A global citizen is someone who identifies with being part of an emerging world community and whose actions contribute to building this community’s values and practices.
You may have heard the terms “global citizenship” or “citizen of the world” in your company’s mission statement, during work meetings, or in ad campaigns. Global citizenship is an increasingly common idea: Universities use the term to promote global awareness and international education, and businesses use it to highlight their commitment to corporate social responsibility and sustainability around the world. It’s also a movement that uses online activism and social media worldwide to work toward ending global poverty.
Specifically, as a professional, global citizenship can benefit your personal and company brand, increase the growth and scope of your work, and help you connect with colleaguesand build partnerships around the world.
But, how do you take such a complex concept and implement it in your daily 9-to-5 life?
I’ve learned that the essence of global citizenship is about finding global solutions to major social issues and developing a greater understanding of the world. But since that’s still a pretty broad task, here are four ways you can work toward global citizenship on a daily basis—and get ahead in your career at the same time.
Part of the reason that companies adopt the idea of global citizenship is because it allows them—and their employees—to support a variety issues, make an impact, and understand their greater role in the world. But to do that as an employee, you must become knowledgeable about the issues that matter to you.
If you’re not already aware of a social cause that you care about, start by learning more about what’s going on in the world and getting familiar with a few causes or issues that resonate with you. To do that, you can use social media to follow a variety of organizations, volunteer with local nonprofits to learn about the issues firsthand, or join meetups or social groups that take part in local causes.
Once you know what you support, you don’t have to wear your cause on your sleeve—there are plenty of ways to participate in and talk about the cause without being overbearing. For example, it’s easy to work into a conversation with a co-worker that you’re supporting a particular crowdfunding campaign, running in a charity 5K, or going to a happy hour that benefits your chosen cause after work. This is a great way to both be a global citizen and build relationships at work.
Social entrepreneurship—developing innovative solutions to social problems—is one of the pillars of global citizenship. Many companies have launched initiatives with the intention of both making an impact and growing their international brands. The idea behind TOMS, for example, is that the company will help a person in need for every product sold.
Once you’re knowledgeable about the issues that matter to you or your company, think about how you might start something new to contribute to those issues—whether it’s a short-term project, like a fundraising event or an employee workshop, or something bigger, like launching a startup, a nonprofit, or a new socially conscious product line.
You can also get involved in smaller ways, too. As an individual, you can be a part of something just as impactful by getting civically engaged with an existing project or taking on a leadership role with a local organization. Anything that allows you to have an impact on world issues you care about.
Networking is one of the key ideas of global citizenship. But networking in the United States is completely different than networking in Japan or Norway. Would you have the knowledge to navigate the cultural and professional differences if such a foreign networking opportunity came up?
The good news is, you don’t necessarily have to go abroad to practice this skill. It’s about building relationships, striving toward common goals, navigating conflict, understanding differences, being able to work with others, and occasionally putting yourself out there when others won’t.
So, consider every cocktail reception, conference, or work dinner as a chance to bring out your global citizenship A-game. For example, if you recognize your clients may not feel comfortable conducting business in a bar because they come from a country where alcohol is prohibited (or maybe they just don’t partake in it as a personal choice), find an environment that is comfortable for everyone. In other cases, international colleagues may expect to have a coffee break every hour, so it’s important to build in room and flexibility for that. It’s all about being able to make people from all over the world (including your own local colleagues) comfortable.
Global citizenship requires that people stay engaged and committed to their goals over the long term. That means even if it takes years to build your organization, pass a law, or raise the money you need, you stick with it. Most movements won’t achieve change overnight, but they can still make a huge impact as you work toward that goal. Many of the eight Millennium Development goals, for example, have not been met completely, but there have been vast improvements in gender equality, maternal health, and education for girls around the world because of that project—and the progress will continue until all the goals are achieved.
It’s fairly easy to solve problems in the short term—but can you make those solutions last? Whenever you start a project or implement a solution in your company, think about the changing landscape of your field, the flexibility that may need to be factored in, and what the impact over time will be. No matter how big or small the project, consider the how you will see it all the way through to completion.
Global citizenship is a philosophy that doesn’t have to be an out-of-reach goal or some public relations jargon—it’s an excellent way to advance your skills, build new partnerships and create awesome new opportunities as a “citizen of the world.”