A dream job 9 years in the making
Phew, where do I start? Our Role Model this month has overwhelmed me with her energy, with her reflection, with her openness, her power, and her whole story. Her life is in the midst of a hurricane (with a new job and an international move during a pandemic) but yet here she smiles in the camera, looks so fresh and relaxed, and throws this amazing story called life to me with the lightness of someone who has seen it all and screams: Bring it on.
Say hello to Flor, a Venezuelan former attorney, certified language and intercultural consultant with more than 10 years of experience working with expat children and adults around the world. She currently lives in Germany where she spends her days raising three multicultural children, growing a portable business, and sharing language and culture with all those interested in getting to know a little bit more about the world that surrounds them. She is about to move back to the US where she has lived before but hopped on a call before to tell us her story.
How to connect
This Role Model story is again an example of how colorful our life can be, how many different stages it passes, and how different feelings it is accompanied. Our Role Model Flor has a lot to offer: she grew up in Venezuela and is currently living in Germany with her American husband. She raised 3 children far away from home, couldn’t continue her profession as a lawyer abroad, was searching for herself without the professional label for a long time, and finally found her dream job shortly before her family will move from Germany to the USA in the middle of a pandemic. Flor has so much to share with us. She tells us what it was like for her to be at home with three small children and the knowledge that her own career fulfillment was so far away. She also shares about the long application process that finally provided her with her dream job and reveals her secret ingredient. But let’s start from the beginning!
When your life suddenly becomes international
Flor had studied law in Venezuela and was already working and earning her own money when she met her husband. He had just traveled from America to visit his relatives in Venezuela. From then on, everything happened very quickly. Flor was only 22 years old when they got married and moved to the USA where he had his job. The frustrating part? There she could not continue her trained profession. The education was not recognized and she would have had to start all over again. In addition, they quickly had their first child and anyone who has ever lived in the U.S. knows the high childcare fees and so the question quickly arises whether it is really worth it to return to work. Especially since this profession was a dead-end abroad.
What begins now is a time filled with children’s laughter, with the endless happiness one feels when watching one’s children grow up, but also with a lot of loneliness. Far away from family and friends, Flor was practically a single parent during the week. She had a hard time finding social connections. She was too busy with her family. When she left the house, she heaved three child seats through the door. I guess you get the idea.
The desire for recognition
At the same time, it surprised her to see how much of her identity was tied to her job. A profession she could not continue now. It is by no means the case that she sat on the sofa and just waited. Looking back at this time, she describes herself as chronically exhausted. Only with some distance does she now slowly understand what a mammoth job she was doing back then. She raised three children without the valuable network of grandparents and extended family. How can we expect society to value the role of mother more if we don’t do it ourselves?
But Flor felt restless. It didn’t let her go that such a large part of her identity was tied to a non-existent job.
She started to tutor students in Spanish and liked it. For the first time, she had the feeling that she could do something with that.
She started another education in addition to her mothering role and enrolled in a master’s degree program in foreign languages. In Venezuela, academic degrees are valued very highly. Every father, every mother pushes their child to please do some real work and complete an academic degree. Flor had the desire for recognition, for a door opener into the professional world, and this second education seemed to be the right path. She believed that having an academic degree will bring forward the idea of what she is going to do next professionally. She wanted to have the right tools and the credentials to teach Spanish even though she technically was doing it already. The double burden was high and not all days were easy but, in the end, Flor looks back very proud of this achievement, and as it turned out this course of studies was the right choice.
Stepping outside the shell
The new Master’s degree opened new doors for Flor. She was now able to teach at a university and also worked as a director for a bilingual kindergarten. It was nice as she says herself but she wants to stress something here: “My journey started in 2002 and I got my first job in 2011”. So, Flor is a perfect example of how our life goes in stages and how long sometimes our learning curves are until they show up on our CV. All the years in between she was at home, learning the language, integrating, raising three children born one after the other, and making it possible for her husband to concentrate on his job.
It was 2011 when Flor finally came out of her shell. She started volunteering at the kids’ school library and started meeting with other moms. She felt more secure, less conscious about the language barrier. The age of the kids was a huge help here as they asked for playdates and Flor realized that she had to start socializing. Back at this library and this school, she met great friends she is still very close with today. “It was that period, that I stopped feeling lonely”.
She felt like this could work. She gained confidence that changing her career path can be a good thing for her even though she still felt sad that she could not continue working as a lawyer.
Suddenly one day she made peace with the fact that she wasn’t a lawyer anymore. Even though she had the voices of her parents in her head “Once a lawyer- always a lawyer”. She told herself that she needed to fall in love with the idea of becoming a teacher. And it worked. She worked in different roles within the teaching field till earlier this year. The Master’s degree also opened doors when they relocated to Germany. She enjoyed this role very much, felt happy about the fact that she had credentials to prove and that her skills were needed.
But: It was always part-time and it was always freelancing. While others might prefer that as it offers a lot of flexibility, Flor kept feeling in limbo, secretly longing for a full-time, corporate position. Although she was working, it did not feel exactly “serious” to her. It was still not the same feeling that she had with her job before moving to the United States. Although this happened so many years ago, the idea of this corporate lifestyle was still in her head and also close to her heart.
Even though she was working in a field she loved the people around her did not give her the acknowledgment for that. She kept hearing the line “I know you teach Spanish but when do you get back to your real job?” And while she kept answering, that this is the real job she will experience the same conversation all over again with her German friends after changing career paths again.
The big turnaround
Then Corona happened. Many of us are affected economically and professionally – so was Flor. Her husband got laid off and had to move back to the US for his new work. That was a huge trigger for Flor. Suddenly she found herself in the role of becoming the potential breadwinner for the family. It was a difficult time.
She suddenly felt very vulnerable. This happened in a country where she thought it will never happen. They had three kids now, she just started another business where she put up a platform by herself to teach Spanish. She had clients and was sitting in front of the computer all day. She felt exhausted and decided she wanted a more challenging job and at the same time was more aligned with who she is. She started all over again, doing many certifications online for training on equity, diversity, and inclusion. With her law background, she was always interested in human rights. It was time to change not only career paths but also to get back to corporate and a financially safer environment. While she was longing for this corporate job there was still this one big question to answer: What job to do?
What job to do?
Flor kept looking for the common threat. What did all the roles have in common over the last centuries? What was the common ground between her position as a lawyer and the one as a teacher? Finally, she realized: “I need to work with people.” She gets her energy out of helping and connecting people and sharing knowledge. Hence, she wanted to use that as selection criteria.
She started applying for a vast number of positions. Everything from teaching, to legal assistance to diversity and inclusion managing jobs. As an added complication she knew that they will move back to the US at some point. Her husband got a job there and they have been living in a split family situation since fall 2020. Like many expat families, they wanted to wait till the kids finished their school year and it was also a good way to find out whether this job was worth moving the whole family around the globe.
The long path of rejections
So while her husband was lucky enough to find another job right away, Flor was already down the path of finding a corporate, full-time job so the thought of going back to independent teaching did not occur to her. While teaching was a beautiful experience for as she is telling me, the process of her husband being laid off triggered something inside her that she did not want to suppress again. She went down the long path of applications and with that the endless number of rejections. The reasons were manifold. Sometimes her profile did not match the job description, sometimes she was overqualified and the company felt not comfortable hiring her. Once she had 5 interviews with one company only to hear at the very end that her CV missing focus for them. “After 5 interviews I thought I got the job but then they said: We don’t know what to do with you. Your CV is like the CV of Forest Gump. There are so many achievements that we don’t really know where your focus is.”
The peacock CV
Flor used a beautiful expression in our interview. She told me that her CV looks like a rainbow or like a peacock. You have all these colorful career paths. And the beauty of this colorful CV is hard to grasp for someone who has never lived abroad. People who do not live a global lifestyle often have a very linear CV and tend to put you in the profession that you have studied.
For her, that was the moment she realized that her life went down a different path than HR departments were looking for. However, she also knew that she could not be the only one. She has written four applications per night. Each time customizing the CV and Cover Letter to increase her chances. Each time investing so much time and energy into that process. However, none of these applications provided her the dream position she is working in right now that moment I talk to her.
So, what happened? What ended the exhausting process of applying for jobs online?
At the end of the day, it was networking. Period. We keep telling us that networking is important and I am stressing it a lot in my coaching and mastermind groups. But we need to remind ourselves that networking is more than a buzzword. Networking is a real opportunity if you shift your time and energy from browsing through open spots on LinkedIn to volunteering, expanding your network, reaching out to others, accept that up of coffee request and communicate to the outside world that you are looking for a new challenge. Flor puts it together beautifully with this quote:
“Sometimes we underestimate the power of networking. We just think we are just chatting with each other but it is more. It is building a relationship and something will come out of there.”
Flor also started volunteering online. Sometimes in a board, sometimes in the role of an ambassador. Always oriented to the global lifestyle topic. She was always involved and always meeting with people. What a difference to the 25-year-old Flor who was lonely and restricted to the exhausting role of a mother with restricted social life.
Her path to success
Over 1 month in her new job Flor is incredibly happy to have this new opportunity. She is exhausted in a positive way as her new role as a Diversity and Inclusion Global Consultant gives her so much energy and the opportunity to learn and grow. She is working with very different clients so none day is like the other. And another great aspect of her new work: She can do it remotely. She will take it with her after moving to the States in a couple of months and there is no need to reinvent herself again. Such a beautiful end to our story, right?
Looking back at the path she took to get to this point in her life her Top 3 tips for other expat women are not surprising but so important:
I am beyond grateful that Flor reached out to me and shared her story with us. It is such a powerful message she is sending out there! For me, she is a real role model and I am happy that this platform allowed me to meet her. Flor, I wish you all the best for your upcoming move. You have impressed me deeply with your attitude and your energy! She will be reunited with her husband soon but at the same time, her oldest son will stay in Germany to finish school and start his life as a young adult in this world. Without knowing you I want to wish you all the best and congratulate you on this big step! Being raised in a multi-cultural global family is the best preparation for life I can think of and if you come to Munich one day I hope you say hi.
Thank you very much Flor for sharing your story with us. If you have questions or want to know more please do not hesitate to reach out to her. You can find all her information in the infobox at the beginning of this text.
Also, there is a whole section of other inspirational Role Models! You find all the stories here. Also, you can also join our free global coffee dates and meet role models in the real, digital life or one of our next wonderful Mastermind Groups starting again in September 2021.