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The 1 Thing That Makes People Who Work Abroad More Effective in Their Careers
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Kiyomi Appleton Gaines
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SHRM-CP, Nonprofit Culture, Writer, Storyteller
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Self-awareness is the quality of knowing yourself apart from your environment. To be self-aware means knowing your values, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, knowing how much you can take on and being able to communicate those things effectively, while remaining open to others. And it's the quality that separates a good manager from a bad one. Greater self-awareness builds trust by increasing credibility and authenticity.

High levels of self-awareness are a top predictor of success. Qualities that we commonly associate with strong leadership skills – being assertive, decisive, authoritative, a risk-taker – can be alienating if not paired with an equally strong sense of how one is showing up in the world. For women, this path to self-awareness can be especially fraught, as common qualities associated with leadership can lead to ladies being labeled as “difficult" or "bossy."

So how do you become more self-aware and confident in your place in the world, especially as a woman? A recent study from Rice University says overseas positions can be uniquely positive places to learn about yourself and your leadership abilities. 

According to the study, living and working abroad triggers “self-discerning reflections,” by which people reconcile the norms and values they lived with at home, with those of the new culture.

The process of reconciling sometimes very different perspectives, causes the traveler to hone in on what values are most important and central to themselves, as opposed to being shaped by their family, friends, or culture. The study found that length of time within another culture, rather than the number of places visited, is what really had an impact on self-awareness. 

Researchers also found that those who have lived and worked overseas may have greater life satisfaction, decreased stress, and improved job performance.

No one is perfectly self-aware. We all make missteps from time to time. But experience living overseas can especially contribute to making you a better, more savvy, and more empathetic leader when you return.

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Kiyomi Appleton Gaines writes about work, life, culture, and fairy tales. Read more at a work of heart and follow @ThatKiyomi on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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