Career Planning for expat partners

New insights from my latest expat partner survey march 2019

I already shared some external surveys about the Expat Partner to tell the story of who she is (yes, it’s mainly female partners) and what obstacles she is facing. You will find a summary of some of the most useful statistics & surveys here. In this post, I want to share with you the results of my very own survey I did with about 200 expat partners around the world. Interestingly enough, most of them are already living abroad for more than 5 years have already been through the ups and downs of becoming home on the other side of the planet. I have asked them about their job situation, work permit situation and how they are evaluating their career after moving abroad. In the following, I will share my top 5 learnings as well as an infographic with more details. Let’s start right away: 

My top 5 learnings about expat partner career planning

1. the work permit is not the only limiting factor to create a fulfilling professional life

In this survey, only 50% of Expat Partners had a valid work permit for the host country. Interestingly enough there was no direct correlation between working abroad and having a work permit. 20% of Expat Partners who managed to continue their career abroad do not have a valid work permit. 60% of Expat Partners who are still looking for a job had a work permit right away – the rest is still waiting or is hoping for a sponsor. Over 20% of Expat Partners who have a work permit are not at all interested in using it but prefer to stay home with kids or dedicate their time for new projects and hobbies. 

This also matches the different conversations I had with expat partners around the world. When we move abroad we tell ourselves that this work permit is the glory entry ticket! If you are in a bad mood because you are still hoping for a work permit know that there are already things you can do to! The work permit is of course one essential piece of paper but just by possessing this paper, one is not automatically welcomed to the local job market. My tip: Use the time to explore! Start with a new hobby, learn a new skill, connect with other people, and most of all take your time and reflect on what it is you really want. You will find more tips in my career workbook for expat partners and I can also recommend you this value exercise as a first step (sign-up for the Share the Love Newsletter and I will send you the exercise template right away. 

2. Expat partner who managed to continue their career are much more confident and feel more independent

This might sound like a no-brainer, but it was still very fascinating to see that there is a clear correlation between continuing your career abroad and feeling independent and confident with your skills. In my experience, it is due to the fact that you are still in the flow, get acknowledgment by colleagues, your boss, and your projects on a daily basis. With a career gap due to motherhood or moving abroad (or both) we get disconnected to our past successes and tend to forget about our achievements. I always recommend my clients to keep track of accomplishments by saving them in a digital folder or writing it into a dedicated booklet. This will not only help you to remind yourself of your strengths for your future job interview but also is vital for your confidence. 

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3. Expat partners who are not working are much more defined by their career

In total, having a career is only partially defining for expat partners. Asked on a scale from 1 to 100% on how much they are defined by career the average answer was 60%. However, when I singled out the ones who are still looking for a job the scale was at 74% compared to the ones that have been able to continue their career abroad right away (35%).

Interesting isn’t it? My conclusion (also from the talks I have with Expat Partners in general) is that we are often defined by things we do NOT have. Things get much more important to us when they are missing and are taken more for granted when available. 

interview, start-up, get a job, job hunt

4. Worrying about future career peaks in Year 2 abroad

Women who have been abroad less than 1 year are far less concerned about their future career plans or what others may think about their choices than women who are abroad between 3-5 years. The good news: The degree of concern decreases again for those living abroad over 5 years having arranged themselves, changed their plans or found something new that is fulfilling. 

5. expat partners have the same skillset than successful managers

Asked for the top 3 skills successful and happy expat partner need on their journey these 3 popped up the most: Open-mindedness, flexibility, and adaptability (to host culture). 

Some skills mentioned reminded me a lot of skills that managers need in their daily life. The top 10 list is too good not to share so here it is: 

Here are all the key findings in one chart. Please feel free to share!

expat, survey, results, employment, career, expat partner

I would love to know where you see yourself! Let me know in the comments below or send me a direct message to Please keep in mind that the duration of being abroad is heavily influencing how you are evaluating your job situation. Especially within the first year, you might feel a bit overwhelmed and disempowered thinking about the career you gave up to move abroad. Time will tell you how to move on. I am coaching expat partners to help them find their new professional identity abroad. If you want to know more about that go here or send me a message. I find it essential to not lose your trust and confidence in yourself and your skills! You have been valuable before moving abroad, you are valuable right now, and you will be even more valuable after moving back or to another country. However, we are always communicating with other people and are sharing our stories. It is your job, to remind you of who you are and where you want to go so that others see the same in you and get the story right. Check out my other posts about working abroad and re-inventing yourself  for further information. 

Thanks for sharing the love and stopping by

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

One Response

  1. Very insightful. I am in my second year of being an expat wife and feeling quite lost in terms of finding meaningful employment. Tricky situation especially with young children and finding a balance between work and family.

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One Response

  1. Very insightful. I am in my second year of being an expat wife and feeling quite lost in terms of finding meaningful employment. Tricky situation especially with young children and finding a balance between work and family.

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