Moving to a new country can be a great opportunity to reinvent yourself. Whether continuing your present career just isn’t possible or you simply want to make a change, there are many ways you can take matters into your own hands and create your own job. Trailing spouses by definition tend to be resourceful, flexible and adventurous – definitely entrepreneurs in the making! By working for yourself you can set your own hours and often it’s a great solution for those with young children.
If you’re embarking on an international lifestyle, then considering a career which will be portable is definitely a good idea. Chances are your first move overseas may not be your last. Jo Parfitt wrote a trailblazing book on this in 1998 – A Career in Your Suitcase. Recently updated in 2008, it’s definitely worth a read. Jo has carved herself a successful portable career as a writer, teacher and mentor.
Some of the most common portable careers for trailing spouses are:
Writing/Editing/Translating: Whether you work for local publications or at a distance, writing is probably the ultimate portable career.
Virtual Assistant: This term covers a wide variety of work, from secretarial/administrative tasks, through web design and IT, to research, book keeping and much more.
Teaching: Language teaching opportunities in particular are usually easy to find overseas. Check local education requirements before investing in any kind of training to ensure it will meet required standards. Or look for opportunities to teach personal skills or hobbies such as art, crafts or sports.
Consulting: Use your existing professional skills, either within your new country or via the internet. Referring back again to Susan Musich’s presentation at FIGT this year, she had some great tips for consulting with international organizations such as the World Bank and the many special agencies of the United Nations. Mine their Projects database for local contacts in the country you’re moving to.
Counselling/coaching: Many intercultural, career or life coaches started out as trailing spouses. Use your experience to help others. If you have a teaching background, educational counselling might be an option.
Cottage industries: In most expat communities you’ll find spouses who are busy baking birthday cakes, designing jewellery, greeting cards, sewing clothing or importing and selling interesting items from overseas.
For a truly comprehensive list, take a look at Creative Small Business Ideas but no matter what you choose do bear in mind that you may have to comply with visa, local business registration requirements and pay tax. While many trailing spouses do manage to work “under the radar,” you should realize you could be vulnerable to prosecution and/or the withdrawal of your visa if you’re caught.