Can you have a career as an expat partner?

by | career success | 4 comments

Recently I was very lucky to be invited to be involved in putting together a survey into expat life from the eyes of the trailing spouse. Given my background as a careers consultant, my main area of focus was the impact being a trailing spouse has on your career and the extent to which your partners employer helps you to find work in a new country.

We have just received the results of this survey and have begun to analyse them. It will be some time before the full report is finalised but I wanted to share some interesting findings relating to the career of the expat partner.

  • The first thing that came to my attention was the response rate; 89% of those who took part in the survey were women and only 11% men. This confirmed what we already knew about the fact that the vast majority of trailing spouses were women.
  • 59% of respondents were struggling to cope with no longer working after giving up a good job to relocate.
  • 62% wanted to work but did not know where to begin in a new country.
  • Several commented on the fact that because of the difficulty for expat partners to find work due to language barriers, many were taking jobs that they were over qualified for in preference to not working at all. As a result they felt that the work was not challenging or stimulating which often resulted in a loss of confidence (56% admitted to having less confidence). There was also the fear that by taking a lower level job, they would struggle to get a good job when they were repatriated.
  • 47% would like their partners work to provide, or at least contribute towards, career coaching.

On taking a high level look at the comments that we received, there appears to be a split between those who are happy that they no longer have to work and love being an expat partner, and those who are frustrated because they feel they have either lost career opportunities (and in the worst case, their identity)by moving abroad or feel they are constantly having to re-invent themselves thus ending up with a “Schizophrenic” CV that jumps from being a project manager one minute to a volunteer school librarian to a yoga teacher.

The toughest comments to read were from those who believed that when they did find work, it was viewed by others as being “something to keep them busy” and it was their partner’s job that was important while anything they did was just “playing”.

This doesn’t have to be the case. Help is available whether or not your partner’s company is willing to pay for it.

Don’t become one of these statistics. Take a look at what you have achieved to date, consider what direction you would like your career to take, dust down your CV, create your own unique personal brand and live it. It may take time but there are always opportunities out there.

And if you really can’t find a job, see what studying or volunteering you can do to ensure you stay on top of your chosen field in order to make it easier when you repatriate.

I don’t believe that a “Schizophrenic” CV if written properly is a problem; it is how you sell yourself, your skills and achievements that is important.

If you are considering re-entering the job market, contact me for a free strategy session to find out more about how I can help,

We hope to be in a position to issue the complete report very soon.


I am a Certified Advanced Resume Writer, Employment Interview Consultant, and Career Coach and it is my aim to help ambitious and motivated people like you become fully empowered to get the job you want.