Your spouse comes home and tells you he has great news. He then proceeds to tell you about the great job offer he received from his company, but the only catch is you have to move to Europe. Exciting, right?
Maybe it is scary. Maybe it is intimidating. Maybe it is a shock and you do not know what to say. If you are a career professional in your field, your first thought is how to maintain a career abroad as an expatriate who is now going to be unemployed. Or maybe you are the trailing spouse, the stay at home mom, whose needs will be forgotten. Although a spouse’s career abroad has the potential for excitement and personal growth, expat wives and spouses often fall through the cracks of the pivotal career move and become dissatisfied. Do not be discouraged. There are many choices for expat wives and spouses to begin or maximize international careers, eventually creating dual careers for both spouses. Career coaching and expatriate networks offer the trailing spouse the opportunity to forgo unemployment and pursue an international career like their spouses.
Although huge bonus packages with multiple perks have declined within the international career track, there are still options that must be negotiated to ensure the happiness of both the employee and the expatriate wife or spouse. The dissociation experienced by many expat wives can be devastating, creating distance, unhappiness, depression and resignation of the employee. Many employers now offer assistance to expat spouses in career development. Sometimes this comes in the form of assisting with resumes and lining up job interviews. Additional services sometimes include career assessment, introduction to local expat groups, and helping expat wives become familiar with local schools, libraries, restaurants, groceries, etc. Some companies even offer cultural classes to help with expat spouses adjust to a new location.
The Next Step
Once you have received that exciting or scary news, what is your next step? Take the time to process the information and think about your career abroad pending your current unemployment. It is okay to be a little nervous. Giving up your entire life and moving you and your family abroad is a daunting task for even the most confident individuals. As mentioned above, there are options available from your spouse’s employer, which may need to be negotiated into the acceptance of a position abroad. Moving abroad is more than just looking for adequate, affordable housing.
Moving abroad requires expatriate spouses to consider an international career to prevent the lack of confidence created by the trailing spouse syndrome. Moving abroad requires expatriate wives to think outside of the box in terms of what to do next; stay at home, obtain work visas or permits, or start an online business which usually requires no work visas. Amidst all of the moving preparations, it behooves the expatriate spouse to plan for a future career abroad. This expatriate concept is not limited to women. Men often experience the unemployment or the trailing spouse syndrome. Regardless of gender, the expatriate spouse must consider networking on expatriate or freelance websites.
Expatriate websites are a wealth of information to acclimate a future trailing spouse. This is a good resource to find others who may work in a similar field that have been displaced by expatriation. Expatriate websites offer links to local information and career options in the new location. The expatriate community is very helpful and encouraging, allowing the trailing spouse a place to seek advice and resources.
In addition to searching expatriate websites, there are many online opportunities for the trailing spouse to find an international career abroad. Many freelance companies such as Upwork, ODesk, Fiverr, Elance and others offer opportunities to work from home and still earn a living. These websites are a great resource for networking and gaining the confidence needed to start over again. These websites offer countless opportunities from being a virtual assistant to web design and everything in between. Fiverr also offers very unique opportunities such as making videos, recordings and language lessons, to name a few.
Is an international career starting to sound a little more enticing? Hopefully, the answer is yes. If you are unsure of your skill set or the career path you would like to pursue, it may be a good idea to consult with a professional who does career coaching. These coaches help narrow down your skill set and tap into your true desires and passions. Career coaching is very valuable, especially if the trailing spouse is required to make a radical career change. The transition from one career to another is possible with help and determination.
Figure Out Your Options
Where to start? Start looking at what you currently do for a living. Is it something you like to do? Is it portable? Is it possible to work from a remote location? Some employers offer the opportunity to work from home so long as the work is completed in a timely manner. Maybe you will need to consider one of the freelancing websites to gain access to millions of jobs. There is something available for everyone. The requirement is patience, and carefully creating a profile that demonstrates your skills and abilities in a professional manner. Online freelance websites make it possible to try on another career for size if you have applicable skills. Oftentimes, working one freelance position leads to others. The networking system is still in place for expatriates who need to move their entire lives to another country.
Become a Successful Expat
If you are confronted with the reality of your spouse moving toward an international career, think of it with confidence and a sense of opportunity. Admittedly, the process is difficult, stressful, and emotionally challenging. However, if the trailing spouse is prepared to network and pursue a career abroad, it is possible. Consider the options available from your spouse’s employer; do they offer career assistance of any type? Try to negotiate that into the acceptance of your spouse’s job. Most employers realize that an international position requires a team effort from families. If you do not have corporate resources available, consider the expatriate community to which you will be moving as a resource. These communities are very close and welcoming to new expatriates. Consider the countless opportunities available as a freelancer. Everyone has valuable skills. It requires self-analysis to zero in on skills and translate them into a career abroad. Think of your upcoming move to another country as a chance to spread your wings and become part of the dual careers that have become an option versus the trailing spouse syndrome.
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About U Diverse’s founder:
Magali Toussaint is the founder of U Diverse. She is a certified talent acquisition strategist, an ICF-certified leadership and career coach, cross-cultural trainer and job search strategist with an extensive career in recruitment, HR, diversity, and education. She has lived and worked in over four countries and speaks French, English and Dutch.