Changing careers is an idea many expat partners toy with, according to career coach Heidi Los. She believes it’s worth exploring alternatives, as long as you maintain a sense of realism.
Los explains: “In most cases, looking for a job in your own field is by far the easiest option if you want to work abroad, because you have expertise and work experience in this area. However, many expat partners tell me that, having quit their job back home and followed their spouse abroad, they feel they have a little leeway to think about other ways to spend their working life. I always congratulate them with this rare opportunity and advise them to follow their curiosity to see where it will lead them.
As a coach, I will go along with any idea an expat partner may have for a career switch, but put in a reality check at the same time: How do they imagine it will work? Is it feasible? Does it fit their expat lifestyle? Is it really what they want? The chances of success are the greatest if expat partners stay close to their talents. So I will always ask questions such as: What aspects of your previous roles did you enjoy most? What kind of help do your friends ask from you? The trick is to find a career in which you can make the most of your key qualities.
I firmly believe that if expat partners genuinely want to make the change, they will achieve their goal and find work they truly enjoy. But they have to realise that it takes time. You can’t say, for example, ‘I want to be a physiotherapist’, and be a physiotherapist tomorrow. And that’s the case with nine out of ten professions. You may have to go back to school – which can actually be a great way to spend your time abroad – start at the bottom of the career ladder, and not earn as much as you did before straightaway.
So when you want a career change, make sure you are ready to embrace the challenges and to keep going when the going gets tough. Some expat partners will relish the opportunity and go for it. Others may ultimately conclude that it’s better for them to stay in their current field. And that’s fine too, of course.”
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