A serial expat from childhood, Rita Golstein-Galperin is now a multicultural mom in Paris. She is also an author, entrepreneur and public speaker and was a career and business coach for expats, striving to help women around the world redefine and reinvent their success abroad. Her interdisciplinary background includes being a lawyer, entrepreneur, public policy professional, economist and lecturer. She now works in public policy, innovation strategy and leadership training.
Yes, moving abroad can be an amazing opportunity, but after crossing off all the sightseeing and the must-dos and after the kids are well integrated into the new school system… it’s time for some “me time”. But wait, it feels as if you almost forgot what it is that you want to do for YOU.
So if you are tired of being tired, you’ve had it with just-getting-by, going through the motions, without any sign of excitement or progress, then read on……..
There’s no better timing for this total career shift you are about to encounter and you don’t need years of experience or a resume as tall as you are. You can bag your dream career by cutting through the fluff and getting people to notice your unique value.
Even if you’ve fallen victim to the “I used to do this… well that was before we moved…” mindset, you’ve no doubt picked up some key skills you never had before – just to survive the entire experience or relocating abroad. Whatever your starting point is, if you do your prep work right you can completely reinvent your career abroad.
Traits you need to get your dream job
Building on the very experience of moving abroad, the first thing is outline all the skills and characteristics you’ve picked along the way. Do NOT attempt to update your CV just yet – this is preparation time. We will do some home-work first, and then move into the meat-and-potatoes to reinvent your dream career. Below is a list of important traits you might have honed as an expat and why they are so important to the work world.
Creativity is about seeing exceptional opportunities and taking advantage of them – whether that’s by solving a problem or bringing something new to the plate. By thinking outside the box, you can create something original and develop solutions that aren’t just good fixes – but unique fixes.
Your expat dream will come with some assembly required, and when you find ‘spare parts,’ you have to roll with those punches. Getting the job done under unusual circumstances, adapting to a new and sometimes strange work environment, and letting a sudden change of plan roll off your back will keep you from getting caught up in the details and instead keep taking action.
A successful expat is able to learn and adapt and do it fast. Rather than letting cultural differences bend your mind or constantly struggling with currency, you need to accept the differences and add them to your own pool of knowledge. When a career at your dream company means a working style you’re not used to, new programs you’ve never heard of, and a plan of attack with you at the helm, rather than going ‘wait, what?’, learning the name of the game and going forward is what makes you an asset.
Handling nine email chains on four different topics, keeping each client or customer fresh enough in your mind to solve their problems in an emergency, scheduling different duties throughout the week, keeping on top of your schedule, and then still handling life outside of work… It sounds like a tall order, but being able to do all the tasks that fly your way makes you reliable to an employer and highly capable as a career expat.
Being multicultural gives you an intuitive ability to understand the people you work with, the clients or customers you’re catering to, and better yet – it gives you an edge. By bringing a perspective from multiple cultures, you’re primed for thinking out of the box and adding all those diverse assets to what you create.
Putting those traits into action
Ok, so now that you’ve outlined the important assets let’s take it one step forward and actually put together a practical roadmap towards you dream job.
If you don’t know where you’re going, then any step you take will be a waste of time. Look at what your real dream career is, and be specific in what defines it. If you want to be a web designer, then what sort of design really excites you? Do you want to be a freelancer or get a 9-to-5 job? What kind of hours would you like to work? What kind of people do you want to work with? What kind of pay would you need? Work from home or in an office?
Every journey starts with step one and you need to decide what yours is. Start by reverse-engineering your dream career. Decide what the last step is to reach it, and then walk backwards until you’re in the present. If you want to be a social media manager, start by offering your services to new businesses or authors. Before that? Create your network and build an audience of people who might be interested in your service. Before? Create and manage several social media accounts yourself. Maybe start a blog to share your insights. Before that? Get familiar with the programs needed. This shows you where to begin, and if you get lost, shows you where the road is.
There are some hidden nuggets with every career that are a mystery until you’re in the heart of it. But you have the internet on your side, and that gives you the opportunity to research. You can start by searching out interviews with people from your dream field, watching webinars giving advice to newbies, reading up on what employers are looking for and even getting in contact with people who already do the job. This gives you a sensible look at your end goal and guidance on how to build your action plan. Utilize technology – LinkedIn is the obvious choice for you research – maybe you have an old college friend who happens to work in the industry of your dreams, reach out to her and get some vital info.
It’s a long way to the top, but who says you have to have your official job title before you can start enjoying the work? Want to be a writer? Start a blog or offer to guest write for online publications. Want to be a relationship coach? Offer to coach a few friends for free on the weekends to see how well you can help them. Want to work in journalism? Volunteer or intern at smaller newspapers, or offer a local network a piece for a foreign audience in your language. All of these approaches give you a chance to live in your passion now, but they also give you experience and references to fuel your career goal.
This is where the preparatory homework on your expat traits and characteristics come in handy. If the work history you do have isn’t directly related to the job you’re applying for, a skills-based resume may be the best way for you to showcase what you can bring to the position. Pick three to four broad skill sets that specifically relate to the job description, and that you can back up with specific accomplishments or experiences. Communication, leadership, and project management are often-used skills, but you can get more specific, too. Revamp your CV to center on your strongest and most job-relevant skills. Always focus on “how can I contribute to the new company?”, rather than “what I’ve done for the old one”. What this presents is a focused, passionate person who has the right talents they need, and they can see that from the start.
This one is a game-changer. Stop blindly applying for random jobs with a standard cover letter. Everybody does that. You have to stand out by doing something different. Pain letters save everyone a lot of time by getting right to the point. An employer is hiring you as someone who can solve problems for them, and a pain letter, rather than a cover letter, details exactly what pain points your new employer and company are experiencing that you can solve. You can sometimes address it to the hiring managers themselves rather than just an HR person. In comparison to another applicants who still need testing, someone who offers exactly what they can fix is an easy first choice.
LinkedIn comes in handy here for finding the hiring manager for the position you are interested in.
Think outside the box
When you’re evaluating your career dream and how to reach it, ask what shortcuts no one has thought of yet. Use your creativity. If you want to be a designer, create a fan site that people will visit and spread the word on in their free time. If you just can’t get your resume through the channels, come in at the side and offer the company something unique, such as a free consultation on their newsletter or a motivational webinar for their employees, which will encourage them to pay attention to you. Another way forward could be examining remote-employment opportunities. Haven’t found the perfect work environment for you? Your office can be anywhere… including your own home. This might come in especially handy for the hustling expat woman. A lot of the work that can be done remotely nowadays can also be done on a flexible schedule. For example, if you’re a web developer or a content creator, you can most likely do your coding or writing whenever it suits you as long as you meet your deadlines. So, night owls, rejoice!
Sometimes to truly achieve your potential and break free from the confused stuck and lost-in-translation expat, you need to try a different path. Not every entrepreneurial attempt will result in the Next Google or FaceBook, but by being active and creative you can start experiencing different trades right away. A first step to your new and exciting career abroad could a simple side-gig to play around with different concepts and skills and show case what you’re good at. A nice way to earn some extra money, but mostly an opportunity to widen your horizons, meet new people and try new things on your path to the career o your dreams. Maybe you can offer basic design gigs on Fiverr. Or take on a translation project on PeoplePerHour. How about driving as an Uber driver for an hour each morning? Or sell some home made crafts on Etsy? There are many more other options out there that are not considered a regular path. Taking a small risk at first, might pay off with great results latter.
Networking is one of the most important things an expat can do – hey, I’d even say it’s the most important part of living abroad, whether you’re pursuing a career or just trying to adjust to the new environment. Networking isn’t just starting a conversation; it’s making the other person want to come back. When you’re reaching out to others, stop and think: “What am I actually giving this person? What am I offering that no one else does?” Is it a life lesson you learned during your move? Is it your unique sense of humor? Is it some influence with a blog host or a top-level manager in a company that could help them? What about being their accountability partner? If you want something from them, then be the person who offers just as much value in return.
In conclusion, creating your career dream abroad is about cutting through the fluff. If you have the top traits and know where you’re heading, all that’s left is to take the first step.
See our Directory of female entrepreneurs in Spain, Italy, Germany and France