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The fact that so many expats feel that they are the only one out there who is struggling is concerning.
That’s why in the next two weeks Expat Happy Hour will feature real-life individuals who are going through the same things you are so that you can see that you’re not alone.
Today’s volunteer will sound familiar to many: expat, wife and mother who is desperate to find her way back to her career and most importantly her purpose.
What You’ll Discover in this Episode:
- The assumption many accompanying partners make that leads to shock and disappointment when they move abroad
- How you can stop feeling overwhelmed and get back a sense of control
- Where to start when you are feeling stuck in your career
- The question to start asking to move yourself forward
- What most accompanying partners fail to do
I am confident that by listening closely you are sure to even hear yourself. Experiment with the approach demonstrated in this episode to get unstuck and rediscover purpose.
Listen to the Full Episode:
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Featured on the Show:
- How to Land the Right Job Abroad – Even When It’s Complicated https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGORY_wq_QU
Don’t miss this opportunity to get coached by Sundae – for FREE.
Full Episode Transcript:
Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour, this is Sundae Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I am a solution-oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.
One thing that I hear over and over from clients is the phrase; “I thought I was the only one” and this shocks me because consistently I share about themes I’ve noticed over a decade and still there are people who think they are alone.
So I am bringing in the next few weeks a series of real-life individuals who are going through things, probably just like you, so you can see that you’re not alone. And we’re going to do this in a really interesting way.
So here’s what’s happening.
I have a wonderful volunteer with me today, her name is Alex Ibragimova. I don’t know anything about Alex. We just hopped on the phone five minutes ago, all I know is one line of one thing that she would like support on and that’s it, the rest of what you’re going to hear is all spontaneous all live, all unpracticed, we will see what happens and I have a hunch if you listen closely you might even hear yourself.
Sundae: Welcome to Expat Happy Hour.
Alex: Hello, thank you for having me here.
Sundae: Alex, you’re such a champ for just hopping on with me. We’ve never worked together, we’ve never actually spoken together, so this is a fun experiment. I’m curious, have you ever had coaching before?
Alex: No, I had a lots of therapy, but I have never had coaching before.
Sundae: Okay, well, we’ll just see how it goes. Let’s do it, let’s dive right in. Tell me, we’ve got about 20 minutes together, you said that your career is non-existent. Are you hungry for a career?
Alex: Off course, I started working right after university. And before we moved to Vietnam, I used to work in a part of a local Ministry in Russia in my field. I never thought is going to be so difficult to find anything else, certainly the language barrier was there but you know also the fact that I got pregnant and didn’t have a smooth pregnancy and childbirth influenced a lot. So yeah for now, I haven’t really had a career for let’s say, almost three years and it is very hard.
Sundae: What I hear you say I hear from a lot of people:
One, you had no idea how hard it was going to be, you were not prepared for that, I totally get that, that’s a shock like a blow in the face.
The other thing is that you not only had a change in your job situation from employed to not employed, you became a mother and you moved abroad.
Alex: Yes and the culture is so very different from my own culture from anywhere I have ever been.
Sundae: What’s the hardest part about that, this massive transition on so many levels culturally.
Alex: I don’t even know what was the hardest part, I think everything effectively and that led to massive depression, postpartum depression that lasted for two years. I still am getting through, you know, it’s still a bit down, but I think I’m out of the woods but you know, nevertheless I think it affected me a lot that I only had to stay home taking care of my family because I view myself as a qualified professional and I feel like I could make a better impact. Especially because you know in my field, the environmental field, it’s rarely that people are going because they only want money, its because people maybe want to make difference and I too want to make something nice for the planet.
So yeah, that was hard to realize, that I don’t have a goal anymore in my career and I don’t have any certainty and I don’t even know how I’m gonna restart my career. I feel desperate because you know, after three years of not working in my field it will be very difficult to give it some, you know Stars.
Sundae: Well what I hear is there’s massive loss right? Not only you know, it’s not about the revenue, you know the money from the job or even the professional experience. It’s around your identity, like “Who am I now if I’m not making an impact?” I hear that, that’s really hard and I also hear that there’s this sense of, you said desperate, “How am I going to get back on track again?”
How would you like to feel if instead of feeling desperate, and let me just tell you I totally get it, I’ve been there myself, I have. 20 years ago when I moved to Switzerland, I gave up everything to for this Swiss guy and I was like, really desperate is a perfect word for that. How would you like to feel instead of desperate?
Alex: Instead of desperate, appreciated, because when you stay at home a mother rarely gets the appreciation they really need and deserve. I would like to feel confident in my future also, and you know just be there outside in my field and you know do something, because I’m stuck.
Sundae: Right, and you know what? I just want you to also know that from a research perspective, what we know is that people with a weak sense of purpose versus a strong sense of purpose have health risks on par or even stronger than obesity or smoking.
So I want you to know that a lack of purpose. if I say it you know just bluntly, is life-threatening. Like that’s it’s not some people feel guilty for wishing for more. You know, you have a roof over your head, you have a healthy child, you probably have a good relationship. Then you start shaming yourself for for wanting more. And I want to tell you it’s biologically programmed in us to have purpose.
Alex: That’s good to know because people have reminded me that I should be grateful for that and I am grateful.
Sundae: Yeah, and right you want more and that’s okay, right?
Okay, so here’s what we can do, we can’t solve the whole thing right now, but what we can do is we can look at what are some things that you can do right now to feel more content or to feel more confident in your future. Would you be interested in brainstorming around one of those?
Alex: Yeah, sure.
Sundae: Okay, so the philosophy is around if I’m starving for contentment or for confidence and I want a job and that will get me there that might happen in a year or 18 months or even three years. So what can I do now until that happens so I can feel more of what I really want?
So let’s brainstorm, there’s no good or bad idea.
Alex: I could try again to volunteer in my field, I could try some activity groups maybe to connect with other people, I can try start my own business, for example, it’s very difficult here in Italy, thanks for taxes that are so high. but let’s say I can start a very small business.
I can maybe even some other field, for now what I have started already is that I did some professional training and it helped me a little bit because of course I’ve dated my knowledge and I also gained a specific qualification which is an auditor and also very specific field. I would also maybe continue with that and I will try to get further like I would like to get certified and try from that side to become an auditor so that I can bring this career to any other country because this is an international organization, International quality standard. I would start reading articles about things going on in my field and not articles only on social media, but more like technical review.
Sundae: So I’m smiling right now, right? I’m smiling right now because 2 minutes ago we talked about how you have this feeling of desperation. And now you’ve just listed six really solid grounded ways to create your future. I just want to acknowledge that that was amazing what you just did. I’ve also done a lot of work with experts in the job career field and what you’ve mentioned are also really from the research perspective and from best practices spot-on.
Alex: Which would be the best thing to do for instance?
Sundae: Okay, so I’m going to push back on that for a second because I’m in coaching mode and not consulting mode. I want you to think about your field, I want you to think about which activity makes your body come alive and will help you spring out of bed in the morning, of the things that you’ve mentioned; Volunteering in your field, joining a group, starting your own business, exploring another field, going further with your professional certification or reading technical literature, which one makes you feel on fire.
Alex: On fire? upgrading my qualification.
Sundae: Okay, fantastic upgrading your qualifications. What has to happen next for you to upgrade your qualifications?
Alex: I am exchanging emails with with organization that is training the Auditors to make those pretty fast, because it’s a two step process first you get your certificate and then you get further qualified for actually performing the audit. So now I am negotiating the conditions and in which country to begin with and then how and when I can start, and this is not very clear. I can maybe write to some other organizations to see whether they have more space because at the time when I approached them, they didn’t yet have anything for me, but maybe now they start to have something.
For now you see we have moved one more time, this time we have moved to Italy and now I’m expecting my residence permit and before before I receive it I cannot leave the country. Now I’m quite limited in the ways I can really upgrade my qualification because I should travel to do so. I’m waiting for their response and maybe because it takes lots of time, it takes some time to arrange that training because they’re limited spaces. So for now I’m doing what I can I think.
Sundae: So on a scale of 0 to 10, zero being I’m making zero effort and 10 being I’m doing all that I can within my power on a scale of 0 to 10. How much are you doing?
Alex: I think I’m doing something between 6 and 7. I could have written another ten emails to the other organization probably.
Sundae: So you’re at a 6 to 7, do you want to be at a 7 or an 8 or are you happy at a 6 to a 7?
Alex: I would like to be maybe 9.
Sundae: Okay, so what has to happen for you to go just plus one one step further?
Alex: To stop bombing them all with the emails, asking them to let me in to, have space to send my CV around.
Sundae: I’m hearing I’m hearing persistence and I’m hearing consistency. I’m also hearing from you, “I’m not going to take no for an answer, I’m going to keep going.” Right, that’s what I’m hearing. Since we’ve been on the phone together, I’ve heard a shift in you. I’ve heard a shift which is not “Can I keep my career going while I live abroad?” to “How can I keep my career going while I live abroad.” Tell me where I’m wrong.
Alex: No, you’re not wrong, I think you’re quite right.
Sundae: Okay, so this is exciting, I’m delighted by how you’ve shown up for yourself to answer this important question because you’ve done it with a lightness and this question can feel really heavy.
Alex: Yes, especially when you’re desperate,
Sundae: Right, and you’ve gone from desperate to persistent in just a few minutes. What has to happen for you to stay consistent more often? If you dig real deep within yourself what has to happen?
Alex: That’s a difficult one, I think I may need more time for myself because while my daughter is in the kindergarten I can only have as many hours and I still have to maintain the household and run the house smooth. So maybe I would have to make time for these specific activities, like a couple of hours in the morning I assign only for sending emails and approaching organizations. Other than that, I don’t think I need anything because you know, there is always something to do in the house, you know, if you don’t make it your time, it will never appear from nowhere because I always have to do something.
Sundae: Yeah, totally. So one of the things I’ve noticed with my clients that has worked over the years is, we call it, PMF (put me first), and it doesn’t mean selfish, that’s really important and I can all share with you a podcast after we talked for a reference on that. But it means putting a high priority first in the day so that it happens and then you do all of the things for your family, for your child, for your partner, for the organization, but you start with you. So your idea about blocking off, you said one to two hours in the morning and using that time to send emails
So are you willing to commit to one or two days of this within this week or next week and report back to me how it went?
Alex: I think I can do that, let me check with my daughter, she’s sick, she won’t be able to go to the kindergarten this week. She might get sick, If not, yes, I think I can do that on Thursday and Friday. If no, I think she will be fine by Monday and I can send her to the kindergarten. So Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday I can do as well.
Sundae: Okay, so my invitation to you is to have two sessions of two hours and then email me celebrating and letting know how it went. Okay?
Alex: Yeah, okay.
Sundae: Alright, so I’m really curious to hear from you.
What are you seeing differently at the end of our call then when we got started?
Alex: I kind of got to think more in a constructive way. Not only like, you know, every time I start thinking about how to boost my career little bit I feel a little bit of panic, you know, because it’s really not easy to look from far and see, you have to do this and that and perhaps try this and you may actually achieve something, because you may get desperate even without trying. That’s what happened sometimes to me, I’m washing dishes and I feel like “Oh no, that’s not going to happen. Nothing is happening,” you know, because I’m not even doing anything and already nothing is happening in my head.
So I am leaving the failure without even you know, let’s say trying and if you think about the steps that you need to do, you know this one two, three, four, not this abstract huge problem, because the problem is huge. When you bring up a little bit and you decide “Oh, this is small task 2 hours” and you can start with that if that’s doable. To make a task to boost my career is undoable.
Sundae: So you must know you went from overwhelming huge problem and you broke it down and that’s why I was so impressed with with you on the call today. I went from desperate to confidently naming appropriate steps. And then from there you broke down one of them into a manageable tasks.
So there you go Alex you’re amazing, that was a taste of coaching for you. I’m gonna Italk to the audience for a second and we’ll get back together after the call.
One of the things that I’m seeing that Alex has done is:
For one, it’s a topic that everybody deals with. So many people, qualified engineers, lawyers, doctors, midwives, environmental scientist, smart educated people who give up that career to say, yes for an adventure abroad, say yes to support their partners life and say yes to kids, and then you get in it and you’re like “What the heck did I do? I gave it all up, and now what?” And you feel this loss of identity, It’s like chopping off your arm and you don’t know if you’ll ever get it back again.
So that is a story that I’ve heard a thousand times.
So for people who are listening and identify with that story, Alex shared that to let you know that you’re not alone.
The other thing I’ve seen is very common is we took something really big and overwhelming and made this shift to more of an agency perspective of what’s possible “What can I do?” not “Will I ever get a career?” but “How can I keep my career going?” and Alex did a great job breaking it down into big picture then micro steps, and made a commitment to take action by next week.
So thank you to Alex for being here.
And for everybody who’s listening to Expat Happy Hour, this is Sundae Schneider-Bean, thank you for being here.
I will leave you with a last thought on how we show up in our lives and deal with big challenges like this with an anonymous quote, “Sometimes strength comes in knowing you’re not alone.”