By July 31, 2010 0 Comments Read More →

Interview: Jo Parfitt about women on the move

Jo Parfitt, expat author of A Career in Your Suitcase and Expat Entrepreneur: How To Create and Maintain Your Own Portable Career Anywhere In The World, is an expert on creating a career that you can pack up and take with  you wherever you go. Today’s technology certainly makes it easier to work from home than ever before. But technology can’t take away the burden of finding your passion and turning it into a career. Jo was kind enough to answer some questions for Parenting While Abroad about how to do just that.

So many women feel lost after a move abroad. At first it’s exciting and new, but after a few months this wears off. How can a woman find her passion while living abroad and adapt her former career to her new life?

In my experience many women get involved in marriage and motherhood and an original choice of career and then emerge in their mid thirties when the children start school thinking, ‘heck, who am I? What do I want?’ I think this happens to many women in their thirties and men, a little later, as the children leave home. When a woman moves abroad, following her husband, usually, this realization can come sooner and and can feel like a punch in the stomach. It is common to wake up one day wondering who you are and when this happens the first step is to find out what you love to do most. There are many ways to achieve this elusive goal. Coaches often offer returning to work programs that will include an element of personal discovery. I even ran one myself once and called it Find Your Passion. This workshop still runs, led by Jacinta Noonan, in the Netherlands. If you can’t find a course or a coach then there are lots of books to choose from. Mine, of course, called Find Your Passion, believe it or not, and also What Color Is Your Parachute? by Raymond Bolles, I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was by Barbara Sher and many more. But there is another way. If you can start to be mindful and to pay attention to how you feel throughout the day, you can program yourself to notice what is making you happy, grumpy, tired or fills you with energy. I notice how I love to cook but hate to iron. I’ve written two cookbooks. I love to write and to type but not to do maths – so I am a writer and outsource my accounts! I love connecting people and helping to create opportunities. Once you have found your passion then you need to look at what you want from a career and see if where you now live has a need for your talents. If not locally, then maybe in cyberspace. In a nutshell, the first three steps you need to take are to 1) find your passion 2) find a niche and 3) put the two together.

In your experience, what are the three biggest hurdles women have to overcome and how can they overcome them?

Firstly, being a stranger in a new place means you have no support system. Even something as simple as a babysitter can be just what you need to kick start your career. To surmount this you need to learn to ask for what you want and to keep on asking til you find it. Ask online, ask at expat help desks, ask existing expats who know your location, ask ex-expats who have been before you. Join a network, get out there and ask.

Secondly, moving abroad is exhausting emotionally. You have so much new to take on board that one of the worst thing about culture shock is the crushing tiredness that can go with it. It can take a year to get back on an even keel. So, be kind to yourself. Read about culture shock, books by Robin Pascoe are superb, and understand what is happening and know that this too will pass. Take it slowly. Manage your expectations.

Thirdly, there can be huge problems with lack of work permits, a foreign language and impenetrable bureacracy in a new country. Sometimes these issues can mean that ‘normal’ work is impossible, so you have to ask, again, and find your own solution. You need to be flexible, to work with the system, rather than against it, and maybe adapt your objectives to fit your location. Maybe you can take this time to study or volunteer or learn a new skill?

I have often had women say that they believe they have become too dependent on their children for a sense of self worth and accomplishment while living abroad. How can women avoid this? Are there any tell tale signs that this has occurred? And how can women reverse it if it has occurred?

Yep, it’s true. And when abroad your family unit becomes you support network and so often you all become more dependent on each other than ever. When the children flee the nest it is very important that the void does not come as a total shock and that you are ill prepared to fill it. So take steps in good time to find things to occupy your time and that inspire you before they nest is empty. Voluntary work is terrific for this. It can increase your skills and provide you with a readymade set of friends. Or, like me, keep on working throughout. We were in Dubai when my first child was born and I have never taken a week off work (unless we were on holiday). I only taught French conversation from home for one hour a week back then, but I did something and as the kids grew so did my working hours.

You can learn more about Jo and her work on her website.

Posted in: For Moms, Identity

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