely separate post highlighting inspirational social entrepreneurs (including Cate here at Small Planet Studio!), but I’ll just highlight two here.

Alexa Hart, host and founder of Atlas Sliced
After spending two years teaching English in South Korea, this powerhouse of a social entrepreneur is kicking butt and taking names with her online web show, Atlas Sliced.

Alexa’s goal with Atlas Sliced is to inspire her audience to pursue their dreams abroad…whether it’s to intern, volunteer, work, teach, or to just traverse the globe, her site is a one-stop shop for all of the above.  She noticed a void online and decided to fill it by creating guides, online web interviews, and compiling resources for global career path hopefuls…the embodiment of a social entrepreneur!

She may hold a special place in my heart because we were both communication studies majors in college, but her tenacity to take on the world and encourage others to do the same is endlessly inspiring.

Girish Ballolla, CEO of GenNext Education, Inc. and founder of The International Knowledge Center
Remember that dear mentor I mentioned that encouraged me to network transformationally vs. transactionally?  Here he is!

Girish is the epitome of pursuing a nontraditional career path.  Starting out as a biology major in college and wanting to work on the human genome project, he’s since worked in higher education, owned a tile business, and recruited employees in human resources (talk about jack-of-all-trades!).  Now, he runs GenNext Education, Inc. out of St. Paul, MN and The International Knowledge Center out of Bangalore, India.

He helps universities create an on-the-ground presence in India in order to internationalize their U.S. campuses via recruitment efforts, program development and design, and transformational (of course!) relationship building.

A native of Bangalore, Girish found himself to be uniquely qualified to be the liaison between universities in the United States and high schools/universities in India to create mutually beneficial relationships.  He’s a phenomenal community builder, public speaker, and someone I highly admire and respect in this field.

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Regardless of what you decide for your own career path, don’t give up and know there isn’t one sole path. 

There are endless amounts of options (many more than I’ve highlighted in this post!), and it just takes a little digging.  Each experience will help build your skills and build your toolkit in order to be successful when you do land that first gig.

Oftentimes it feels as though you run into more roadblocks than victories, but don’t be afraid to reach out, don’t be afraid to start your own thing, and absolutely don’t ever feel afraid to give up on your dreams.

As a wise friend recently told me, “Without sacrifice, there’s no victory”.

What are your career dreams? What are you doing to make those dreams come true? Tell us in the comments!


Niesen PhotoCarrie Niesen is a proud intern for Small Planet Studio and Melibee Global, and one of the newest contributing editors to  A former public speaking instructor, Spanish speaker, and intercultural communication expert, Carrie is hot on her own global career path and won’t give up until she’s paved her own way.  She’s hoping to translate her education, experience, and insatiable curiosity for the world into her next step in her global career path.  Read more about her on LinkedIn, Twitter, and her personal website.