How Coaches Help Families in International Transition

For many people who have moved just within their country, a global relocation to another part of the world can feel overwhelming. Yet in today’s global economy thousands of employees and their families do this every year, often via a transfer by an employer for a predetermined number of years.

Fortunately, many of these world travelers have help from an assortment of people, some of whom are today known as coaches. Hearing this term may bring to mind athletic teams but at the end of the last century it came into vogue as a designation for professionals who provide expertise and support for others in various circumstances and fields of human endeavor. There are life coaches, relationship coaches, career coaches, executive coaches, mental health coaches, education coaches and transition coaches. Many coaches have a high level of training and credentialing, though the specialty is still new enough to be unencumbered by formal government regulation.

Coaches may align themselves with any of the specialties mentioned above while also possessing a broad repertoire of other skills with which to help transitioning families. The partners and children who move along with the transferred employee used to be thought of as “trailing,” but this perjorative term has faded from use as we realize that a successful adjustment to their new world is key to employee success. These accompanying family members face a complete reorientation of their lives, while also navigating the numerous practical matters that come with getting themselves established in a new country.

One important concern for the partners is finding work or, failing that, making constructive use of their time abroad. This is where a career or transition coach can be especially helpful.

Accelerating Full-time, Regular Job-Searches

A job search, challenging enough on one’s home turf, can seem impossible in another country with its own way of doing things. Transferees need to be tutored in how to determine if they are eligible to work and under what limitations (for example, needing a work permit or a sponsoring company) in the basics of the job search itself and in how a search is executed in their own country.

Arturo, a senior finance professional, relocated from South America to the US and had to find an employer who would sponsor his work permit. He was so overwhelmed with the change that he was not able to focus and was confused about where to start. His coach discussed job-search strategies, wrote out an action-plan to keep him on track, and prepared his resume targeting the US market. The coach and Arturo discussed interviewing strategies, and had a practice session on networking and salary negotiation. They also explored the cultural differences between the US and South America and how they can impact a job search. Within two months of beginning his job campaign, he landed a job as Director of Finance with a mid-size company.

Portable Careers Evolving from Passions and Hobbies

Some people cannot have a conventional career because of their spouse’s frequent relocations or because they have moved to a country that does not permit foreign residents to fill regular jobs. In these cases a coach may help a person develop, sometimes out of existing passions and experience, a portable career that is not dependent on being in a specific location. Usually such entrepreneurial undertakings capitalize on the recent growth in communications technologies. A coach can help these people assess their strengths and determine a direction.

Ria, a Software Engineer, relocated internationally from Asia to Australia 3 years ago and, because of the dependent visa, could not work. Her coach discussed varied options and helped her to find a meaningful way to spend her time. Since she had an IT background and good writing skills, she began to write a technical blog.

After two years she relocated again to a European country. This time she had a work permit, but she had toddlers at home and didn’t want to send them to daycare. Ria came back to her coach for further help. Ria’s coach sent her resources on how to make money through websites. They decided that she could continue her passion for blogging about IT. This time, however, she is blogging on her own successful website and it has now become a source of income for her.

The position of Virtual Assistant is one of the hottest home-based occupations for world travelers because much of their work can be done from nearly any location. Because virtual assistants are independent contractors rather than employees, clients are not responsible for employee-related taxes, insurance or benefits. This enables them to work below the radar in many countries and sometimes continue with their predeparture job. Here are several websites that focus on the virtual assistant position:

  1. Virtual Assistant Career Guide: http://www.virtualassistantcareerguide.com/chapterfive/
  2. International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA): http://www.ivaa.org/
  3. Assist U: http://www.assistu.com/
  4. Virtual Assistants 4 U: www.va4u.com/assistant

Another portable and flexible career is teaching in fields like math, science, social studies and languages. These subjects can in some places be taught on-line, allowing a person to work from home. The following websites that have information concerning virtual teaching and tutoring:

  1. Sylvan Online: http://tutoring.sylvanlearning.com/
  2. Language Lab: www.languagelab.com
  3. Tutor.com: www.tutor.com
  4. Smart Thinking: www.smarthinking.com
  5. Tutor Vista: www.tutorvista.com

New Careers after Relocation 

Another option for the transferee is to create a new career based on skills acquired, if not necessarily deployed for profit, back home. Many coaches are prepared to help their clients assess their experience and abilities and leverage them into a new field.

Jane had been working in a famous casino for 15 years in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  She relocated to a place where there were no casinos and was confused about what to do to earn a living. I gave her a career assessment which helped her identify her strengths and transferable skills. We found that she had strong customer service, sales, marketing and communication skills. Together we explored many possible career choices and now she is happily employed at the front desk of a Five Star hotel. 

Challenges for Families with Kids

When children are involved in a relocation many more factors come into consideration such as the need for daycare, schools, doctors and the child’s overall adjustment to another culture. Often local coaches can steer people in the right direction toward reliable services. Sometimes parents need help even with their older children whose plans for college get blurred by the challenges of living in another culture. Even parents who are moving globally with high school students can benefit from a coach’s perspective. So can the children themselves.

Originally from Germany, Kathy was relocating from Asia to Chicago. She had four children – two in high school, one in middle school and one in elementary school. She told her consultant that relocations have been very nice experiences for all of them because they have learned so much about other cultures and languages first hand. Her kids have always been are really excited about relocating and because of the social media they are well connected and have friends around the world. Kathy, however, was worried about finding the right career for her high school kids. After all the change they had experienced, she felt they needed help focusing on what they wanted in a career.  Over several coaching sessions with Kathy and her kids several career options were explored. Their coach helped them choose a college major in International Management. This capitalized on the strengths they had built through their relocations such as a love of travel, the ability to deal with diverse cultures and an interest in learning different languages.   

Conclusion

Not all partners are able to work or find the right kind of position, but fortunately the alternative is not a slide into inactivity. A coach can help people connect with volunteer and community activities and pursuits that build on and extend their existing knowledge and interests.

In conclusion, coaching can help families and individuals make the most out of the challenges and uncertainties they face when they relocate. With a positive attitude, an open mind and the help of a resourceful career coach, even a stressful relocation can be an opportunity to learn new things, develop new paths and explore meaningful pursuits.

Divya Gupta, MBA, PCC, ACPEC, CPRW, ACCC, and ICF Certified Executive and Career Coach is a Career Coach for REA.

 

Networking Around The World

Networking, making friends or gathering contacts anywhere in the world can be richly rewarding, especially as a way of getting to know the culture of a country a little better.

It can also be a minefield of the unknown because of the diversity of cultures.

Here are some networking tips and suggestions from career specialists’ experiences in Asia, Germany, Turkey and the Middle East.

In China

Guanxi drives business. Guanxi literally means your network of relationships, but also encompasses a sense of trust and obligation. It takes time to build guanxi by sharing meals and small talk, and doing little favors. After you invest time in getting to know someone you wish to do business with, there comes an obvious point where you cross the threshold of being trustworthy, and you’ll likely be awarded work, help and genuine, lasting friendship.

  • Carry plenty of business cards. Exchanging cards begins every introduction.
  • Seek out social and professional networking groups. Many opportunities are launched via informal conversation.
  • Be patient. Deals are rarely finalized in one meeting.
  • Don’t be too pushy or direct. The relationship is seen as more important than forceful efficiency.

In Turkey

Networking in Turkey can be very rewarding when you follow a few simple tips. There is a strong belief that giving back to your network and community is essential to succeed in life and business, which is a good principle to follow when networking.

  • Focus on giving without any expectations and getting to know the person rather than telling them about yourself. Listening and giving are key.
  • Do not try to get before you give.
  • Bragging is frowned upon.  Always be modest and polite. Listen first and then talk.
  • Be yourself rather than try to impress.

In Germany

Germans separate work from private life and use language to reinforce this. The key to networking with Germans is to allow time for the relationship to grow and to avoid using too much “small talk”.

  • Find common ground by discovering where they have visited in your own country.
  • Make an effort to speak some words in German, especially if you can learn some local dialect.
  • Be careful not to be pushy or to expect to become an immediate part of the group.
  • Build trust and respect with co-workers.
  • If you are meeting younger Germans you can immediately use the informal form of address, but beware, as it can sometimes lead to sticky situations.

In Japan

Typically the work hierarchy is maintained outside of the work place. Very often employees will not leave until the boss leaves and will follow the boss’ lead socially.

If you are looking for work it is very common to network in international clubs.  Two of the best clubs are led by international expats.

  • The most important tool to have at your fingertips is your business card. Present it with two hands.
  • Always have your business card with you when you attend an event.  Even if you are not working, you should have a card with your contact details to exchange when you meet people for the first time.
  • Using just one Japanese word will bring you a long way, so make the effort to learn some basics.
  • Practice bowing.
  • The Japanese are very quiet, calm and seek harmony and consensus. Do not be afraid to exercise being silent, which is very normal for the Japanese.

In the Middle East

Relationships take a long time to form in Arab cultures, and building trust is important and takes patience.

  • If you are at an event with other local or native Arabs, be modest and business like in your dress.
  • When you are at an event with local Arabs, either male or female, be aware that they may not shake your hand for religious reasons. (Males can shake hands with males and likewise females with females, but often locals will not have physical contact with the opposite sex). Either wait for them to extend their hand first, or at the end of the meeting, put your hand on your chest and express how good it was to meet them. This is a respectful alternative to hand shaking.
  • Ask about family as part of building relationships. Quite often a business meeting will start with this information sharing and eventually the conversation will come around to the matter at hand. Be patient; it is all part of the culture.
  • Learning the Arabic greeting will show great respect for the culture. There are various ways to greet in Arabic, but a simple “salam alekum” will show respect.
  • Do not admire a local woman’s jewelry, headdress or clothing. If you do, following it immediately by saying, “mashallah.”

In whatever country you will be networking, spend some time becoming familiar with the culture. Showing that you care enough to find out about the culture is a step toward building lasting relationships. Finally, when networking internationally always be respectful and remember to enjoy the experience.

Emma Wheat is a Global Services Coach for REA. This article was written with contributions from REA’s Global Services Team.

When the World Is Your Office

When the building consultancy HurleyPalmerFlatt asked Niall Craig to set up an office in Bangalore, his reaction was not “what a great opportunity”. Instead, “the kids will never forgive me” was his first thought about moving his family from Scotland. “Our boys and girl are into local athletics and the sports they really shine at [BMX racing, football and cross-country running] just aren’t big out here,” Mr Craig says. His solution was to become an intercontinental commuter, working six-week stints in India followed by two-week breaks back home in Glasgow.

Expatriation has never been easy on families. To read the full article, click here.

8 Tips for Turning that Pink Slip into an “E Ticket”

Job loss can be terrifying.  Understanding the emotions that are common to most people can restore a sense of normalcy and control as well as help you take proactive steps to select success factors as you go through the process.  One thing that is often overlooked is that some of life’s most difficult challenges can provide the impetus for exponential growth resulting in positive change.  Having the ability to see the possibilities and seize this opportunity can propel you into a brighter future than you ever thought possible.  Don’t rush to escape, but do equip yourself and surround yourself with supportive, positive people.

Grieving a Job Loss is Normal

Grief is a natural response to the emotional suffering we experience when someone or something we love is taken away.  We most often associate grief with the death of a loved one, which is a source of the most intense grief.  However, any loss can cause grief and that includes loss of a job.  Some people even feel guilty over feeling grief!  Give yourself permission to grieve your loss and understand that you are not alone.

Everyone grieves differently and there is no “normal” timetable.  The process is a highly individual experience and influenced by many factors including personality, coping style, life experiences, faith, and the nature of the loss itself.

In 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross developed the “five stages of grief”.  Not everyone will experience all of these stages, but they are a common response to negative life changes.  If you are experiencing these responses you are not alone, and this too shall pass.

  • Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.”
  • Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
  • Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will _”
  • Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”
  •  Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”

Progression through the stages is not usually a neat, orderly process so don’t worry about what you are “supposed” to feel, or where you “should be” in the process.

Growing Through Adversity

Now that we have addressed your loss, there is another perspective to consider.  As Shakespeare once said, “Sweet are the uses of adversity.”  When we experience challenges and overcome adversity in our lives, we have an incredible opportunity to enter into a season of  growth.  We all crave the mountain top experiences, but it is in the valleys of life where we are transformed.  Viktor Frankyl, who survived the atrocities of Auschwitz discovered, “The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me.  The last of one’s freedoms is to choose ones attitude in any given circumstance.”  There is a great life lesson in Dr. Frankyl’s words!  So, while you are in the valley, you don’t want to wallow.  The point is to be aware of what you need to learn and come away with, but to keep going.

Don’t rush through to the next job without doing some soul searching and brain storming about where you want to go in life.  It can be tremendously helpful to work with a professional career coach who is trained in both life and career assessments.  Since 65 percent of the U.S. workforce expresses dissatisfaction with their careers, be sure your coach can help you determine how to optimize satisfaction in your life and career.

Taking a holistic approach is best, since we cannot compartmentalize our lives; impact to one area will show up in every other area.  Here are 8 tips for turning a pink slip into an “E-ticket” and to help you enjoy the ride!

  1. Complete a comprehensive assessment.  The assessment phase should look at your experiences throughout your life, should include a visioning/life planning exercise, and should help identify the career that you are best suited for.  Your career coach should be willing to point you to resources you can use on your own, or work with you on a one-on-one basis.  There are a number of resources to help you build a personal brand, develop a marketing plan, and launch an effective job search campaign.
  2. Control your environment.  Limit exposure to negative messages.  That might mean avoiding the news and political programming completely for a while.  You have enough stress for any one person to manage right now.  A steady diet of negativity will affect your mood, emotions, and attitude.
  3. Take care of your spiritual side.  What gives you a sense of spiritual well being?  Meditation?  Prayer? Attending church, synagogue, or mosque?  Reading scripture or inspirational material?  The point is seeking spiritual well being, so pay attention to your needs and see to it that you do not neglect yourself.
  4. Guard your mind.  Surround yourself with positive people.  Remember attitude is contagious, so stay away from negative people.  If you are like most, you will have enough of a challenge defeating negative thoughts your own mind will conjure up!  You don’t need additional mental battles brought on by negative influences.
  5. Take care of your body.  The benefits of regular exercise are well-documented and too numerous to list.  Exercise affects the brain through the release of endorphins which improve cognitive functioning and elevate mood states.  It is also shown to improve stress management, pain management, weight management and provide increased energy levels.  An effective exercise regimen should include cardio, strength training, and flexibility training, but there is no one-size-fits-all routine.  If you are not someone who has established the habit of regular exercise, consult with your doctor first about a plan that is right for you.
  6. Nourish your body.  We have all heard the term “comfort food” but items on that list do not usually provide the best nourishment.  Be careful about too much sugar and caffeine consumption which can result in a “crash” and opt for a well-balanced diet.  As a rule of thumb, if it was not a food 100 years ago, it is not food now, so avoid it.  The closer you can get to single ingredient foods, the better off you will be.
  7. Get adequate rest. The latest studies recommend seven to eight hours per night.  In addition to a regular good night’s sleep, plan to have three hours of FUN every week.  You will feel more balanced, refreshed and energized to sustain your search campaign.
  8. Get out of the house.  Start getting appointments on your calendar right away.  Even if it is just meeting with a friend for lunch or coffee, put something on your calendar every week.  It can be tempting to stay at home and work at your computer all day only to discover it is 4:00PM and you are still in your bathrobe.  Remove your excuses and schedule activities that force you to dress like you would for work.

Certainly transforming your life involves a great deal more detail than we have room for in this article, but if you put these 8 factors into practice, you will be well down the road and ready to tackle anything!

Jennifer Vogel is a career coach with REA.

Start the New Year with a Wellness Focus

The National Wellness Institute, founded in 1977, identifies six components of wellness: social, physical, intellectual, occupational, emotional and spiritual. Theoretically, if one or more of these components is out of balance, the imbalance manifests itself as stress, which can create or exacerbate physical illness. Awareness of these components may be significant to some health concerns, and also support a successful transition for relocating families.

To read the full article, click here.

Tackling the Challenges of Family Adaptation

Embarking on an international assignment can be exciting as it provides an opportunity to live in a new place, experience a different culture, and perhaps even learn another language. It also offers the expatriate a chance to become familiar with other parts of the business, develop a new skill set, and prepare for future opportunities. However, as expected, embarking on an expatriate assignment is not without challenges.

To read the full article, click here.

The Promise of Personal Branding

Personal branding is perhaps one of the most misunderstood ideas manifested by the Web 2.0 revolution. Tinder writes that it is a means by which a person establishes a consciously crafted and public professional presence and status in his or her field and the world at large, and personal brands articulate our distinctiveness in relationship to our colleagues and thus characterize the unique contributions that we can make to those who engage our services.

To read the full article, click here.

Volunteering as a Career Strategy

Many times the accompanying partners of international assignees will have limited career choices once they relocate due to VISA restrictions in the host country.  The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that they will no longer accept cap-subject petitions for the Fiscal Year 2005. How does this announcement change things for accompanying spouses affected by this announcement?  And how does it change the way in which relocation consultants manage expectations for clients in this predicament? What are some non-traditional ways to explore career interests for these individuals?

Volunteering has long been considered a proactive way to “get a foot in the door.”  Does this strategy work for all clients?  For some clients this might appear to be a win-win strategy but others might wonder how sensible it is to “give my time away.”  This article takes a look at volunteering as a viable career tool to explore opportunities and new skills.

Lyn’s Career Needs

Lyn moved to the United States when her husband accepted a promotion within his company.  As a British citizen, she does not hold a valid work permit for employment in the US.  In the initial discussions with the coach, Lyn explained that she had always worked and would like to get a paid position as quickly as possible so that she could beat the H1B cap deadline.  At this point, she was willing to explore any business opportunity so that she could be one of the first getting in line for a work permit.  So began the feverish activity of looking for employers who would be willing to sponsor her for the HIB visa.

While continuing a traditional job search and identifying leads for the client, the coach also suggested that Lyn volunteer at a nearby non-profit organization for arts and gave a contact to follow-up with.  This led to a productive conversation and Lyn accepted a volunteer position to work 3 hours a week in the library.  The coach encouraged her to network within this organization and ask for feedback on her resume and portfolio.  Eventually, one of the librarians introduced Lyn to the Director of the Marketing Department who said that they did need someone to help with developing promotional materials for their new children’s center.  Lyn saw this as an opportunity to sell her skills and communicate her strong interest in the position.   She accepted a three month unpaid assignment in the marketing department, while keeping her hours of work in the library.

A win-win situation for Lyn

Even though Lyn would have preferred paid employment, she saw this opportunity as “opening doors” for future career plans.  She was very excited at the opportunity of working with the Executive Director of the organization.  As she shared, “think about all the people I will meet while planning fund-raising activities….I will report directly to the Executive Director…”  She was also excited about using some of her skills in writing, art and design to promote the children’s center.  While talking about this opportunity and revisiting her portfolio, she realized that she would like to seriously pursue her interests in writing and illustration.  In conversations with the coach, Lyn mentioned her cherished dream of writing books.  She was becoming excited at the idea of actually having time to seriously pursue her interest in writing, while working for the children’s center.  Looking back on Lyn’s experience to embrace volunteering as a career strategy, the coach reflected on what helped plant this seed and help it “grow” for this client.

  • Open ended questioning  Encouraging a wide range of responses by asking open-ended questions.  In conversations, Lyn always mentioned her interest in art, design and writing but always ended conversations by asking for specific job leads, saying, “Well, I’m not sure I have the time to pursue all this right now.”  Asking questions about these interests, for example, “What do you like about art and design?” “How could you pursue your interests in writing?” helped Lyn uncover and understand these interests better.  It also gave the coach an opportunity to identify local non-profit art agencies to help Lyn explore these interests and skills.  This helped to show the client that she could take small steps to this goal of exploring her interests.
  • Sharing benefits of volunteering Connecting how volunteering will help the client understand the job search process better.  For example, this opportunity would help Lyn expand her language skills, build her resume and references, become comfortable with cultural norms of working in the United States and test out her interests.  Given her VISA situation, this would also help her look for leads in the hidden job market through networking, building a work reputation and learning new skills.
  • Imagining career possibilities Asking questions which encourage the client to envision volunteer opportunities as “real work experiences.”  For example, identifying the sources of enjoyment and satisfaction in Lyn’s description of past experiences helped her acknowledge how strongly she felt about writing and she was able to see the “benefits” of not working full-time just yet.  The benefits she identified were the time she would get to write and revise her stories, to explore options of being published in a realistic manner, take classes to strengthen her writing skills and join local support groups to share her work with.
  • Readiness to try the volunteer route Helping the client voice concerns about this strategy helped her see this idea as worth pursuing.  Some concerns Lyn listed included demands on her time, poor use of her skills and talents, and tasks not being clearly defined.  The coach helped Lyn generate a list of questions to evaluate this volunteer opportunity and also prepare for her conversation with the Marketing Director.  Lyn used this list to ask questions about the marketing internship, to showcase her skills and to participate actively in discussing her involvement in this project as a volunteer.

Volunteering does help in staying productive and exploring different career paths.  It is a good way to boost self-esteem when searching for full-time employment and career enhancement alternatives.  In fact, working in a volunteer position where the rewards are primarily intangible might demonstrate strong work ethic.  “Employers like employees who are passionate about their work…it also tells employers that for you working is about enjoying what you do, not merely a paycheck” (Horowitz, Jason, CareerJournal.com, 2004).  For Lyn, volunteering opened up a door to staying active in the working environment, exploring career ideas that had not been focused on before, and using her time productively as she waits for her VISA issues to be resolved and looks for paid employment.

Does volunteering always work out positively for clients?  Probably not.  In another example, volunteering as a career strategy did not work as well for Melissa as it did for Lyn.  As with Lyn, there were VISA restrictions, narrowing employment opportunities for Melissa.  As the consultant and Melissa worked together, the following reasons were discussed as contributing to Melissa’s unhappiness with this strategy.

  • Being very specific about volunteer tasks in her field  A State license was required for Melissa to practice in her field.  While waiting to get these credentials, Melissa was hesitant to take on volunteer positions which involved tasks that normally her assistant would do.  Her belief was that she could wait to look for paid positions once she took the licensing exam.  She was aware that she still might have difficulty finding a job because of VISA restrictions but was at this point unwilling to consider some of the benefits of volunteering in her field.  The coach respected this “block” and helped Melissa define immediately attainable tasks such as preparing for the exam, places to contact for complete information and identifying people to talk to who had taken this exam.
  • Lack of immediate outcomes in terms of open positions Networking through contacts and volunteer opportunities, by its very nature is time consuming and this strategy may or may not lead to concrete leads.  This seeming “lack of progress” towards the final goal of accepting an offer was hard for Melissa to accept.  In addition, as a parent of young children, she would not be able to commit to volunteering in the hope that “something might click.” To address this concern Melissa and the coach identified specific structured goals that would help Melissa feel she was “progressing” towards her main goal of finding employment.  Creating a support group by introducing her to Lyn who lived in the same city, encouraging her to conduct an informational interview with a personal contact and develop a strategy for completing defined tasks helped Melissa look at her job search more positively.

One career strategy, two different outcomes for these two clients.  Recognizing that clients proceed at their own pace and bring different perceptions and expectations into the client-coach relationship, it is important to reflect on the reasons to try volunteering as a career strategy.  Some people might volunteer to meet specific needs such as expanding professional contacts, building friendships or learning customs in a new culture.  For some, it might be a specific means to an end, one of gaining experience to get a job.  In cases where the client is unable to work, volunteering may offer opportunities to apply current and develop new skills they can use when they return to their home country. Other factors such as willingness to try something different, other personality traits, short and long term career goals, and individual life situations influence how open clients will be to giving volunteering a committed chance.

Sunitha Narayanan, M.S. is a Career Coach for REA and lives in Ohio.

Helping Children to Thrive During a Summer Move

Many parents facing work-related relocation, time their moves to coincide with their children’s summer vacation. While this decision makes sense from an academic perspective, children who move during the summer may crave social connections.

Here are some tips to avoid the “Mom, I’m bored!” summer siren…

For the full article, click here.

Dual Career Implications on Workforce Mobility

The role of the accompanying partner in a global relocation has become a factor to be ignored only at an organization’s peril. The authors explore the changing face of the relocating spouse/partner during the last three decades and the trends that will determine partner relocation assistance in the future: continued globalization, the economic challenges experienced worldwide and the necessity of dual career families.

To read the rest of this article, click here.