Monday, March 17, 2014

Keeping Your Identity After Your Move Abroad

"The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun." Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild.

After leaving behind the life you once knew to embark on a new adventure, your life will take a drastic turn.  You have probably been on autopilot for a while and now a million changes are coming your way, all at the same time.  And after juggling pack-outs, going-away parties and all the logistics needed to get you and your family from city A to city B, where do you rank on the priorities' list?

Throughout my years as an expat I have met many professional, talented and super smart people who for one reason or another choose to put on hold their professional lives in order to embark on this overseas adventure.  Some are happy with their choice and some struggle with it, but there are ways to take advantage of a new life, the possibility of reinventing yourself into a new you.

Within the diplomatic world, it's somewhat easier than in the private sector, to continue working while abroad.  If you are set on continuing your career, check the bilateral agreements with the host country before you commit to the move.  Some professions are more portable than others.  I have seen many teachers and nurses do not miss a beat on the professional arena.  Any job that can predominantly be performed through the internet is portable, and more and more employers will appreciate the time difference aspect of hiring an expat (as when the work can be done while they are sleeping).

Sometimes though, working in your field is just not possible, but are you really a one dimensional person?  No!  You have many other skills that can be used.  Try to be creative!  I have worked on paid jobs ranging from a software translator to a senior logistics officer.  Never in a million years I though I was going to work as a translator as there are countless people who can professionally translate from English to Spanish and viceversa ,,,,,,but not in Sri Lanka!  In Sri Lanka it was only me!
I have worked in all the countries I lived in, except two.  The first one because I was giving birth to my second child and my oldest son had not learned how to walk yet.  It was my mommy tour.  The second time I have stayed unemployed is now, but I am exploring my creative side with the blog and dedicating time to my photography, which I am enjoying very much.  I also have a friend who is a mechanical engineer and who has turn around her professional life to become a recognized sculptor.

One of the most important skills that will allow you to survive any new situation is adaptability.  Once you are settled into your new country, think!  How can I reinvent myself?  What skills can I use that will land me a fulfilling new life in this country?  Don't dismiss volunteer opportunities,  they can lead you to your next paid job! Get out, get involved, meet people.  The more you network the more you will be able to market your skills.

Yes, when we move and we are the ones holding down the fort, it is easy to lose yourself into being Mr.Right's spouse and Kid#1 and Kid#2's mom (or dad).  Making a life for yourself is also a priority, allow yourself to think outside the box.  Do you have story of personal fulfillment you can share with me?

1 comment:

  1. Great post Gabby. I think when we move overseas, putting everyone first is what we naturally do....and then we can feel lost when life regains a sense of normality. Your suggestions of being creative and flexible are the key. Thanks. Chistine