How to write a convincing CV as an expat partner

In my coaching, I have spoken to so many expats who are struggling with including their time abroad in a way that portraits it as an accomplishment. Therefore, I want to dedicate this blog post to all those who want to improve their CV right now and need a bit of motivation to finally do it right. 

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Do not underestimate the task

Updating a CV is a task that sounds so simple and easy to do but yet at the same time, it is something that my coachees struggle the most with. Often they tell me “Kate, please hold me accountable – next week I will send you my updated CV” only to postpone it from week to week. This is not surprising for me at all. Updating your CV sounds like a boring but manageable admin task but the truth is it is not. You are not just adding your latest skill or change the address on the form, you are also confronted with the enormous task of positioning yourself in a new job market. Many of my coachees are planning to change not only jobs but also industries.  Many are planning to apply for a completely different field. Most are planning to reenter the job market after a longer break. Including a career change or career break is not a task of 5 minutes but requires a conscientious examination of the person you were and the person you want to become. So my very first tip for you is to not underestimate the task ahead and. Treat it with respect. Meaning it is not something you are doing between school pickups and making dinner but something you need to carve time out for reflection, brainstorming, and discussion with a coach or someone close to you. It is also something you need to prioritize. It should not be the first thing on your to-do list that is crossed out because everything else seems so much more time-sensitive and important. Because it is not! 

Ok, so now that we are clear on that, what else can you do to improve your CV? Here are my 6 tips for you: 

"Updating your CV sounds like a boring but manageable admin task but the truth is it is not."

1. Adopt to the local standards

Without knowing you as a person I am pretty sure you are used to doing your homework. Hence, I do not want to spend too much time on technicalities such as “is it called CV or resume in the country you are applying” or “what is the typical design of a CV”. These are things you can easily google on your own. However, I want to stress that you also need to research the right translations of your job titles. Take the job title “assistant” as an example. In many countries, that is more a secretary while in others it is a more strategic position. So it is always a good idea to watch out for there in a similar field and do your homework. 

2. Market your experience abroad

Explain your expat status for someone that is not familiar with it. Do not expect that the HR manager is familiar with these terms and what it entails. Explain it, embrace it, but do not dwell on it. Explain the skills you gained by moving and living abroad. Do not only focus on the paid jobs but put the volunteer work in front and don’t hide it at the end of the CV. Ask yourself: “Is it a relevant experience for the job you are applying to?” Market it that way. On SharetheLove, I have spoken about the topic of career branding several times. You might want to check this post out for further info or download my workbook about becoming career smart. 

3. Work on your elevator pitch

Make sure they will see what they need to see but also keep in mind to not open the doors to conversations you do not want to have. In the modern form of a CV, there is plenty of space to include a written elevator pitch and actually, that is the part I am spending the most time on when doing a career consultancy session with a client. (more info here

4. Transfer your CV to LinkedIn and distribute it proactively

As you all will know by now, LinkedIn is a great platform to market yourself professionally. When updating your CV, I am recommending updating your LinkedIn right away as well. It can be a great place to include more details if you are aiming for a 1-page CV. For my career consultancy sessions, I am using a LinkedIn checklist to make sure you are not missing out on opportunities. I also covered the topic of LinkedIn on this blog before. Check it out here.

5. Storytelling

Remember with each word, that you are the owner of your story. You alone get to decide what you put on your CV and how you describe it. Watch out for excuses and avoid them as much as possible. There is no benefit in using expressions such as “BUT” or “JUST”. Confidence is key. If you are doubting yourself why should the potential employer believe in you? If you are struggling with that it might be time to get a coach who works with you on your invisible achievements.  If you are thinking right now that you did not at all anything call a coach and he will work with you to reveal the hidden treasures of your experience. Want to know more? Fill out this short form here.

6. Think outside the box

Revisit your former jobs and accomplishments and try to take them up a level. Distance yourself from the pure job title but think about the skills you gained during these jobs and how they could be useful for the job after your career change. Make it a brainstorming phase by journaling and really taking your time.

What other expat partners did

In the sense of SharetheLove you can always reach out to other expats and ask for their advice. Recently, I reached out to the SharetheLove community as well and gathered some insights on CV format ideas. Here are a couple of voices that might inspire you in your process to update your CV: 

"I mainly described what I did there and that was not little. For example, involvement in schools or non-profit associations, language classes, etc. should also be stated. There is so much and almost everything is worth mentioning. Not to mention the intercultural competence that is acquired or the flexibility that characterizes us global women."
"I filled the time abroad either with my various further education courses or with 'project work'. I was never idle and in the end, it was this time abroad that brought me exactly to where I am now. Also and especially in terms of my wealth of experience. Work and family were always more compatible there than I currently feel in Germany. So by all means formulate self-confidently!"
"I have classified this as a job and titled it " from then until then various honorary positions during the parental leave in ..." or "Honorary positions during the stay abroad in ...". Below that I listed in keywords what I did in terms of content, e.g. parent spokesperson..., treasurer of... homework help for...."
"I have deliberately sorted it under work experience (housewife, period, Singapore) and then listed the volunteer work I have done. Above that (chronologically), however, is my freelance work, which I now do part-time (again). I'd like to find a term other than "housewife" to headline the time, but I couldn't think of anything. Obviously, it didn't bother me, wrote two applications after returning, got an acceptance on them and the second company kept the documents to contact me in case there was a need."
Expatmamas - Link
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For German speaker: Es gibt auch einen wundervollen Blog Beitrag auf Deutsch bei den Expat Mamas. Ich habe den Text hier verlinkt.
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So these are my top 6 tips to work on your CV. I hope you find the motivation and passion to work on it right now. It is truly an investment in your future! If you want me as a coach on your journey I am always happy to assist. I am doing my coaching sessions via video call, will send you lots of exercises and resources before, and will keep you accountable from session to session. Just send me a message to info@sharethelove.blog or fill out this form and I am happy to assist!

Also, keep in mind we have a comment session here. So if you have experiences and learnings you want to share with the SharetheLove community I am really appreciating you taking the time to support others. We are all in this together!

Kate from Share the Love, expat, expat wife, expat life

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