The Stress of Transition The Supportive Spouse
In relocation lingo, those of you who move to allow your spouse to take a new position are called trailing spouses. Youll notice the title here is supportive, rather than trailing, because the word trailing seems to connote a passive person--one who is following as if an obedient pet.
Instead, I know that you and your spouse spent much time discussing the pros and cons of his or her taking this assignment and what it would mean to you in your career and to your family.
Now that you have arrived, or at least made the final decision, what can you do to keep your dreams alive while you are adjusting to not having your normal day-to-day routine? Can you still advance the career you had back home? How can you use this time abroad to expand your own career vision?
There are some questions you need to ask yourself first:
- Were you deeply satisfied with your job/career back home? If so, then you, at least, know what you want to be doing. So many people have jobs, work their way up the career ladder--because the ladder is there, not because they have any passion or excitement about that line of work.
- If you were not satisfied with your past work, then this hiatus is the perfect time to assess your abilities, your passions, purpose, values. The best book for career transition is a classic, updated yearly: What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles. You may find it at your local English-language book store, or you can order it through them. If you decide to buy it, then be sure and do every exercise, otherwise it will be of little value. These exercises are what help you define your strengths and focus them in a new way.
- If you are sure that the career that you had at home is the one for you, here are some possible ways to keep your career vision alive:
1) Volunteer at organizations (most likely non-profit, English speaking). Volunteer where you can use your present skills or, conversely, volunteer for something that will stretch your abilities and will add to your resume, such as taking on the leadership role in planning and executing a major event.
2) Write articles for industry or professional magazines to keep your name out there.
3) Research all the international companies that need your expertise. Find out if they have offices in or near where you are now based. Update your resume together and begin with an informational to determine if there is a need for your services, or consider consulting for these companies. There are several books available which discuss how to get a job overseas. Robert Sanborn, Ed.D, has written How to get a Job in Europe. This and others in the series are printed by Surrey Books, Inc. in Chicago.
4) Through inter-cultural organizations or overseas universities, take classes that will enhance your abilities in light of your career path.
5) If you are fluent (or near fluent) in the language of the country to which your spouse has been assigned, call local companies that are similar to those in your career path and ask to job shadow. Take someone from the company out to lunch and find out how their organizations really operate. Knowing and being sensitive to cultural differences can make you more marketable later on. (Before trying this, make sure you know enough about your new country to go about this process in a manner which is culturally acceptable!)
Following any and all of the above suggestions will keep your career path alive, even if it isnt on the front burner like it was back home. In the meantime, be sure to stop to smell the roses. After all, you are in a new country with different habits, attitudes, foods, styles, products and ways of living that can broaden you just by your experiencing them. Enjoy!