I don’t really know if you are in a committed relationship or not [and I actually don’t believe in halves, but rather in wholes that become even greater ;) ] but the fact is that the majority of international professionals move abroad along with their accompanying partner or spouse (frequently also, with children).
An academic meta-study published about a year ago suggested that
“62% of expatriates are either married or have a partner, and another 6% are single but accompanied on their assignment by dependent family member(s) (Cartus, 2016; Internations.org, 2019). Family-related issues have been identified as the primary reason why potential candidates decline the opportunity to undertake international assignments (IAs) (Brookfield Global Relocation Services, 2016) and why expatriates succeed or fail during these (Caligiuri & Cascio, 1998).” (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hrmr.2021.100877, my bold)
Yet, when the excitement of an upcoming new job abroad sets in, all the logistics and challenges of the settling in process can easily overshadow the importance of really creating time to reflect on how both your lives — including your partner’s life and career — are going to look like in that new country.
Not wanting to ‘bring down’ their already-hired partner, the accompanying or travelling partner often also neglects (or at least delays paying attention to) her/his own well-being. Not taking a pro-active attitude to your partner’s situation is almost always a mistake. By the time issues re-surface, things have generally gotten a lot worse, risking not only the well-being of the individual but also the continuation of the relationship or even finishing the whole international experience and ending up in a return to the home country.
The fact is that career considerations are a significant aspect of the expatriate experience for both the working spouse and the accompanying one.
If you’d like to avoid this, there are a couple of tips you can follow. Below are my top 6 career-focused tips for the spouse of an expatriate:
Actively network (professionally and socially) within both the local and expat communities. It can feel very lonely to have to figure it all out for yourself. Attend professional events, join industry groups, and connect with professionals in your field to discover job opportunities and gain insights into the local job market.
Invest in professional development to enhance your skills and stay competitive in the job market (check my available trainings here). Having basic local language skills will also open up more opportunities and help you navigate daily life more effectively.
In any case, remain flexible with your career expectations, considering remote work, freelancing, volunteering, or short-term projects to build local experience. The job market and work culture in the host country may be different, so being adaptable to different work environments can be beneficial.
Consider entrepreneurship or starting a small business, if local regulations permit. Explore remote work options, leveraging online platforms, to provide flexibility in your career.
Familiarize yourself with the work regulations in the host country, including visa requirements and work permits (for the Netherlands, you can find a lot of info here and here). Ensure that you comply with local employment laws and understand any restrictions that may apply to expatriate spouses.
Take advantage of resources provided by expat communities and international organizations. Some offer career support services, job fairs, and networking events tailored to expatriates. In the Netherlands, for example, the organisation ACCESS offers plenty of information on dual careers, whereas some cities such as Utrecht have started to launch programmes specifically aimed at expat partners and spouses. Additionally, check for career coaching services or counselling to aid in your job search and professional development.
Very important, of course, will be communication with your spouse or partner.
Remember that finding a job in a new country may take time, and persistence will be key. Utilize the available resources, stay positive, and be proactive in your job search and professional development. Additionally, maintaining open communication with your spouse about your career goals and any challenges you may face is crucial for a supportive and successful expatriate experience.
The expatriate experience is a journey, and there will be ups and downs. By approaching it with an open mind, a willingness to adapt, and a proactive attitude, you can make the most of this opportunity for personal and cultural growth.
To feel fully at home again, you (the accompanying partner) will likely have to embrace cultural openness, build a (new) support system, safeguard your independence (continue pursuing your own interests and activities to get a sense of fulfilment and independence, and boost your confidence), be adaptable and patient, prioritize self-care, and bear in mind your finances.
You can do it all - one step at a time - and you don’t need to do it alone! We can help you at Natália Leal | Coach Trainer! :)