6 Ways to Re-Invent Your Expat Career
Moving half way round the world is a big deal. It takes mega-planning!
Every aspect of your life is going to change. Figuring out the multiple strands of schools, housing, removals, visas, doctors, insurance – in fact all the practical elements – is going to test your ingenuity and resilience big time. And if you’re re-locating as a family with only one on an expat contract, the chances are the other is going to have a bit of an expat gap month, year, or before you know it, a big handful of years with your career on the back burner!
I’ve known a lot of expats – I was one myself for 24 years – and one of the common experiences I’ve observed for newly arriving families is to ‘get the kids settled’. That for many parents is top priority. If the kids are happy, family life runs more smoothly. By the time all the practical aspects of life are under control and you’re ready to start thinking about your own fulfillment, the two-year contract has run half its course. Is it worth even starting to explore how your professional life can work in the new setting, even if you are legally eligible to work?
Does this sound familiar? And when the second salary is not as vital (often one of the benefits of expat life) it’s tempting to take a deep breath and enjoy the break!
But why not think again? Moving overseas can offer an amazing opportunity to take a long slow look at how life could be different. This is actually the perfect time to take stock, dig deep and consider this to be your time of re-invention.
How to Shape-Shift
When I was living in Dubai, I started my 22-year stay running English classes in my dining room. This worked beautifully while the kids were at school. After a few years I needed a change and completed a long-distance Masters degree which enabled me to teach in university. Great. Several years passed and I was ready for the next challenge and returned to an earlier interest: career development. So I retrained and soon found myself creating the first career service in the Dubai campus of a British university – exciting! After another five years I had the amazing opportunity to change direction completely and pick up with my first love – books and literature. I became Head of Programming for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and met and interviewed international best-selling authors.
And honestly, this really isn’t an unusual story. Being an expat encourages creativity, redesign, pragmatism, growth and achievement.
I’m delighted to introduce you to another expat who has also successfully re-designed her career. Earlier this year I interviewed Caz Meech who I stumbled across in an Expat Forum here in the UK. She recognized my name as she used to work with my son in Dubai – wonderful coincidence! Caz is now founder and coach at her own business: www.bulbcoaching.com
I hope you enjoy her inspiring story.
1. What work were you doing before you changed direction and where were you living then?
I have changed careers a couple of times, initially I was a Communications Manager for IBM then had children, ran a Children’s Messy Play franchise for a time whilst being a full-time Mum, then went back to marketing/communications. I freelanced initially in the UAE as a social media marketing consultant.
2. What work did you change to and where?
Whilst in the UAE I followed my dream of working in education and became Lead Teaching Assistant at Horizon International School. I loved my job there but then we relocated home. I continued to work in schools in the UK, initially in a secondary school and then in primary. During my second year in the UK school I found that the government’s attitude towards education was less positive than overseas, less about the whole child and more about meeting targets that often can’t be applied across the board and as a result, are unrealistic. I reached a point where I found I had a desire to learn and felt that I needed to enhance my skillset and explore other avenues. After researching Neuro Linguistic Programming and Life Coaching, I decided to retrain as a Coach.
3. What were the 2 main challenges you faced?
The first challenge was a financial one. Finding the £3000 for my course and making that commitment was a big one for me because it had to be worth the money.
The second has been the attitudes I’ve faced. I am inherently a positive person and although I could see how beneficial retraining could be to me, my friends AND in school, I have faced cynicism from those who are unable to appreciate what a positive impact Coaching can have.
4. How did you overcome them and what kept you going?
My husband helped me with the initial financial outlay, plus I sold my car. Not seeing any return on investment for at least 9 months meant that I had to ensure it was what I wanted. Seeing the benefits, and experiencing them first-hand previously, enabled me to go with my gut feeling.
In terms of others’ attitudes towards what I do, I don’t tell people, I tend to wait until I am asked and judge whether people are genuinely interested and can see the benefit. When I talk about the results I’ve seen in my clients, I notice how enthusiastic people become!
5. What does your new work give you and do you expect to stay in this career?
I love that I empower others to make decisions that directly affect their lives. I see such positive and remarkable changes during the coaching journey with my clients, it’s incredible. I feel fulfilled because no two clients are the same and when ‘breakthrough’ moments happen, I know the person in front of me is on the path to permanent positive change. I expect this to be my last career change. I can run my own business with flexibility and have the choice of who I work with. I coach on many subjects but specialise in working with expats who are relocating and in also in synergising teams so that they work more cohesively. With 3 children at home it also allows me to have the school holidays off!
6. What advice would you give other expats thinking about a career change?
Do it! Follow you dreams, the expat experience can only be understood by those who have also done it. Being an expat changes you irreversibly, it gives you a perspective on what life has to offer that you didn’t have before. Follow your gut and make the change. You’ve already made the hardest move of your life, anything else after that is peanuts!
I love the positivity in this story. It’s a fact of life that not everyone is going to see your new ideas as a wonderful opportunity – others can often feel threatened that you are growing and have the courage to change things.
So here are what I see as the vital elements that made Caz’s career change a reality:
1. She did her research – this is a big change, so understanding what’s involved and knowing what options would suit her gave her the data to make an informed decision. By exploring possible options with NLP and Life Coaching, she could assess whether this was the best fit for her strengths, her values and the future she wanted for herself. Best of all, she experienced the ‘product’ herself, which confirmed this career was viable – and powerful.
2. She brought in supporters – whatever the change, it’s always going to be easier with others on your side. In this case, Caz’s partner offered financial as well as emotional support. Friends, family, facebook groups, your professional network – all can offer vital help during the process. You might need to look for a bank loan or want to secure the services of a career or life coach – don’t be afraid to ask for professional help in making what will be a key decision in your life.
3. She listened to her intuition. I’m a big fan of tuning into those internal nudges which are steering you towards an ideal solution for you. Gut feeling is a powerful source of all the hard-won wisdom you have gathered during your life. Working unconsciously doesn’t mean it’s magic or superstition – just unseen! Caz ‘knew’ what would suit her. The coaching work I do is based on many core beliefs but one of the most important is the belief that people are naturally ‘creative, resourceful and whole’. Part of the whole ‘you’, includes your intuition.
4. She knew her professional strengths. Her earlier careers had been in Communications and then as an entrepreneur. The skills Caz developed in those roles are both hugely valuable in establishing her own coaching business. Things come together – nothing you learn in life is ever lost. Looking creatively at the skills you have, and which you want to use most, is very enlightening!
5. She followed her purpose. Where Caz wasn’t able to realize her full potential in a different education system, she followed her ‘WHY’ and built her new career around empowering others. It would have been easy to grow disaffected and blame the education system, but instead, she knew her role was to empower, enable and work with the whole person. Her choice to be a coach expresses her deeper life purpose – something we as coaches help our clients uncover.
6. She was real. This wasn’t a pipe-dream. The sacrifice here was selling her car and tightening the family budget while she re-trained. The gains were also real – school holidays, flexibility, client choice – all these mean a lot to Caz. The rewards of having the courage to change direction include doing work that honours important values – family, autonomy, freedom.
And finally – and this one is a biggie – Caz believed it could happen. I agree that working overseas offers wider horizons, the chance to grow and to know that you can adapt to change. It’s then a logical step to have the confidence and self-belief to know you can do it again. And build a career and life on your own terms!
Are you ready to get into action?
Get in touch today to see how I can help you make that relocation about more than just geography.