Home Career 3 Life-Changing Career Lessons I Got From Africa
3 Life-Changing Career Lessons I Got From Africa

3 Life-Changing Career Lessons I Got From Africa

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Like a lot of recent grads, I wanted to delay getting into the ‘real world’ as much as possible after college. The idea of battling traffic for an hour so I could sit in a cubicle all day didn’t appeal to me that much… plus, I wanted some time to clear my head and figure out what I really wanted in life.

Related: 10 Things That Matter In Your Career

So, after a bit of research, I spontaneously signed up with a friend for a 4-week voluntourism trip to South Africa. About 20 of us spent two weeks volunteering at a beautiful South African wildlife reserve, and two weeks on a tour bus to the Mozambique coast and back.

3 Ways Africa Changed My Life & Career

I can’t begin to tell you how much better a person I am, personally and professionally, as a result of that experience, but here are. Here are some life-changing career lessons I learned:

1. Gratitude

I’ll never forget the woman at the fast food store in the mall.

I bought my meal with cash, and told her to keep the change. It might have added up to a dollar U.S, and she gave me a big smile and thank you.

Next, my friend did the same thing… and she started laughing a bit too much… After all, it was only another dollar. No big deal.

Another friend tipped her a third dollar, and she went crazy. Dancing, laughing, crying… and all of us just stood there, smiling back in awe.

It was one of the most touching and unforgettable experiences of my life.

We had given her what seemed to be so little… yet it was worth so much to her that she wound up breaking down at her job in the middle of the day.

There are no words to describe that kind of thing. I feel extremely grateful for all that I have here in North America, sad that a couple of dollars makes that much of a difference to someone, and happy that we were able to help out someone who really needed it.

Now, if I’m feeling stressed about work or money, I like to think back to the woman in that store, and remind myself that I have it pretty good after all.

2. What Really Matters

Waking up at dawn and driving through the bush, being completely cut off from all forms of technology, and cooking and eating meals with 20 other people was the best way I’ve experienced to remind me where we all came from.

There was a time when you couldn’t order a cab from your phone, or book a flight over the Internet. Living without those things, with just nature and other people, makes you get back to what we’re all here for… living.

It’s incredibly simple once you’re in that reality. The only things that matter are eating, sleeping, having fun, and connecting with people and nature… and it’s amazing how the problems of the world drift away when you’re able to just live.

So, if I ever get caught up in worrying about my career or future, I do my best to think back to that realization of what’s truly important. It’s not about money, promotions, or getting a nice car… it’s about living.

3. The Power Of Living

Like I mentioned in my last point, I really got in touch with what matters most, which I believe is simply living. As a result of being in that state for a month, I wound up solving two major problems in my life.

First, I was single, and looking for a relationship. I met the woman who is now my wife on that trip, and we’ve been happily married for over a year at the time of this writing. I’m from Canada, and she’s from the U.S, but things just found a way of working out once we got back to North America.

Second, I came home with a much clearer sense of what I wanted to do with my life, and wound up getting my dream job about six months later.

I firmly believe that living in that state for a month grounded me and connected me with who I really am, and what I wanted most in life so much that I was able to make it happen in a short period of time. I am forever changed as a result of that trip, and grateful for all that it taught me.

Nowadays, my mission is help people find their dream jobs with companies that are making a real difference in the world. I teamed up with purpose-driven career expert, Andrew Hewitt (creator of the GameChangers500.com), on this project, and we’ve put together a free video with three valuable tips on how to get your dream job right here.

If you think volunteering abroad might help you personally and professionally like it did for me, then you can check out the company I went with, which is International Student Volunteers.

Happy travelling.

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Ryan Niessen Ryan Niessen is a keynote speaker and co-creator of The Gateway Method: a simple, proven way to gain inside access to the world’s best employers and get your dream job. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Facebook.