Giving up a job and putting a career on hold is a big deal under any circumstance. Doing it to follow your significant other and become ‘an accompanying partner on expat assignment’ is a huge decision. Not only are you giving up your livelihood and sense of independence, you also enter the unknown in terms of how to continue your career in the future.

For most of us, getting the chance to move to a foreign country and learn about its people, culture, food and language is positive and exciting. It offers a welcome life change and opens up opportunities that may otherwise not be within reach.

Regardless of how excited you are about an international relocation, for accompanying partners there is a real concern about what will happen to their careers and future employability. 90% of spouses are working before relocation and only some 35% work after the relocation. These statistics emphasize that making a career change in a foreign country comes with some roadblocks and hurdles. What is important to remember is that these hurdles can be navigated and overcome. Making a career plan is a great way to ensure you can get to where you want to be.

Your initial roadblock might be to obtain a work permit. Getting a work permit can take time and sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. Before you panic about the possibility of not getting a work permit, know that there are ways other than outright employment to gain meaningful work experience and life fulfillment. Having said that, seeking the advice of a legal expert is a good idea if you want to do everything you can to get a work permit. The Permits Foundation has useful information for accompanying partners.

Other roadblocks include a lack of relevant work experience in the new country, which, coupled with not being fluent in the local language, can prove to be big a barrier. Depending on your line of work you may also face field specific certification hurdles, which is often true for medical professions, for example.

Once you have identified your hurdles, take some time to think about both your long- and short-term career goals and make a plan for how to achieve them. Consider that the steps you take are your way of managing your career, be it by going back to school, volunteering or networking, for example.

Globiana’s digital platform is a great place to start if you need a little help getting going with career planning. Globiana offers both personal and professional development support for accompanying partners. There is a host of courses that offer practical steps you can take, and exercises to help with overcoming roadblocks and goal setting for example. Take a look here for more information.    

Globiana also offers professional career coaching services. Not only can a career coach be instrumental in fine-tuning your goals and provide the tools you need to reach them, but can also assist with resume writing and identifying appropriate networking opportunities.

Additional sources for help and inspiration include joining professional associations specific to your field, and online services like LinkedIn. There are many online expat communities, which will often have forums for information exchange (see below for some links). Also, don’t underestimate the power of speaking to those who have gone before you – make sure to talk to people who have gone through international relocation and made career changes, ask them about their experiences.

Lastly, remember that a well crafted career plan is a great tool to use to achieve your goals as it is based on your experience and interests, your strengths and limitations. Volunteering is one way to take care of many goals at once, because if you choose volunteer work that fits your long-term plan it can serve as a place to make professional connections, learn vital skills, improve language and build confidence – all while doing some good in the world! In addition, volunteering takes care of the problem of having long gaps in your resume. Also, let’s not forget that it’s beneficial on a personal level as well – it’s a great way to meet people and make friends!

By: Felicia Shermis

Online resources:


Expatriate Connection

Expat Infodesk

Mum & Career

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