What About Me? A Common Question from the Relocating Spouse

What About Me? A Common Question from the Relocating Spouse
by Heidi B. Ravis, Global Services Team Leader, REA (Ricklin-Echikson Associates)

Relocating employees and their families often receive assistance from numerous sources, including realtors, movers and cultural trainers. Research shows, however, that career and acclimation support for the accompanying spouse/partner are critical elements in the success of a relocation. While the employee has a sense of purpose and structure upon arrival in the new location, the accompanying spouse often encounters feelings of isolation resulting from career interruption and/or loss of professional identity and social ties. In addition, the spouse may feel overwhelmed by the challenges of adapting to a new communityor culture and helping children to cope with them as well.

The International Mobility and Dual Career Survey of International Employees conducted by the Permits Foundation (2012) supports this perspective.

The survey indicates that if the spouse has given up a job that provided success, income and identity, their new jobless status may contribute to dissatisfaction with the new location and negative feelings about the move. These factors may have a significant impact on the success or failure of the relocation and, ultimately, the employee’s future with the company. In my experience as an International Career Consultant, I have found that successful support for the accompanying spouse includes the following:

*  Customization: Each spouse’s situation is different, so the consultant needs to listen carefully and be attuned to their unique needs.

* Convenience and flexibility: Services should be provided at the client’s convenience, to the extent that this is possible and practical. It is helpful to have a range of modalities available, including face-to-face interaction, Skype, telephone and email to accommodate different communication preferences and time zones.

* Varied service options: Offering a spectrum of services including resume development, assessment, employer and industry research and interview assistance allows the consultant to customize services and offer resources tailored to the spouse’s specific needs.

* Acclimation support: Providing information about local resources can ease the spouse and family’s transition to a new locale. Recreational activities, specialty stores, attractions and restaurants can be sources of reassurance and pleasure for newcomers and perhaps provide a “taste of home.”

* Networking opportunities: Job seekers are more likely to find career opportunities through networking than any other activity, so helping spouses connect with others is valuable. Providing referrals and introductions to local groups and individuals can help them establish ties, develop friendships and build support systems in their new communities.

* Meaningful Pursuits: In cases where paid employment is not a priority or an option due to work restrictions, the consultant can assist the spouse in identifying a meaningful pursuit to aid in the acclimation process. Spouses often opt to pursue volunteer work or take classes in areas of interest, and gain a sense of purpose and community from their involvement in these activities.

Addressing the unique challenges of relocating spouses contributes greatly to a successful relocation assignments and helps ensure successful acclimation to the new location for the entire family. See also Anchor Drops for information about the international book, Home Away From Home.