Mika Launikari

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Homo interculturalis - Identity, interculturality and career learning within European Union institutions

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A month ago I submitted my doctoral dissertation to international pre-examination. Ever since then I have not really been willing to take a look at the manuscript. Out of sight, out of mind … at least for a while. Now in October-November, the reviewers – one professor in Singapore and another in the Netherlands – are reading my doctoral thesis. By December I should receive their comments and suggestions on how I still should revise and improve the original manuscript before I can defend it in public in early 2019.

The concepts of identity, interculturality and international careers are at the heart of my doctoral dissertation entitled ‘Homo interculturalis – Identity, interculturality and career learning within European Union institutions’. The main motivation for conducting this research was that currently the intercultural dimension among staff at European Union institutions is academically a relatively unexplored terrain.

Thus, this research aims at creating more clarity on how staff members working at decentralized European Union agencies located in Greece (Cedefop), Ireland (Eurofound) and Italy (ETF) relate to identity and interculturality in their daily working environment, and what are the meanings they give to these notions from the perspective of their professional careers in the EU public administration.

Essentially my research looks into the dynamics of the specific elements that constitute identity and interculturality capitals. Altogether 20 interviewees from the above EU agencies shared their views on identity construction and related personal, professional and territorial identifications as well as on development of interculturality along their careers at an international workplace and outside of work in the destination countries.

In the research, the theoretical model of intellectual capital that consists of human, social and organisational capitals has been applied to framing and discussing identity, interculturality and career capitals. These three are important types of capitals for capturing the phenomena of self-initiated expatriation and professional careers within the European Union public administration. On top of that, human agency, self-efficacy and resilience are an integral dimension in the study.  

My doctoral dissertation will be published both in print and online editions in February-March 2019. Then all the findings, conclusions and recommendations will be publicly available for free. In the coming months I will be talking about my doctoral dissertation at international conferences and provide the audience with some highlights of the results already.   

Life is not a multiple-choice test, but a do-it-yourself project

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Do you sometimes find yourself struggling to make a decision or to create the life you want? Are you always looking for an easy way out? Maybe you do not consider yourself as indecisive, yet you understand that making well-grounded decisions is a critical skill for moving forward in life. As we all well know, life does not come with a book of instructions, neither with straight-forward guidelines. No, life is a do-it-yourself project!   

Life can be confusing as long as we do not know what we are meant to be learning or where we are supposed to be heading. Too often we put the focus on trying to find the one and only correct answer, although we should be looking for a solution that works well for us. In life ambiguities need to be addressed and different options need to be considered. Choosing is not necessarily about true or false, yes or no, but about being courageous to experiment, take random steps and see what comes from there. Taking decisions is not about ticking the right box or circling the right answer. Sometimes it may even mean choosing simply the one that is the least bad option and eliminating all the rest.

More often than we would like to admit, we are not absolutely sure why we do the things we do. Some may call it intuition or their inner voice guiding them, some may say it was their rational mind or logical thinking that led them to take the action they did. Even when we do not know, if we have made the best choices, we can always argue that we gained something valuable from the experience. But if the experience was not fully satisfactory, people may start speculating about what could have happened had they only taken a different direction. This they will never get to know. Uncertainty belongs to life and more often than not things are beyond our control.

We are all unique individuals with a special purpose in life. The true mission for each one of us is to find out who we are in relation to the social environment in which we live, study, work and spend our free time. Life is not about staying self-focused or becoming self-centered, but rather it is about engaging oneself in a meaningful and mutually beneficial manner with other people. Through interaction with others we can learn, grow, thrive and flourish. Other people act as a mirror to us. This allows us to gain better insight into what we stand for and to develop further as a human being than we could by being on our own only.

Life is an essay to be written. How do you want your life story to look like? Interesting and intriguing? Or do you rather go for something more average and ordinary? If you intend to make your life more exciting, stimulating and adventurous, some imagination needs to be called on. A creative mind can see the potential of almost any situation and work out multiple solutions to a problem or a challenge. Finding fresh approaches, innovative methods and new ideas is necessary for getting rewarding results. In one’s life, though, nothing good comes without hard work and sacrifice. Hence, it is vital that you know how to prioritize correctly.     

Life is not a multiple-choice test. Life is a roller-coaster. Life can sometimes appear as a fight against all odds – and still be worth it. Life is about creating yourself!

Text: Mika Launikari

Photo: trendfrenzy.net

Italian model Francesco Ceglie – Always good to have a plan B for your career

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“Sono un modello italiano da Roma e attualmente abito a Milano”, Francesco Ceglie starts explaining about his career as an Italian fashion model. “È una carriera molto internazionale”, he continues and shares his experiences from fashion shows and shootings across the world. “My career got started, when I was only 17. Back then a friend of mine introduced me to some key people in the fashion industry and all of a sudden I was doing shootings and castings … it was a totally new experience, a fascinating world that I was discovering step by step”. 

“This profession calls for great physical flexibility and psychological adaptability. Often it happens that at a very short notice you have to move to another geographical location for doing a shooting or a runway show, stay there for a couple of days and then again travel to the next destination in another country. It is exciting, of course, to get to see the world, but often it is demanding as well. Either you have the readiness for this or you just don’t. But even more importantly, you constantly have to adjust to changing circumstances and for most of the time you work with different people. You must have excellent people skills as without them you will not succeed in this highly competitive business”.

The challenge of the modelling profession is that you always have to look great, keep yourself fit and avoid any excesses in your life. “Yes, I am genetically truly blessed. On top of that I used to be a professional soccer player on the national level. The years with soccer taught me self-discipline and goal orientation. Also they gave me valuable knowledge about healthy nutrition and physical training. This is a very good foundation for my modelling work. I love jogging and playing tennis. These two sports help me to keep my mind, body and soul in a good shape”.       

Networking is everything

Francesco is aware that a model’s career does not last forever. “Adesso ho 24 anni, sono tuttora giovane … I’m still young, but even in the best scenario, I cannot necessarily expect to have more than 7-8 years of modelling ahead of me. This is pure realism … therefore, you have to have a vision for your professional future … to have something satisfying and rewarding to do later on … something that gives meaning to your life”.

“What I have done in the past few years is that I have systematically been building up my professional network. I have contacts across the globe … some of them are really important and influential figures. So, I am playing my cards in such a way that when the day arrives that I cannot continue my career in the modelling business anymore, I can then make a transition into something else with some self-initiative and with the support of my network.”

“From very early on I have understood how important it is to have a plan B. Needless to say, in life things do not always go the way you wish and then no matter how proactive you are yourself, you may get totally stuck with everything. But with a plan B, you can more easily reroute your life into a new and more preferred direction, whether it is about the private or professional sphere of your life.”

Many ways to learn

“In a way it is a little bit funny that both my parents are teachers, but I myself never liked schooling that much. I was not a bad or poorly performing student. I just happened to have other life interests. I am not an academic person … hmm … how should I put this … maybe I could say that my approach to learning is that the world is my university and the people I meet are my teachers”.

“Of course my parents have repeatedly emphasized the importance of education and formal qualifications. I am not saying that I do not need them. I am only telling my family that I can acquire a formal education later on in life. For the time being, I could not possibly follow a university degree programme as I am travelling so much and my life is extremely hectic.”

“Life is a great teacher”, Francesco says and adds “You definitely learn a lot simply by doing things. Sometimes when I reflect on my own professional career and I realize all the great things I have learnt, I become satisfied with myself and my achievements. For example, I did not learn any proper English at school. I have learnt my English through work and during those periods when I have been living in Los Angeles.”  

What goes around, comes around

Towards the end of the interview, Francesco starts talking about his worldview and life philosophy. “You know, there is this thing called Karma. If you do nasty things to other people, you only create bad Karma for yourself. Already a long time ago I decided to treat other people well … family members, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, people on the street … and this is bringing good things back to me too. Making the good go around is something that more people these days should be doing”.

“I am not saying that I am innocent and perfect. No, I am not … far from that. I have made lots of stupid things in my life … I have really messed up big time occasionally, but each time I have learnt something valuable as afterwards I have had to deal with the consequences of my own misconduct … and take full responsibility for what I screwed up. I never make the same mistake twice. I am smart enough to learn the lesson quickly from the first time already”, Francesco says laughingly.  

We are living in a global world

“I feel extremely privileged to have the opportunity through my work to travel and explore the world and discover many interesting places and get to know wonderful people from all corners of the globe. I see my life as a tremendous adventure … sometimes I feel like watching a movie when I think about all the events and experiences I have had until now. All this makes me highly grateful to life for all the blessings it has given me.”

“I know I am not an average person … I do not really fit into any of the accepted categories of the world or society … I am who I am … I am what I am … and I hope people would respect this without making me feel guilty or constantly making me feel that I somehow need to justify my existence to them”.

“Now being highly self-reflexive I just wish to finish by saying that, on the one hand, I am a serious, sensitive and intuitive person, but on the other hand, I am an impulsive fun loving guy. These are qualities that have proven to be very helpful in my profession. From the little boy born in 1992 and raised in Rome in a quite traditional Italian family, I have come a long way by now. Partly thanks to my family, partly thanks to my life experience, I have grown to an open-minded, tolerant, accepting and understanding person … yeah, I would say that I have become a citizen of the world.”

Text based on the interview with Francesco Ceglie in Milan, Italy (August 2017)