Stand and deliver: Travelling or your career!

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It certainly is a strange experience returning to a role. Everything feels very familiar and yet slightly different. You seem to remember enough to feel like an old-hand – and to have forgotten just enough to feel like a newbie at the same time.

In December I returned to the Nielsen McAllister team after what has been an exciting, fulfilling and terrifying nine months abroad teaching English in Yinchuan, China – returning to the UK back in March – and now getting to grips with my role once more!

Originally joining Nielsen McAllister in 2017, I spent almost two years here as an account executive – before an exciting opportunity arose for me to travel, live and work in a completely different culture half-way across the world.

I can say with both fondness… and ruefulness that it was an experience to remember!

(August 2019 – The ‘Before’ Times – pre-social distancing)

Like many opportunities in life, this particular one came from seemingly nowhere. An old university friend I hadn’t spoken to for years contacted me and asked if I wanted to come and teach at his school in China – placing a fork in the road before me.

Taking one path would continue my still somewhat fresh PR career and the other would involve a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with an unknowable end with no Google Maps to help me.

This raised a dilemma I wanted to discuss: should young professionals avoid interrupting their careers to take similar opportunities as I did?


(First Arrival & First Meal)

Experience seems initially to be everything in the job market. Jokes made about entry-level vacancies requiring six years of experience do tend to resonate with the millennial and Gen Z generations for a reason.

For me, there was a certain amount of anxiety surrounding how this adventure of mine might look on my CV. Would I be seen as uncommitted to my career and considered a future ‘flight-risk’, likely to swan off again to distant lands?

As a professional only a couple of years into my career in PR, taking this particular road seemed to be a risk.

So why did I choose to hit the career pause button and travel to live over 5,000 miles away?


(Friendly as strangers – ruthless as gamblers…)

Nobody wants to sound like a cliché but unfortunately at times it is simply unavoidable. I recognised that this move and the experience of living and working in a different country represented an opportunity for me to grow as a person.

Despite the circumstances that forced me home far too early – which I will detail in a future blog – I definitely don’t regret my reasoning for going.

The absolutely brutal visa process taught me more about personal organisation and resourcefulness than any other experience in my life.

Teaching young children instilled the value of patience, composure under pressure and most importantly; compassion.


(Mischief makers of the highest order!)

Living and working with people from a completely different culture helped give me a type or… flavour of empathy that I simply wouldn’t have received within the borders of ‘Old Blighty’.

These are all characteristics that have real applications and relevancy to working in almost any organisation.

Work experience will always remain one of the most important cornerstones of our careers – but it is always complemented by the lessons we learn outside of formal employment.

Certainly, I believe my nine months in China – despite their abrupt ending in this year of many challenges – will help to influence and inform all my work and career development.

So, would I recommend others to seek out similar adventures?

It’s an emphatic Yes from me – but only once (if?!) the world returns somewhat to normal…

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