WHEN YOU ARE WATCHING A SMOLDERING VOLCANO FROM YOUR OFFICE WINDOW (EN)
When I started preparing this blog, drawing a mind map, the key words which started popping up in front of me were: unlimited options as a trap, why we sometimes cannot switch off, escape from ourselves, … hmmm these ideas, as well as the volcano in the headlines sounded a little bit depressing. But don’t worry, I’m in a good mood and I will try to write down some of my ideas about these stories more positively - it’s still summer so I would like to bring some sunshine into this blog post as well:)
I was asked this year to be part of Silva Pýchová’s team of authors working on a book about career guidance. This book is mainly focused on teachers at schools and its goal is to illuminate some new career challenges of the current world. Part of “my chapters” is exactly a summary of current topics / issues that we deal with in the area of our career lives in the 21st century and which decisions we make and how we make them.
I think it is quite clear that career decisions are now not just about “writing the proper resume” or “which university to choose”. OK, these topics still count and most of us should deal with them sometime. But the scale of current career topics has been expanding on a broad scale. Now I would like to say a little bit about these wider “new career” options.
The unbelievable amount of variety in career options that has been growing so fast, mainly because of technological development, may have been the object of desire of previous generations. But it has turned into a big trap at the same time.
No longer is it about my difficult decision at 18 of whether to stay in Jablonec (the city where I was born) or to move to Liberec (a city 11 km from Jablonec). And believe me, those moments were really hard for me and I struggled with them.
Today, almost 20 years later, I laugh about them as I decide if I will work from Oaxaca in Mexico or from Prague or from Antigua, Guatemala (which are now my favourite spots for work) in the next months.
I love to learn and get inspiration from some interesting people - one of them is e.g. Tomáš Dombrovský (working for LMC - the biggest job portals provider in our country) who is presenting some trends and visions about the labour market. I really appreciate (I cannot deny my sociology background) that his presentations are mostly based on LMC big data. But at the same time I love to add the “qualitative part” which is mainly based on my clients’ “work-life stories”.
Most of my clients are from the Czech Republic or they are expats living & working in Europe. But I get inspiration as well from people I meet when I work abroad - usually in Impact HUB Antigua Guatemala (my favourite place to work… sorry, Impact HUB & Paper HUB Prague - you are now number 2:).
There are dozens of ways of dealing with our career paths nowadays, and the life stories mentioned above are just a confirmation of this trend.
I would like to focus on just one big (still quite new) career topic that I like to observe, test, and explore: everything surrounding the digital nomad lifestyle. Digital nomads are usually people working remotely online in different areas of work. You have probably noticed the “DN” abbreviation. So we are not just talking about all expats who have gotten a contract and work abroad. The specifics about the DN community are mainly defined by their lifestyle and the way they harmonize their private lives with living abroad.
What do these people do for a living? They most frequently work in the jobs directly connected with internet development: online marketers, UX designers, developers, … but nowadays it is also, for example, a girl who works as a normal insurance agent on the phone or a guy who started a shipping business from one country to another. Or it could be people who rent their AirBnB flats remotely or they do business online. And I can bet that even you know somebody else with some type of remote work.
It may look like a passing fashion - that these people are something like modern hippies who become extinct when they buy their mortgages. But check out Pieter Levelse’s presentation “There will be 1 billion digital nomads by 2035” and look at how he plays with extrapolation of variables (e.g. internet speed, flight tickets prices, number of marriages, amount of mortgages, number of employees’ contracts vs. number of freelancers, …) which nevertheless implies that this minority lifestyle that sounds a bit crazy for some will one day become absolutely mainstream.
At the same time I see in my practice that more and more interesting projects which you can do in a remote way are appearing every year. In many cases it is hard to imagine that these projects could be done remotely. And we are not always talking about freelancers - among DN people you can find employees or employers with teams . And it is about business as well as about the non-profit sector of the labour market.
I do not want to write the millionth DN blog (for Czech speakers I recommend e.g. articles about this topic written by Dan Tržil - a typical DN who was nomading for a couple of years in Asia and Central America - we met first in Prague, then in El Salvador:).
What I want to emphasize is how to I see these DN working opportunities as a career coach.
Of course it is great to listen to people from all over the world and their stories and then have the opportunity to re-send them to my clients as inspiration. It is great to see their “aha - it really is possible!” reactions and the energy to make their own change!
I love to transmit this inspiration and energy - this is one of the reasons why I kicked off the concept of new great career retreats for next year: “Zen & Surf Your Career” for those who are standing at an important life/work crossroads and need to get some distance on their situations (and literally geographically as well).
But it is necessary to work consciously (after you clarify your vision) with the risks and new topics which these new opportunities bring. Simply, it is good to watch this phenomenon from different points of view… because there are pros and cons everywhere.
So let’s start with DN career pros when you have a job abroad for at least part of the year / or part of your life / or have a long-term remote job abroad. A lot of DN people see this life-style positively in these ways:
A new perspective (which actually comes automatically in all new environments)
Extended horizons, greater tolerance for differences in the broader sense (ok, “multi-culti” is something like a red flag for bulls on internet discussions nowadays… but it is still true)
Working in a different language and cultural environment have an impact on our innovative and “outside the box” thinking
A good new piece of your professional profile (on LinkedIn/CV)
New contacts and a wider “world-wide” network (contacts that help you open new opportunities)
Opportunities for starting new projects, start-ups, non-profit projects with lower living costs (e.g. in Asia) = getting more time before the project starts to generate money
In my case, there is also the possibility to work somewhere where 90% of the time there is sunshine and the weather is like something between spring and summer most of the time (it has a big impact on my mood)
This is also linked with the opportunity to work outside, in fresh air and close to the sea (check out the article about how scientists measured the positive influence of staying close to the sea - so now it should be true:)
It is also probably about the opportunity to see some new places, different cultures, new people … during your days off
And my personal opinion: having the opportunity to let local culture / mentality influence me (live more, stress less)
Etc. (do not hesitate to sent me more tips, I will add them in edit mode)
So, what do I see as “new DN career risks”? I will now skip technicalities such as the necessity of finding a location with a good internet connection (which is not always easy) and self-organization skills (especially in a new location where you want to explore the area:) > these things are more organizational and about time management (but if you want to read about technicalities check out e.g. https://digitalnomadsforum.com or https://nomadlist.com/ or https://remoteyear.com).
I see as new important “career DN topics”:
Do I need roots somewhere? Do I need a “base” that I can call “home” and where I can come back to?
And generally: what are my life anchors?
And actually what do I want to do and where - if I can do anything anywhere? And where and when should I start? (The decision- and priority-making process is generally really difficult - check out the article about that - and the more we change destinations the more energy we expend) … but on the other hand, we could balance it with owning a smaller amount of things
Is my remote job still a conscious decision about discovering new things or is it an escape from something old, unresolved? (Am I 20 years old and looking for my passion during a “gap year” … OR am I already 40 years old and am I still waiting for the unexpected discovery of “some” passion?)
How to motivate myself from the long-term perspective when I am on my way to burning out - and especially in cases when I have a good and well paid job which I do “almost on the beach” (but in my opinion people merely write that, because working on the beach in the long-term perspective is really uncomfortable:) - for those people it is really hard to find “a vision of something better”
How to tune my working DN life with my private DN life - who will wait for me, and in which country, or can we travel together, where are my partner’s priorities, or do I want a life partner?
Where will we raise our kids (if we have them), when is it or is it not time for home school / online education / traditional education?
Should I return due to any health difficulties? When?
How to deal with all that paperwork in spite of all the technological progress we have when somebody requests, e.g.to be sent a paper invoice?
Where do I want to have my business activities registered (if I do not work as an employee)?
Is it the life I want to live right now at this age in this phase of my career path?
Do I want or can I communicate my life-style decisions to people around me (family, friends, colleagues, …)?
Etc. (do not hesitate to sent me more tips, I will add them in edit mode)
Hmmm, so how to conclude this somehow optimistically? It is individual. Some people are dealing with A, some with B. Some people enjoy advantage C, some D…
But you can see all options around - options, challenges, styles of living and working. The scale is clearly huge, almost unlimited - because it is always changing. And if you want to try to taste if this working-life style is the best for you, I would like to give you 2 universal pieces of advice in conclusion which I have heard most frequently on my trips and which have worked for me as well:
Do not let other people discourage you or your decisions especially when they do not have this experience or when they have realized that this is not their way. This “well-int
entioned advice” e.g.: this cannot work / you cannot succeed in your field like this / you cannot do that with kids … etc. is best ignored. What does not work for one person could work for somebody else and vice versa. Let yourself be inspired by success stories which are close to your life situation and which show you that it is possible.
Do not overplan - I am quite a systematic person but sometimes planning everything is too much. And plus it is almost impossible to count on thousands of variables nowadays (in our lives generally). Be focused more on working with your vision (what you want to incorporate into your life generally) - this helps you with thousands of small decisions in your daily routine which are on the way to your vision.
I wish a nice day to all of you