“So, what do you do?” is perhaps the most often asked question in any given social situation. It’s not surprising then that we often believe our identity to be wrapped up with our careers. But what happens when you move abroad? Can you continue to further your career as a trailing partner, or will you feel left behind during your partner’s foreign assignment? Finding the answer might not be as difficult as you expect…
'Once we start looking at what each individual aspect of our career brings us, it becomes easier to decide which elements are essential to our happiness, and which we might be able to go without. '
To find our flow in our new home country, we should consider our priorities say experienced expats and diplomat wives Carine Bormans and Marie Geukens. Their book ‘Expat Partner: Staying Active & Finding Work’ takes a deep dive into what motivates us in a job. The simple model they have devised divides the whole pie that is our professional career into five parts: identity, salary, financial and social securities, professional skills, social contacts and structure.
Once we start looking at what each individual aspect of our career brings us, it becomes easier to decide which elements are essential to our happiness, and which we might be able to go without. Because chances are that not all five aspects will be perfectly aligned when following a partner abroad. Does that mean you shouldn’t go altogether, or might your chosen activity compensate for the missing pieces in other ways? Which are the aspects you need to focus on, and which can you simply stick in the fridge for the time being?
NetExpat’s Relocating Partner Survey confirms that the potential disruption to a partner’s career is the number one reason for employees not accepting a foreign posting. It also shows that 71% of international assignments failing due to an unhappy, unintegrated partner in the host location. And with any foreign assignment representing a significant financial (and personal) investment, the importance of finding your flow as a trailing partner shouldn’t be underestimated.
Carine and Marie’s book is the perfect guide for anyone considering following their partner abroad. Set out in easy to read chapters, it asks questions such as ‘What should you be mindful of?’ and ‘How do you see yourself in your new situation?’. The book allows you to ask all the right questions, both before, during and after your stay abroad. Interspersed with real life stories from the field, it offers inspiring examples and useful warnings about potential pitfalls. Step by step, you will be able to make the career choices that best suit you at that particular moment.