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finding your niche map

We kick off the ‘Finding Your Niche‘ series with a writer who is becoming a favorite on Communicating Across Boundaries – Jenni Gate. Jenni is the perfect person to begin this series. Enjoy and please join the conversation through the comments!

Global nomads are very good mediators. Whenever TCKs move into another culture, they become very good, objective observers. They’re like cultural sponges. Those skills translate into ideal requirements for combating racism and advancing social and refugee work.” ~ Norma McCaig, El Paso Times

If I had to do it all over again, I might have put more thought and effort into planning my career path. But in typical TCK fashion, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life after high school.

Being repeatedly uprooted and resettled every few years led me to see a world of endless possibilities. There were so many choices. I wanted to learn everything. I wanted to travel. I wanted to continue to live amongst various cultures. I wanted to help people. I couldn’t settle on a college, and ended up attending three, including one overseas. I wanted to major in art. My parents wanted me to major in business. I compromised by getting an English degree.

After graduation, I married and moved to Alaska. One of my first jobs was as a temporary secretary in a law firm. When the firm got a contract with the municipal Public Defender’s office, it became a full-time job. Soon, I was managing the scheduling, filing, and intake interviews for a heavy case load of DUIs (driving under the influence),prostitution, petty theft, and other misdemeanor cases. When the PD contract came to an end, the law firm asked me to stay on. My case load evolved to include managing felony cases.

The attorney I worked for handled drug cases, DUIs, divorce and custody, probate, personal injury, and murder cases. The most dedicated, brilliant attorney I’ve ever worked with, he was committed to the belief that every individual has a right to counsel. Crazy as it sounds, having grown up as the perpetual outsider, feeling like I was on the fringes of the “in” cliques in every new school, having learned to adapt quickly in each new situation and culture, I found my TCK background helped. I connected with our clients one-on-one, a necessary skill when trying to elicit the details necessary to put on a defense. The ability to relate to people from all walks of life was a definite asset in working with the outcast, the downtrodden, what others would consider the dregs of society. The armed conflict I had experienced in my youth helped me relate with clients who were Veterans.

Every human story has value, and we all share some basic human needs. Observing without judging, and evaluating a situation from various perspectives is an invaluable TCK trait in the legal field.

In time, I trained as a mediator with a community mediation center that worked to resolve community conflicts, parent and adolescent conflict, and to bring juvenile offenders to reconciliation with their victims. Bridging cultures, viewpoints, and opposing positions as a mediator was a natural for a TCK. Juveniles, who were not yet hardened criminals, met face-to-face with the people they victimized, encouraging them to see their victims as people, to step up and take responsibility for the crime committed, and find a path forward. For the individuals and families victimized, it gave them an opportunity also to express emotions not allowed in court, to see the offender as a person, to seek meaningful restitution, and to find a way to put the crime suffered behind them. I was thrilled with our low recidivism rate and proud to be part of a program that worked to steer juveniles back on track and foster positive changes in the community.

Continuing my nomadic ways as an adult, I have lived and worked as a paralegal for nearly 30 years throughout the Pacific Northwest US and England. Today, I work in a small plaintiff’s personal injury law firm that caters to an international clientele. It is a perfect niche for a TCK adult who thrives on diversity, the music of global languages, and the skills required for understanding the cultural needs and considerations of our clients.

The diverse experiences of TCKs, our language skills, flexibility, and ability to relate to people from all walks of life are an asset in the workplace. I still highlight the fact that I graduated from high school in Pakistan on my resumé, and it has always been a topic of conversation in interviews. Emphasize your unique background in your job search, and it will set you apart from the job-seeking crowd.  Do not be afraid to draw on your TCK background in your own career. Our mobile childhoods provided us with valuable qualities for almost any workplace. Good luck finding your niche!

You can read more of Jenni’s work at Nomad Trails and Tales and follow her at Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NomadTrailsAndTales

Would you like to contribute to the Finding Your Niche series? Take a look here and share your story.