I know what you’re thinking. I read the headlines too. Something like 30,000 Ukrainians are leaving the country every month to work for higher wages in Poland. The UAH’s value is low compared to the USD. Many people don’t have the money they used to have.
I was talking to the barista at a new coffee shop the other day. He was a young, seemingly well-educated guy with decent English skills. He spoke to me in the defeatist tone I sometimes hear when the subject of work comes up here: “In Ukraine, there’s no opportunity—too much corruption.”
“What are you interested in?” I asked.
“I’m interested in art and skateboarding.”
“Interesting cross section,” I continued. “What have you done in this sphere?”
I didn’t bother to ask him why as his head sank.
“You have two things going for you,” I said. “Education and good Wi-Fi.”
“What does Wi-Fi have to do with anything?” He replied.
If only he had an inspirational story to listen to…
I know a guy named Ilya who worked for the government here in Kyiv. Ilya would grind through every day, ensconced in anguish, living only for the weekends. He hated every waking hour of his job. The thing is, Ilya’s job consumed the majority of the hours in his day. In essence, he hated his life.
Ilya slogged along at that government job until he couldn’t take it any longer. Until his soul was about to fall out of him like a bad transmission on an antiquated Lada Niva.
One day, Ilya made an announcement to his friends and family that he was quitting his secure employment to become a fulltime artist. Ilya had always had a passion for art. But how does anyone in Ukraine make any money with art? And this is exactly what everybody around him was about to say. I’m sure you can imagine their responses.
As unrealistic as his ambitions sounded, Ilya was a pragmatic realist and knew the Ukrainian marketplace wasn’t going to pay him what he wanted. Ilya used the education he was given to be clever—to get on the fast Wi-Fi he had access to. He knew geography didn’t matter anymore, and that the world would be his marketplace.… If he could only figure out how to find clients.
After spending hours with his tired eyes glued to the computer screen, he found Etsy.com—an online marketplace where he could sell his art. This digital market isn’t connected to the UAH’s value, bad politics, or corruption, but—instead—to the world. And get this: Ilya has a HUGE competitive advantage by living in Ukraine.
Why? Ilya can sell his art easily for two reasons: he makes beautiful art, and his prices are much lower than his competition. Many of the artists in America or Western Europe can’t compete with him because their living expenses are 3 times or 4 times, or maybe 8 times as high as Ilya’s. They can’t offer the quality or value that Ilya does.
Clients from North America, Western Europe, and all over the world don’t care where an artist comes from: they care if they like the piece of art and if the price is attractive.
And even though the price of Ilya’s artwork is lower than those of Western artists, Ilya can live a better life than them by selling just a couple of paintings a month—a lifestyle he wouldn’t be able to afford living in San Francisco or London doing the same thing.
Ilya has a girlfriend and wants kids in the not-too-distant future. He doesn’t want to move anywhere; he’s figured out that it’s better for him to stay in Ukraine doing what he loves. Plus, he has close a network of friends and family he doesn’t want to say goodbye to. He’s leveraged currencies and created a clever way to stay in Ukraine and prosper.
Ilya’s story is just one of many successful business stories I’ve heard while living in Kyiv.
To be very clear, I’m not saying the Internet is a panacea for all employment ails. People in many professions—like laborers, gas industry workers, or health care professionals—won’t likely find a solution online. And the Internet definitely won’t fix a pension problem.
Some industries look downright bleak in Ukraine, but there are tons of opportunities that didn’t exist just a few years ago. And, unlike a few years ago, geography no longer matters.
Many of these new prospects aren’t in traditional job spaces. But that’s what it takes to succeed.… Thinking in unorthodox ways to target your interest and look for opportunities that are emerging. To look as the world as the marketplace instead of the nation. To use currencies and systems to your advantage.
But for the barista I met (and I hope he sees this) and for many young people with interests like art and skateboarding, the world is your oyster. The UAH and corruption are no longer barriers. Because the country you live in doesn’t matter like it used to.…
Instead, success is determined by ideas, execution, and drive.
It’s not an easy journey, but companies like Etsy and the consumer there don’t care where you’re from—they care about what you create. Use that education and Wi-Fi to connect to the world. If you’re talented and tenacious enough, the world will reward you while living in Ukraine.
I have more examples like this. If this type of content interests you, leave a note in the comments, and I’ll write some more articles on an opportunity in Ukraine.
If you’re interested in more content from UKRAINE and the WORLD visit these links below: