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.