How to move your career with success
Expats in Singapore are no strangers to moving, with relocation companies saved to your contacts, apps for lists, and friends with friends in nearly every location around the globe. But no matter how prepared you are, there is inevitably a moment during the process when you will feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and maybe a bit lonely.
This is even more true for the trailing spouse, who often has to handle many of the logistical and family tasks, to ensure everyone is comfortable and reasonably happy both through the moving process and in the new location. Finding temporary lodging, arranging viewings for more permanent housing, researching schools, and getting the kids excited about a new location are just some of the items on the to-do list, so it’s no wonder these partners end up putting their own needs on the back burner.
As a career coach for moms, I often see the primary parent, usually the same partner who is the trailing spouse (84% are female), struggle to make time for themselves, both personally and professionally. Yet moving to a new location brings more uncertainties and complications that require more time, not less. For example, your current career may not be feasible in your new destination, due to licensing, visas, or market demands, which means you will need time to determine what is possible.
Whether it’s your job or your partner's precipitating the move, both careers will be impacted, so all the better to be prepared. How quickly you adapt to the landscape, culture, and skills will determine your success in the new location, especially when living abroad with a family.
After moving nine times, some for my job, some for my husband’s, and some by choice, I have managed to work throughout the trips around the globe. Now I’m sharing my best tips for managing your career through the move.
Do Your Research
If you don’t already have a job lined up in your new location, and if you haven’t already put aside an hour or so for research, do that first. Will you have access to a work visa through your partner, or do you need to secure your own? Do you need a license for your work? If you can’t work, are there suitable volunteer opportunities that you can consider? Have you googled your current job title in your next town? This should be a part of any exploration you are doing, just as important as neighborhoods to live in and schools for the kids. Remember to put yourself on the list!
Build Up Your Network
With a new job or without, don’t leave your current workplace without connecting with colleagues, clients (if appropriate), and work friends on LinkedIn or other social media platforms before you leave. If they aren’t on social media, see if they wouldn’t mind sharing their personal contact information with you. Once you’ve left, try to reach out, comment on their posts, or update them on your next steps within three months of leaving, and then every six or so months afterward. This will help you build and maintain a valuable network of friends and professional contacts that can follow you. Naturally, over time your list might get smaller, but it will contain the people most invested in your success.
Additionally, ask your friends in Singapore who they know in your next destination. They inevitably know someone and will likely be happy to make an introduction. However, unless you are looking for some specific information on, say, neighborhoods or schools, no need to reach out until you’ve arrived. Most people will say, “Contact me when you get here,” so think of connecting with these folks as a great way to kick start your new community once you are on the ground, rather than adding to your to-do list before you leave.
Start Building Relationships
Once you’ve arrived, settled in a little, and moved beyond boxes, it’s time to start reaching out to those friends of friends and scheduling coffee or lunch dates when you have time. If you have kids, consider setting up playdates with kids from school – your kids make new friends while you can connect with their parents (local Facebook parent groups are also good for making these connections). Admittedly, this can feel uncomfortable, whether you are an introvert or extrovert, so acknowledge this is a means to an end, take a breath, smile, and do it anyway. At this stage, all contacts are good contacts, whether personal or professional, so this isn’t the time to be shy.
Take the opportunity to not only ask about the best restaurants, dry cleaners, and classes for the kids but also about their jobs. If there is any overlap with your interests, ask more or set up a coffee to just ask about this. Armed with a bit more information, you can start looking up people on LinkedIn with your identified job or industry and reach out. Often people are willing to help a newcomer who has turned to them (the expert) for help.
Develop Your Message
Additionally, it’s important to be prepared to tell your story in your cover letter. Many companies are rightfully concerned about the transient nature of expats or those who move a lot, so be able to speak to your planned tenure. Should your length of stay be two years or less, it might be worth exploring starting a business or consultancy that is as mobile as you are, freelance work, or volunteer opportunities. If you need help, consider working with a career coach that can help you develop messaging that works, and give you support and advice through the search process.
Create a Plan
Your initial conversations, informational interviews, and career coach will assist you in finding clarity on what kind of role will work for you and will help provide direction in your job search. And don’t forget to brush up on your knowledge of local standards and customs for resumes and job applications, such as whether or not to include a photo of yourself, your marital status, or your blood type. With your new contacts putting in a good word to get you to the top of the resume pile, and your old contacts providing recommendations on your behalf, before long, you will be fielding offers, choosing the role that is best for you!
Living overseas is an adventure, and your career can be, too, if you are willing to take the journey. Finding a job in any setting can be difficult, so be sure to take care of yourself, physically, mentally, and emotionally through the process by getting enough rest, moving your body, and exercising your mind by continuing to be open, learn, and remind yourself of your strengths. Before long, this new location will feel like the best move you’ve ever made.