I've worked in the study abroad field in both the US and abroad, and I find it harder to stay connected to the field while living and working abroad. How can I stay connected to the networking opportunities, trends in study abroad, and professional inspiration while based at an overseas provider?
Dear Seeking Connection,
At the risk of sounding like a marketing pitch, I’d start right where you are with the Global Leadership League! The whole purpose of the League is to provide professionals such as yourself with a platform and arena for community, knowledge, and dialogue. It is set up to be a vibrant space for you to learn from other colleagues in the field and even advance your career no matter where in the world you’re working. So while I am admittedly biased, I think this is the best place to start. Take advantage of opportunities like the Career Connections, Mentor Circles, League social and networking events, etc. I know so many people that have found these spaces a great way to stay connected and to meet new colleagues.
From there I’d think about what aspects of international education you are most interested in and then explore organizations that are in those spaces. So for example, if you are looking for a space that provides standards of practice, The Forum on Education Abroad is great. If you’re looking for something that is perhaps more location specific, there are organizations such as International Education Association of Australia (IEAA) or the Japan Network for International Education (JAFSA). The Association of International Education Administrators has a great list that you can find here. A majority of these organizations have working groups that you could join, or volunteer opportunities with which you could engage remotely. One benefit of the pandemic is that remote engagement on boards and working groups is far more common and acceptable now. Use that to your advantage. Not only will participation help you stay connected with colleagues and up to date on current trends, but these are all great professional development opportunities. It’s a win-win really!
Many of the organizations I mentioned above also have accompanying conferences, which are great opportunities to connect and grow. Yes, they can be expensive to attend but you can make a professional case to attend just the way you can to join organizations. Presenting at a conference is one of the easiest selling points for an employer. It’s harder to say no if you are going to be representing your organization and presenting on a topic that is moving the field forward. And a conference proposal is a great excuse/reason to reach out to colleagues around the world and to work with them on a much more intimate level.
How about tapping into your local city networks? We sometimes forget that a lot of places have local meet ups and organizations that are industry specific for colleagues in finance, law, etc. So for example in the San Francisco Bay Area there is the Bay Area Young Professionals in International Education (BAYPIE) which meets regularly for social events and workshops. Look around to see if there is something similar right in your backyard! And if there isn’t, maybe you start one!
Finally, I have to, of course, mention social media which has its issues but also a lot of pros. I would consider a focused engagement on LinkedIn or other platforms. On LinkedIn, make time to read through posts and connect with people in your field who you think are writing about interesting things. Post your own insights and repost other ones. Consider Slack as an alternative. There’s a great channel called “All Things International Education'' which is a great way to chat on a variety of subjects in the field and meet people you might not otherwise. Social media is ever expanding so I’m sure by the time this post goes up there will be ten other apps to connect with folks. Be open to it!
In the end, it’s going to take a concentrated effort on your part to reach out and engage remotely. And while it may feel like you are whistling into the void at first, you will find that eventually your connections and engagements will snowball. No matter what route you take, never forget that you have valuable experience and a lot to offer to the field. Don’t be afraid to jump in and let people know that you want to connect.
P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Asking for a Friend? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!
Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.