Expatica news

Accompanying partners on expat assignment: What career choice?

The trend for international assignment is up according to the Price Waterhouse Coopers Talent Mobility 2020 report. During the decade to 2010 assignment levels increased by 25 percent and the report predicted an increase of 50 percent by 2020.

Despite the current recessionary times, the increased need for international mobility is made all the more challenging by the fact that there is a growing talent war for skilled employees who are able to manage and lead global teams.

Add to this the issue of dual career couples, who the Brookfield Relocation Trends Survey (2011) suggested are de self-selecting from the assignment pool due to the competing career issues, and the resourcing headache for organizations worldwide intensifies.

Around the world partners of potential assignees are presented with this career dilemma. How they perceive the relocation opportunity is critical to the assignment success from both the general life and their personal career perspective:

From the general life perspective:

Some partners will see the relocation as an opportunity to experience life in a new country and culture, to learn a new language, to break out of the normal “home” routine and experience a life that may seem more alluring, exciting – even exotic. Others may view relocation with trepidation and a reluctance to leave all that is familiar behind.

From the career perspective:

Whilst from the assigned partner’s perspective the move may be seen as an exciting new opportunity for career advancement, for the accompanying partner relocation most likely heralds the beginning of considerable career uncertainty. Whilst some may welcome a career break especially during the initial settling in and adjustment period this is not true for everyone:

Research in recent years has shown that:

  • Many partners are highly qualified often with professional careers prior to relocating abroad. The Permit Foundation Survey (2008) reported that 90 percent of the partners surveyed were employed prior to expatriation.
  • Quite a small percentage actually work whilst abroad, 35% in the case of the Permits Foundation Report and 12% of those who were working prior to expatriation in the case of the 2011 Brookfield Relocation Trends Survey.
  • Contrary to the notion in the popular press that the majority of expat partners do not want to work, 75% of those who were not working whilst abroad wished to do so (Permits Foundation Survey 2008).
  • Working in the host country has a positive impact on adjustment and the willingness of partners to complete, extend or accept a new assignment (Permits Foundation Report, 2008).

It seems many partners want to work whilst abroad. We know that they are generally highly qualified with 82% possessing degree level qualifications or higher (Permits Foundation Report 2008). We also know that access to work permits/visa is one of the key obstacles to employment abroad and The Permits Foundation has been working hard to “support international mobility by promoting work authorization for expatriate spouses and partners worldwide” but

What are the other factors that inhibit career choice and opportunity whilst living abroad?

Louise Wiles (Success Abroad Coaching) and Evelyn Simpson (The Smart Expat) are interested to understand better the experience of the partner from the partner’ perspective and so have initiated a new research project:

Career choices and the accompanying partner.

What are the factors that prevent partners from pursuing and following satisfying careers whilst abroad? And how does employment abroad; or lack of it, impact on the partners sense of life fulfillment and satisfaction.

If you are an accompanying partner, male or female, working or non-working then Louise and Evelyn would appreciate your participation in the survey. The survey takes no more than 15 minutes to complete, is anonymous and conducted online. They hope that the results will help accompanying partners to make better informed decisions in relation to international assignment, and also provide useful insights for organizations who seek to support accompanying partners in achieving their career objectives whilst living abroad. They are offering entry to a prize draw for all participants in appreciation for your participation.

The survey is available online by clicking on this LINK

Louise Wiles
Success Abroad Coaching