Changing Jobs in the Global Humanitarian and Int’l Development Sector.
Job transitions are weird and somewhat stressful times for people no matter what kind of work they do, but I’m beginning to think that global humanitarian and development professionals may have it worse than most. On top of the usual uncertainty and stress of changing jobs, the results of our interviews may mean that we may end up in any one of several different countries, even different regions of the world. Take me for example. In the next couple of months, I’ll be transitioning out my current job and into another. I’ve got five active applications out there for jobs based in the following locations: Lusaka, Zambia; Colombo, Sri Lanka; Islamabad, Pakistan; Washington D.C., USA; and Nicosia, Cyprus. Maybe if Antarctica were an option, I would have a more diverse array of location options.
The work in each location is, of course, varied, but it’s the diversity of locations that has my family and me a bit unhinged. Having a bit of uncertainly around what exactly I’ll be doing is not a big deal – it’s all related and within the range of my professional competency. But, I’ve got a wife and two young children, and the uncertainty around how we will live for the next three years looms rather large. So many variables in play: language, food, culture, security, weather, topography, availability of international schools, even simple details like the ability to drink wine or hold my wife’s hand in public. Changing jobs in this sector is not just about changing what you do for a living, but changing the way you and your family live.
Thankfully, we’ve done all this before, and it seems to get easier each time. My wife and I have happily stuck together through five moves in four countries and we’ve watched our kids with amazement as they’ve adjusted, made new friends, learned new languages, ate new foods. I feel like we’re raising adaptable and resilient global citizens. Of course, there are drawbacks too of raising ‘third culture kids’ – there is sadness in pulling them away from their friends, fear that they will be rootless and restless, guilt for not providing a stable sense of place and belonging, remorse for keeping them so far from their grandparents, cousins and other relatives. And all of this adds to the tension of the job transition.
I don’t know, maybe I’m just indulging in a misplaced sense of exceptionalism. I don’t want to play the martyr or invoke tiny finger violins playing satirical dirges on our behalf, but come on; this is atypical of most job transitions, right?
Many of my blog posts share lessons learned, teach knowledge gained, or otherwise contain advice. I think I’ll break from that pattern and turn this over to you, my small and patient readership. What advice would you share about making international job transitions or about raising global nomads?
(btw, a quick shout out to The Displaced Nation, a site that creatively explores many issues related to being displaced as an expat, repat, or TCK)