Career development for expat spouses - 7 things to consider
If your career development is important to you, and you know for a fact that working is a core part of your identity, but you have also decided to leave your job and follow your partner abroad, then there are a few things to consider before and after the big move.
Although the term itself is neutral, used to describe a specific situation/position, “trailing spouse” often has certain negative connotations. This is perhaps because of what we call the “trailing spouse syndrome”, which is a set of serious difficulties experienced by accompanying partners – this term in itself indicates how “trailing spouse” has become sort of offensive.
Loneliness, feeling disconnected, loss of direction and even identity crisis are part of the challenges that can occur in this position. And one of the main causes is often the fact that the accompanying spouses, who had a steady job and a promising career back home, suddenly find themselves unemployed, and not knowing what they will do next. In order to avoid the “trailing spouse syndrome”, it is really important that you plan what you can – because there will still be a lot of uncertainties left. If your career development is important to you, and you know for a fact that working is a core part of your identity, but you have also decided to leave your job and follow your partner abroad, then there are a few things to consider before and after the big move.
1 – Does your partner’s employer help?
Many companies offer assistance for spouses as well when relocating their employees. It’s becoming widely acknowledged that the support needed in these cases is more than help with the papers, moving, and finding accommodation. Maybe your partner’s employer will offer assistance with your career development as well. Maybe they will be able to help you with your CV, or give you some guidance in looking for a new job. Whatever they may offer, have a look. You never know which bit of information will be of great use later.
2 – Have a strategy, plan from home
Have a look at what you do now, and if it’s something you want to keep doing after the move, see what your possibilities are in the target country. Research your field in the new place, even if it’s something that “should be the same” everywhere. Look for companies in your field, see what looks different. Maybe take up a training for your career development, and if we are at it: do start taking language lessons if needed!
3 – Be aware of the barriers
It’s not fun, and also not a good idea to always keep looking for what might go wrong, but! You need to have a clear picture of what needs to be taken care of. Some of the most common administrative issues relate to getting a work permit, language barriers, and certain degrees not being recognized in the target country. And there are the harder to fix problems, like possessing not transferable knowledge – if you work in the legal field for example, or having no professional network.
4 – Get online
It is the mother of all solutions! Get in touch with people who are in the same situation as you, visit forums and social media groups. You can get a lot of help and advice from people who have already walked in your shoes, and lots of them are out there, online, ready to impart the wisdom they gathered along the way. And besides general networking getting online can also help you professionally.
For example this might be the time for you to have a look at your freelancing options. There are various ways you can use your knowledge and skills via freelancing, which is often the go-to solution for relocating spouses looking for career development.
5 – Get your business online
Yet another online solution you can explore to develop you career further. If you still don’t have a network to help your business by word-of-mouth, going online is a good start. Also you might think about building up an online business. Going online is of great help both if you have trouble with getting a work permit, and it further gives you stability and independence: relocating can be much less of a burden if your job no longer depends on a certain place.
6 – Volunteering
Maybe there will be a period of time when you have to stay home while you find a new job. Or maybe you just want some time off, but at the same time you don’t want to isolate yourself and you also have a strong need for doing something valuable. What about volunteering? Choosing a cause you deeply care about and offer your help is one of the best things you can do with your time and energy. And it is also a good way of getting to know people who are similar to you.
7 – Think outside the box
And last but not at all least: maybe this is the time to start from scratch. Life in general is not linear, it’s not about getting from A to B straight. It gets complicated, and many times messy, but this is the beauty of it: the opportunity of reinventing yourself sometimes comes to you on a silver platter. Maybe you want to try something entirely different compared to what you have been up to until now. This is career development too.
The good thing is that when you start from zero, you have many opportunities. We don’t want to deny the difficulties of relocating and leaving your old life behind, but if there is a time to start fresh, this is it!
At a glance
- Loneliness, feeling disconnected, loss of direction and even identity crisis are part of the challenges that can occur to accompanying partners.
- One of the main causes is often the fact that the accompanying spouses, who had a steady job and a promising career back home, suddenly find themselves unemployed, and not knowing what they will do next.
- It is really important that you plan what you can – because there will still be a lot of uncertainties left.
- Have a strategy for your career development, but be aware of the barriers.
- Get in touch with people who have already walked in your shoes.
- When you start from zero, you have many opportunities.