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Kickstarting the job search as an expat mom
Low confidence levels have a way of sabotaging even the most determined efforts to restart a stalled career. That’s not surprising, considering stay-at-home mothers spend several years focusing on developing softer, more nurturing skills that aren’t always valued in the workplace. During that time away, things change: technology, corporate attitudes, client expectations. Many expat wives start to question whether they’ve still got what it takes to be competitive in an increasingly unforgiving business climate.
Working abroad is possible, but grabbing the first job that comes up can be self-defeating. A better approach is designing a strategy to relaunch a career overseas. The jobseeker who takes the time to consider her passions and values will be better able to find a job that reflects her needs. Equally, it’s hard to find that career in the first place if you don’t make the time to allow yourself to do so. For this reason, many families consider live-in childcare to free up some time to get a career back in motion.
Policies regarding accompanying spouses vary from country to country. A call to the home embassy should clear up any questions about spousal employment restrictions. An expat wife who is unable to work needn’t despair; she can use the time before the next international assignment to lay the groundwork for the job of her dreams. Otherwise, consider working remotely for a company in a country where you do have authorization to work.
Upgrade your skills and experience
Technology becomes obsolete with lightning speed, and industry-specific practices can change over time. Fortunately, the Internet makes skill development a breeze for virtually everyone. A motivated expat mom might even take the plunge and retrain completely, or upgrade existing qualifications by tackling a graduate program or a business school. That kind of effort is not overlooked by those doing the hiring. Enthusiasm definitely counts and employers love seeing that level of commitment in the career planning for stay-at-home moms.
Volunteering is also an easy way to explore options; a dry run for the real thing. However, it’s important to approach overseas volunteer work with professionalism. The best unpaid work affords the stay-at-home mom the opportunity to hone transferable skills, learn new proficiencies, develop contacts, and establish some credentials. The fulfillment that comes from working for an important cause is an added bonus.
Building yourself up
Many mothers who’ve been on a lengthy hiatus are concerned about that glaring hole in their CV. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. A resume is essentially a sales document, so make sure you highlight what’s relevant and downplay what isn’t. Volunteer work has its place on a resume as well. Employers don’t care if you got paid; the important thing is that you did the work.”
Expat jobseekers should tell everyone they meet what their career goals are. You’d be surprised what other mothers do for a living; some of them are hiring people just like you. Taking that risk definitely pays off. Professional women’s associations are a rich source of networking opportunities, where expat women can gain the support of like-minded people, gain access to industry news and professional training, and possibly find a mentor to help guide them along their path.
Understand the host culture
Odds are good that the business environment in the host country won’t be identical to the one back home. Meeting etiquette, preferred negotiation styles, gift-giving, the cultural view of time; these are just a few aspects of intercultural business communication that can trip up the unsuspecting expat working overseas.
Another potential minefield is the role of women in the workplace. In some countries, it may be unrealistic for expatriate women to expect to achieve the same level of success they did in their own country. Women are also advised to pay special attention to dress codes, especially in more conservative regions.
Once an expat mom determines her eligibility to work abroad, she can make the transition to full-time employment easier with proper planning. By establishing clear career goals, upgrading her skills, volunteering overseas, creating a winning resume, networking, and taking the time to understand the international business culture, she’ll increase her confidence and the odds of finding the right job for her.
Most people spend more time planning their holidays than developing a career plan. But if you’re lucky and if you put some effort into preparing for your job search, you can have something special; you’ll find something that’s more than just a job.