Walking into someone’s office and telling them you want their job probably isn’t the best method for starting your dream career; but it certainly worked for Lora Cook. What began with a year-long foreign exchange program in Finland developed into a dream of working and serving at an international level. With that vision, Lora took the fastest route to graduate school and now has a master’s in organizational behavior and a Ph.D. in educational leadership and international program development. While working closely with the BYU Kennedy Center throughout her education, she met the man running the international study abroad office—and eventually asked if she should take his job.
Preparing for a Global Career
After years organizing several international educational trips, Cook has visited over 40 countries and researched over 20 social and humanitarian programs in various locations. She is the founder and CEO of Global Education Allies and works to take teachers and leaders abroad in order to create connections and improve their classroom experiences. To those searching for an international career like hers, Cook offers three pieces of advice:
- Get as much international experience as possible
- Be willing to make sacrifices
- Make connections all along the way
When people enter emerging markets, they often go with an attitude that they will be saviors, bringing with them Western tools and technologies that will rescue these struggling nations. People with this attitude typically fail. Professionals working globally need to learn that the most effective attitude to have when visiting other countries is one of humility and a readiness to learn. This attitude makes for the best study abroad program candidates and will best prepare individuals for future roles in global markets. In a similar manner, Cook explains that, “when students go abroad to serve, they are really serving themselves.”
As part of her job responsibilities, Cook works hard to obtain grants to help those looking for an international experience. In her role at the Kennedy center, she was able to help establish a level 6 grant from the European Union titled “Get to Know Europe.” Most universities and other study abroad centers provide large amounts of support for those looking to gain the needed experience; but grants hardly cover the full cost. For an individual who is looking to travel internationally, sacrifices may need to be made, and students will often have to work hard in order to fund their trips. Thankfully, sacrificing for something usually makes the experience sweeter.
Global Education Allies doesn’t receive all the funding that universities do. In order to keep the costs low for travelers, the staff are unpaid. Cook and her associates select the most stellar participants to take the trip again as a fellow. Every year, those participants excitedly look forward to returning and maintain the connections they created while abroad. Through the connections formed, educators who have returned from these trips continue to exchange ideas and do collaborative projects with educators all over the globe. These types of connections strengthen the individual educational systems and provide for future opportunities of growth and development. Similarly, students who take the time to establish connections along the way will be more prepared when the time comes to find global positions and work well across borders.
Sometimes the desire for a global career starts at home, while other times it takes a trip abroad to ignite the flames. No matter how the dream starts, creating global allies while young helps to build the base needed to secure that dream job, so get lots of experience abroad, with the intention of going to learn. Search for grants and then make the sacrifices necessary to get there. And don’t forget to form lasting connections along the way to better prepare yourself for the jobs ahead.
To learn more about Global Education Allies, Lora Cook, and how to prepare for an international career, check out the iHub Human Edge podcast here.