I asked for advice before leaving. I asked family, colleagues and professors (but not my university career counsellor… mea culpa!) whether or not a gap year would damage my chances at graduate studies or a good career, whether or not it was worthwhile. Many tried to discourage me from doing it.

In 2008, I left Canada with scarcely $2,000 in the bank and a level of English that was barely functional (French is my mother tongue). It was the best decision of my life. The following 16 months saw me working as a mail clerk, taking Maori classes, volunteering in a school, learning how to repair eyeglasses, fielding phone calls in an Australian call centre (“Sorry, I didn’t get that – could you repeat for me please?” with a heavy French accent, again, and again, and again), spending Chinese New Year with a family in Singapore and learning how to negotiate in Mandarin with a street vendor (I’m still not sure what it was he was selling, but it tasted great!).

Don’t listen to frightened parents: it’s a great career move. Thanks to my own gap year, I will never run out of stories to tell to prove my abilities, and my English did get a lot better. I got to test my skills in problem-solving, resourcefulness and creativity. I dealt with solitude, homesickness, joblessness and financial strain. I developed all sorts of new skills that got me to explore my interests in a way school never could have.

At the Cannexus conference last year, Stephen Lewis noted in his keynote address that career practitioners, for a variety of reasons, rarely recommend international career options to their clients. His keynote inspired this Careering issue on global careers, which seeks to give practical tips on how you can help the growing demographic of young and not-so-young workers wishing to take their career to the international level. Enjoy!