First appeared in THEXPAT Journal Autumn 2015 publication
Opportunities for Expat Partners
Going Beyond the Paycheque
In previous issues, ACCESS has written about the opportunities life abroad can offer expatriate partners (Autumn 2013) and provided them with a perspective on the need for networking (Autumn 2014). We know that the decision to move to another country has many more implications. In this issue we ask that you reflect on the role a paycheque plays in your identity, and why you want to work.
We see – in the people ACCESS connects with at events and Fairs, in the volunteers who work with us and in the many questions we receive at our Helpdesk – that within all these groups there is an almost urgent, desperate need to find employment to replace that which they gave up. The majority, 80% according to an ICP (International Community Platform) survey done in 2013, are highly-educated people who want to put their skills to good use. And, there is a high percentage that needs to work, for financial reasons.
However, when asked why they are looking for a job, many of the responses we hear have little to do with income to be earned, but rather fall into the categories of: acquiring skills, sharing, learning, gaining and growing. Or; the need to have a circle of activities and friends unrelated to those of the working partner or family. Interestingly, these responses relate to whom someone perceives themselves as being and what their activities say about them. So, unless you are looking for work because you really need the income, we ask expatriate partners to consider: is it the paycheque that meets these needs? Or, could other activities also meet them?
We are convinced that one of the reasons ACCESS has such a large dedicated team of volunteers has a lot to do with these ‘other’ reasons. By providing a professional space in which to exercise or learn skills, talents, experiences, and an environment in which sharing and growing can take place, we meet these ‘other’ needs. We are by no means the only ones who can do this though. Take a look around, review what drives you, find a way to use what you know, and research where or how you could do so on a voluntary basis or otherwise.
Prepared for the Future
A May 2015 article on the Top Jobs in Ten Years (by Michael Grothaus) indicates that economic change and technological advances mean that previously desirable employment forms or requirements are drastically changing. And, what struck us is that many of the new opportunities will call upon skills more often learned outside rather than inside the academic sphere – for instance, flexibility will prove to be a highly desirable skill for these new work roles. This is intriguing for expat partners. In the words of Diane Lemieux, co-author of The Mobile Life, speaking in The Hague in 2014: “… modern female explorers (her euphemism for ‘trailing spouses’)… tend to be flexible, independent and reliable. They are creative problem solvers, quick learners, adventurous and multi-culturally sensitive. […] Precisely the skills that today’s work opportunities require.”
So, grab your chance to polish the skills gleaned from relocation, and value them for the future potential they create. Identify your passions. Search for new ways to feel fulfilled and then ask yourself: do I need a job to achieve this, or can I in the meantime be who I am, doing something different?
Writing for a publication whose readership is as varied as that of The XPat Journal, or working with and for a public only defined by their residence status – as expats are – is a challenge. So, for those to whom our message is old news; we invite you to be our allies in this message. And, for those for whom this may be a revelation, know many have gone before you. Seek them out, ask their counsel, learn from their experiences.