I need to add one more thing to my list of things I would have done differently and that is to read (and re-read regularly) A Career in Your Suitcase which has just been republished by it’s original author, Jo Parfitt, and her new collaborator, Colleen Reichrath-Smith.
If you read an earlier version of Jo’s book, as I did, then don’t think you can skip this new edition. It has been completely reworked and updated, and Colleen’s contribution as a professional career consultant is considerable..
This book should be mandatory reading for any accompanying partner and I hope HR departments and relocation companies are stocking up on copies, to hand out to the families they work with. Most first-time expats don’t realize the long-term impact that relocation can have on careers and identities, but this book provides the tools you need to assess, plan and monitor your future life path.
I particularly like the holistic definition of career which is used (adopted from the Canadian Career Development Foundation):
- Our life path
- The many roles we play along our life path
- The process by which we become the authors of our own futures and the creators of our own life stories
I also like the pragmatic “this is how you do it” exercises to help you identify not just your skills and interests, but also those which you can realistically hope to use in your present location, given language, work permit and logistical hurdles so often encountered by expat partners.
While many assume that a perfect portable career is self-employed, working from home, I’m pleased the book now gives equal weight and advice for those seeking regular employment and/or freelance assignments, with plenty of up-to-date advice about networking both in the real world and online.
Jo’s earlier editions were aimed primarily at the partners of those who are relocated internationally, but with Colleen’s input, I would now recommend this book to anyone seeking a career change. In fact it struck me while reading it that there are now many similarities between the careers of expat partners and Generation Y. Take this quote, for example from a recent article in Forbes Magazine:
“What do you do?” used to be a simple question. Individuals defined themselves by profession: teacher, engineer, pilot. Or by company: Con Edison, NASA, Kodak. But it was always one job, one identity.
Today’s young professionals, however, aren’t as easily categorized. I still can’t figure out what to prioritize on my LinkedIn profile. I am a journalist, marketing consultant, and co-partner for an Internet company. All are equally important to my identity. And my Millennial-aged peers find themselves in similar situations. I don’t know any Millennial who self-identifies using only one “job.”
Asking an expat partner what she does is pretty much like asking a TCK “where is home?” The response is usually at least a sentence, if not a paragraph.
A Career in Your Suitcase is very much a workbook, with the emphasis on ‘work.’ It’s filled with detailed exercises and links to online resources as well as detailed bibliographies for each chapter. Although I downloaded it first as an ebook, I have now gone back and purchased a print edition and would recommend you do the same.