Relocation for Expat Partners, Career Break OR Career Ruin?

Relocating abroad can provide expat partners with the opportunity for a welcome career break and many a partner has derived huge pleasure from their supportive role whilst enjoying the experiences of their new location to the full.

However our research in 2012 (Career Choice and the Accompanying Partner) and similar research by The Permits Foundation (2010) found that the majority of expat partners do want/expect to work at some point whilst living abroad.


Here are some issues to think about before you jump willingly into a career break.


Financial feasibility: Fat relocation packages are fast becoming a thing of the past. Look carefully at the package that is offered and the cost of living in the proposed location. Do the figures add up? Be brutally honest and conservative, can you really afford not to work?


Financial dependency: this is an issue that is often glossed over when considering an international assignment. We are not saying you shouldn’t take a career break and choose to devote time to your family/other interests just first ensure that you understand the implications before you make the decision.


Career breaks and skill relevancy: Whilst there are many amazing self-developmental opportunities to be gained whilst living abroad, many recruitment and HR professionals back home simply see the career break abroad as an “embarrassing gap” on the CV. So, if you are thinking “career break” be forewarned, the reality is you will have to work hard to justify that gap.


The appeal of a career break can wane: Shocking though that may seem right now. Over time you may realise that your identity is always measured relative to someone else (partner or children), or feel a growing absence of daily purpose. Strange things happen to your professional confidence when your professional life is no more.


What does work and career mean to you? We all think that it relates to the exchange of services for money. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Do we always have to value our contribution in financial terms? If the financial benefits of employment are not absolutely necessary then consider continuing to develop your career by working in the voluntary sector.


Volunteer: The tough reality in some locations is that you will not be able to work in the conventional sense due to the absence of a work permit/visa. If this is the case then do consider volunteer roles. They have given purpose, enjoyment and personal development to many partners over the decades and benefited a huge number of organisation’s as well. Target roles that fit with your professional experience and future desired direction and your volunteer experience will be useful for filling the CV gap as well.


Study: could your relocation be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for to do some further study or to develop a new set of skills.  Many universities in non-English speaking countries offer courses in English and the growth in online courses over the last few years has opened up all kinds of opportunities for remote study.


Reinvention: Allow the experience of relocation to give you the opportunity to re-think and approach your work/career from different angles. What do you love to do? How could you develop a career around your strengths and skills that is portable and can move with you? Many an expat partner has changed career tack, started new studies and found new professional directions for themselves. All it requires is an open mind….


Expat Partners often feel that their goals and aspirations have been put on backburner. Through their Thriving Abroad programmes, Louise and Evelyn help partners to develop expat lives that they love. Why not join their Thriving Abroad community and sign up for engaging expat related content in our regular newsletters.