Expat partners must be realistic about looking to enter the local job market on arrival in a new country. Even when there are opportunities, one expert advises taking a patient approach.

Consider your sense of purpose
“As expats we should always look out for opportunities so we can be fulfilled. But we should also consider things carefully, especially if there’s no need to rush into something,” says Marie Dewulf, a life and career coach, who has experienced multiple relocations – and therefore, job markets – as a working expat partner. “So if you’re looking to enter the local workforce, be patient. First, consider your sense of purpose and allow yourself time.”

Adapting to a new environment
“Remember that when moving overseas, or relocating, we must adapt to a new cultural environment, and that’s not just on a personal level. If we wish to enter the local job market, we’ll also have to understand and adapt to a new working culture, too,” adds Marie, a Belgian, who has recently repatriated in Belgium after stints in France, Holland, the UK and Morocco.

Experience something new
“Before we embark on an assignment, we will often form a picture in our head of how it will be and what we will do,” says Marie. “However, upon arriving, there might be a gap between the ‘dream version’ that we envisaged, and the reality that we are confronted with. Even if you have been on many assignments, and feel that handling change is part of your DNA, it might not be so straightforward. If you are a very independent person moving from a democratic / benevolent working culture to an autocratic one, that might be a new challenge you need to explore.”

Find the insights you need
If you really want to enter the local job market, Marie advises thinking about what you wish to get out of it. Ask yourself: do I wish to earn a salary to bring a second income? Do I want to keep my career going? Or do I wish to work for the experience, making both international and local friends, and stay intellectually challenged? Do I wish to use my creativity, and make an impact? The next step is to see if the local job market can satisfy your criteria. After that, get out and network, meet locals and fellow expats and find the intel and insights you need to make an informed decision and take the next step.

by Connla Stokes