Dealing with Complexities

By Heidi Ravis


Jane and her husband, both Chinese expatriates, met and married while studying at a midwestern university. After both completed advanced degrees, Jane’s husband was hired by a large New York company and the couple planned to relocate to Westchester County, north of New York City. She enrolled in the Expanded Career Program at REA for assistance with her job search.


When I began working with Jane, she was preparing for her move from the midwest to New York. She held an L1 visa and had begun searching for a job as a chemist that would offer sponsorship.


Prior to her move, we revised her resume, and I assisted her with career and labor market research. I provided a number of resources, including Career Beam access and orientation, recruiter referrals and LinkedIn assistance. Once Jane relocated to the area, we met for coffee and discussed her job search and adjustment to the area. We had several phone conversations and email exchanges regarding job search strategy and progress.

Over the next few months, Jane expressed frustration and discouragement over her inability to find a job. Although I encouraged her to network and suggested a number of strategies, approaches and resources, she expressed reluctance to reach out to people even though they might be able to offer assistance. We reviewed the uses of LinkedIn, but she remained hesitant to use it.

I sent her an email with details about a networking event that I thought might interest her, and became concerned when I received a response indicating that she had “given up” on the job search. We had a long conversation, and I encouraged her to explore other avenues, including volunteer work. One evening soon after, I received a call from Jane. She was quite distraught and stated that she “needed” me. I arranged to meet her the next day.

At that time, she confided in me about some personal issues that contributed greatly to her unhappiness and negative feelings. In addition, she reported experiencing pressure from her family in China to find a job. With the assistance of the REA office, I learned that Jane had access to the services of her husband’s Employee Assistance Program that offered counseling services. I urged her to utilize this program if she continued to feel distraught, and she agreed to this plan. As I was going out of town for a few days, I arranged for my supervisor to check in with Jane during my absence.


When I returned from my time away, I contacted Jane and arranged to meet with her again. At this time, she was considerably more composed. She reported that she had spoken to her family and that they had helped a great deal. Jane also stated that she had gone for a walk in her neighborhood and stopped into a nearby nonprofit agency, where she inquired about their work and opportunities to volunteer. The staff welcomed her and invited her to an event they had planned for the next day. Jane and her husband attended the event and met several people who expressed interest in getting to know them. When they learned that Jane was job-hunting, they offered to introduce her to contacts in her field.

Over the next few weeks, Jane broadened her social circle and increased her networking activities. Less than two months after she had “given up” on the job search, she found a job in her field. She wrote to me, “I really appreciate your help when I was at the hardest time of my life.”

Although this is an extreme case, it illustrates the complexities involved in the relocation process. Jane, while not an international (Total or Modified) client, was still experiencing profound stress related to her role as an expat spouse. The story, fortunately, had a positive outcome, from both an employment and an acclimation standpoint.