Few things taste as bitter as humble pie. We all have cringe-worthy moments of pause, where we shudder from acidic disbelief and ask ourselves, “Wait. How did I get here?”
Mine came as I was sweeping bread off the floor at an international school. Broom in hand, I reflected on how far I’d professionally fallen from grace.
“What happened to you? Where’s that high-profile job making more money than all her girlfriends? Now, look at you…”
I can talk about that now, light-years later, repaired and safely on the other side.
This week, I welcome Mandy as she courageously shares her story of trying to find a job in Europe as an accompanying spouse. It’s honest, gut-wrenching, familiar, and (spoiler alert) full of hope.
Mandy’s struggle to secure employment is compounded by the financial pressure that she needs one. Pile on that her marriage has hit a rough patch, plus some stubborn weight gain that makes her feel uncomfortable in her body, and Mandy’s self-esteem has taken multiple hits.
Together, we unravel what’s really going on to respark Mandy’s motivation with facts, optimism, and a plan.
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- Validating self-fulfilling prophecies
- How unemployment destabilizes your identity
- Loosening your moral preferences & doing it how the locals do it
- The proven formula of volume (applications) + time (patience)
- How to shut your amygdala up
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
- Do you need a fresh perspective on a stale problem? My call with Mandy is a benchmark example of what we can achieve in a single intensive coaching session together. I hold a few spots open each month for private, one-off huddles. Get in touch and let’s chat!
- Expat Coach Coalition
- Facebook Business Page – Sundae Schneider-Bean LLC
- Facebook Group – Expats on Purpose
We’re delighted by our recent nomination to the global Top 25 Expat Podcasts!
Full Episode Transcript:
Hello, it is 8 am in New York, 1 am in Johannesburg and 6 pm in Bangkok. Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I’m 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
I remember sweeping up a mix of sushi, Oreos and swiss bread called Züpfe from the floor of the elementary at the international school. I’d only been in the country for a few months and I was asking myself, “What am I doing here?” I just left a high-paying job in the consulting industry to give up everything, move across the world to be with my partner. Let me just tell you this was one of many low moments.
Finding a job abroad can be so hard, I had no idea what I was getting into. In fact people who saw my resume, my experience, my grades, were like, “Oh my God Sundae, no problem, you’ll find a job so easily.” Which was not true, did not match what I faced in Switzerland when I first moved there. I get it; it’s hard, it can bring you to your knees and knock your sense of self-worth right out of you.
And I’ve been on the other side, I know if you do the work and you stay committed that you can find a way to find the job you’ve been hoping for.
So for this episode of Expat Happy Hour I’m doing something special. I’ve invited a guest who is struggling with her job search in Europe. I’m going to let you listen in at a coaching session, which was not practiced, no rehearsal, we just hit record and went for it. And I want you to listen to her story, her struggle and her challenges, because in this interview there was one question I asked her, one thought I challenged her on that changed everything.
And in fact today I got a message which said “Sundae, thank you for that statement that really kept me going, because today I finally got a job, not just a job, but a job at the level and vision for myself at this country.” She said, it was so sweet, she says, “You really have a gift, in just that 30 minutes you change my attitude.”
So I’m sharing this interview with you so you can listen in on what that one question is that changed everything and inspire you to keep going so you can find your job abroad.
Sundae: All right, so Mandy, you’ve got my full attention to the next 25 minutes. What has to happen in the next 25 minutes for you to say. “Wow, that was really worth my time.”
Mandy: That’s a really good question, I don’t know, I guess, so I think right now I’m just completely frustrated with like a million aspects of where I am, you know what I mean? And I’m like, I’m normally a very ambitious person. So like I moved here and I was like, “I’m going to be an expat, I’m going to be the expat that I can.” I was active in some expat groups, now I’m president of the group like, I’m one of those people.
So lately I’ve had like the perfect storm of, like I need a job, I seemingly can’t find a job. I’ve been looking for a job for forever and I really wasted a lot of time because I was applying for entry-level positions. We have like 15 plus years of experience in the United States mostly with International Companies, but I was thinking it didn’t really matter. And then I finally put a spreadsheet together and looked at all the job titles I was applying to and nobody, at the lower positions which were the ones that I was really focusing on, nobody was calling me. So now I’ve flipped the switch and I’m applying to things like HR manager, HR business partner.
But then there’s like the language and or experience in Germany problem. So that’s just really frustrating that I’m like starting at 0 again, you know what I mean?
Sundae: Yeah, I’ve been there, I’ve been there. In fact, I did the same thing you did, I applied lower than my level and everybody said I was overqualified and when I started applying for things I thought were too high for me I started getting job interviews.
Mandy: Exactly, exactly.
Sundae: So what is the one thing you would like clarity on?
Mandy: I guess at this point it’s like self-motivation. Like I didn’t apply to any jobs today. I haven’t, so I had like one big huge interview for a job that I would literally probably possibly if not kill, maim somebody for and I’m just kind of like sitting back.
The unemployment office has gifted me with six job coaching sessions I think could be really really beneficial because again my field is human resources, so I have some opinions and some strong opinions about applications, interviews, etc. that may not be valid. Or I may need to think about other things and I’m open to that. You know what I mean? Like I could be too stuck in my ways due to that being my profession.
Sundae: Right, now Mandy help me understand, how long are you going to be in Germany? Is this a forever thing? Is this two to three years? Tell me more.
Mandy: So my marriage is not fantastic at all, my parents are not getting any younger. I’m not sure. Definitely the next two years I would say, but I think you know like the pressure to get a job is pretty serious because my husband has a lot of debt and I have some savings that I’m currently living on. He doesn’t pay my expenses and I don’t pay his so and when we’ve had financial problems before it’s made the relationship that much worse.
Sundae: Right, so you said what you would like support on is self-motivation. It sounds like you’re getting strategic help, like how do you get a job in Germany, that sort of thing but the selfishness hard. When you say self-motivation, what would it look like on a regular day or regular week if you were self-motivated?
Mandy: I guess like I’m in a rut, like I had been applying to like, I don’t know ten jobs a week, something like that. And I recently injured my back, I can’t go to the gym, so that’s I mean, I think that that’s part of it, is not getting that exercise because that really energizes me and you know makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. But before it was like maybe applying to like ten jobs a week sometimes more.
I know I need to volunteer, one that’s important to me, especially when I have the time and two, I think it looks good on your resume that you’re not like sitting on your butt. And it’s a matter of motivating just to make a call. Like I had been working at of food shelter, what are they called? A food bank. And then that I quit because the supervisor was just nasty and I was like, “Wait, I really don’t need to be yelled at.” Which looks terrible, but so it is.
I guess it’s just like advice on like getting out of a rut, like I know I need to get my butt in gear on a number of things, so like steps to take to sign up for this job coaching, have them take a look at my resume, etc. I need to find something constructive to do with my time, some type of a volunteer thing, and I’m just not doing it.
Sundae: Right, so the strategies are not the question, it’s the motivation to implement them. So tell me, this is probably not the first right you’ve ever been in your life. I want you to think back over the years, think of another time you’ve been in a rut. And that rut might have lasted a week and might have lasted a month and might have lasted a year. Let me know when you’ve got one.
Mandy It’s a good question, I mean sort of I think that, yeah, sort of, yep I’ve got one.
Sundae: Okay, so you’ve got that time, just give me a ballpark figure was it a year ago, was it five years ago, two weeks ago, what’s this rut? Don’t tell me about the rut, I just want you to think about the timing, how long ago was it?
Mandy: Probably two years ago.
Sundae: Okay, so tell me, think back to the rut, and you were there and you knew it, you know you’re in a rut now. What was one of the first things that you did that got you a little unstuck?
Mandy: I think I got a job.
Sundae: What happened before you got the job, to get the job?
Mandy: Well, I applied to jobs and interviews, yeah, I think it was actually a similar situation.
Sundae: So I’m hearing that you’re going to get out of the rut when when things tick, when something connects. But how did you keep applying? What was going on there? How did you Keep moving forward?
Mandy: Well I think at that point, and I guess that’s also tied to my marriage, because at that point my husband was unbearable and I was like, “I need to get out and I need to be self-sufficient.”
Sundae: So what I’m hearing is what worked then is you were crystal clear on, kind of like your big why or why you’re doing something or why this goal is worth the effort, tell me where I’m wrong?
Mandy: I don’t know, I mean like right now I mean it is the same thing, like I’m terrified that I won’t be able to find a job.
Sundae: So when you’re terrified that you’re not going to find a job, how do you behave?
Mandy: Apparently like an idiot.
Sundae: But what do you do when you’re terrified, when you believe the thought “I’m not going to get a job.” What do you do?
Mandy: I think when I think I’m not going to get a job, I think why bother applying.
Sundae: Right, why bother, then you don’t apply, what else?
Mandy: Well, and then I think that that turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy because I’m not applying so then I’m not getting calls for interviews.
Sundae: Right, so you’re believing the thought “I’m not going to get a job”
So let’s play with that little bit. You can go back to believing that after our call, but right now I’m just gonna play.
“I’m not going to get a job.” We’re going to do a little process here, just give me yes or no, is that true? “I’m not going to get a job.”
Sundae: Is it like scientifically true, one hundred percent true, yes, or no “I’m not going to get a job?”
Sundae: Okay, good, so how do you feel? Who do you become when you believe the thought “I’m not going to get a job?”
Mandy: I feel worthless, I don’t know like sad. I’ve thought about it strategically, if I really can’t get a job here do I move back to the States? But being in Germany for six-plus years isn’t exactly fantastic for my résumé either.
Sundae: Right, so you’re like thinking you feel worthless, sad, you kind of think about exit strategies.
How do you behave when you believe the thought “I’m not going to get a job?”
Mandy: I don’t put effort in, or as much effort into it, because I guess it doesn’t make sense. I mean, I think you’re right, I think you’re totally right on this line of thinking because yeah, you know just like I’m not going to try to push my house across the street, you know, that’s not gonna happen.
Sundae: Right, so let’s just play. Who would you be without the thought “I’m not going to get a job?”
Mandy: I don’t know that I understand that.
Sundae: Okay, so if I had a magic wand where I could go into your brain and zap out the synapses that fire, zap out the synapses that allow you to think the thought “I’m not going to get a job.” If it was physically impossible for you to think that thought, who would you be without that thought? “I’m not going to get a job.”
Mandy: I would probably have the same level of motivation as I did when I graduated or when I completed my writer building as personal reference and I was like on top of the world. And oh my God, I did that in German and I was I was feeling some success.
Recently I’ve gained some weight of unknown cause and I think, so I was recently at an endocrinologist, I’ve been to the doctor, the regular doctor, the gynecologist and then they referred me to an endocrinologist. And this is despite going to the gym like six days a week. So I think that that, also like there’s like a feeling of being out of control with that, that maybe might be part of it as well. But when you don’t feel comfortable in your own body, and you also don’t have that like, working out an hour, hour and a half six days a week and doing things like cutting out alcohol and nothing. So I think that might be the timing I had, I hadn’t actually really put that together, but the timing could be part of it too.
Sundae: Yeah, well I just want to say I mean first of all I’ve been unemployed in Europe, I understand how hard that is. I’ve gone from graduating with honors, being paid more than any of my friends, to without a job. I understand how destabilizing that is for your identity and how you feel like the ground has been put out from under you, it can feel really out of control. And on top of that you’ve got this unknown weight gain, it adds to the feeling of loss of control, I get that, that’s hard, that’s really hard.
So what the first thing I want to just stay here is, I want you to step back and see yourself, what you’re going through. I always talk about Olympic level challenges, you’re in year six of living abroad, people think that the longer you live abroad, the easier it gets, it can get harder. You’ve learned a language, you’ve gotten another certificate, you’ve done another training, you’re dealing with a marriage that is challenging, you are looking for work and you’re having this health issue.
I want you to just step back and see how strong you are for still carrying these things.
Mandy: Thanks, but I really never put together the weight gain and the lack of motivation, but I think that it could be that because that’s why I said to my doctor was like I feel like I’m out of control. Normally when you eat less and exercise more you lose weight, period end of story.
Sundae: Yeah, so you got a lot going on.
Okay, so let’s just look at the thought, the thought just from, let’s step back on the meta level, the thought “I’m not going to get a job.” Creates emotion, like sadness and feelings of worthlessness. They create behaviors where you stop putting effort into your search and you start thinking about an exit strategy.
This might compound some health issues that you’re having and that leads to the impact of less motivation, fewer job applications, etc. This is that chain reaction.
Let’s just play for example, “I’m not going to get a job.” We’re going to do what’s called a turnaround. What’s the opposite of “I’m not going to get into any get a job?”
Mandy: I’m going to get a job.
Sundae: Okay, so now again just play with me here. Give me two or three examples of “How I’m going to get a job.” Is as true or truer than the original thought “I’m not going to get a job.”
Mandy: So Germany’s unemployment is low.
Sundae: Yeah, that’s a good example, tell me another example.
Mandy: I’ve had interviews, I’m waiting for this dream job and an answer there. So I have had interviews for jobs and there are jobs out there that I’m qualified for.
Sundae: Good, just go for it.
Mandy: I guess it isn’t really realistic to think that I would be unemployed for the rest of my life.
Sundae: Your amygdala, the fear center of your brain is trying to protect you and make you be safe. But when you step back from that you see that right?
I’m hearing two things from you. It’s a matter of volume, like applying to the right jobs and it’s a matter of time. And I’m also hearing like with the strategies, if you’re applying the strategies that work in Germany, not just any strategy, it’s a matter of volume.
Mandy: Well, I refuse to put my picture on a resume I do, I know that’s bad.
Sundae: Yeah in Germany you need to do what the Germans do.
Mandy: Yeah, I actually had had an appointment with a photographer and then I canceled it, I probably should do that.
Sundae: I’m hearing that underlying thing, coming from the US and being from HR and understanding what they ask you to do in Germany, I’m guessing that there’s an ethical resistance to what I asked you to do in Germany.
Mandy: I blacked out with a sharpie when I got electronic resumes with pictures I would print them, black out the picture with a sharpie and then physically hand it to the hiring manager.
Sundae: So there’s two there’s two themes emerging, one is the thought “I’m not going to get a job.” Is creating a sense of worthlessness, sadness, exit strategies and less effort. If you believe the thought “I am going to get a job.” Which is true or as true, based on the low unemployment in Germany, the fact that you’ve had interviews, the fact that you’re qualified and that it just isn’t possible that you would be unemployed for the rest of your life if you’ve got a background. That there’s that dynamic, so I’m seeing that dynamic playing a role in your life.
So what I would suggest as homework, is that you go one step further and you look at the thought “I am going to get a job.” And you write down, you brainstorm ten pieces of evidence of how that is as true or truer. And what we’re doing is your fear center of your brain, the amygdala is sending out fear signals and it’s like we need to give it evidence to make it know that it’s safe.
Mandy: I like that, we did that in our intention setting.
Sundae: Yeah, so that is that’s your assignment. I want you to do that because what I’m seeing is you’re believing a thought that is not as true as the one that’s going to serve you.
And then the other thing I’m seeing, just separate from this, from an intercultural perspective. I’m seeing a resistance to do it like they do it in Germany, and that might be slowing down this process for you. There’s probably lots of things that you’re doing that’s speeding up the process. This might be one thing that is slowing it down.
Mandy: Yeah, I don’t know if I can do that though.
Sundae: Yeah, that’s your choice. I’m just putting that out there, there are things that I’ve had to do in Switzerland that don’t feel right by default. And part of Intercultural competence development is through the adaptation. So where are you willing to adapt so that you can get a result that is appropriate, satisfactory and effective.
So if I hear that you’re resisting the German way to apply for jobs, that might make you feel satisfied because you’re not putting the picture. It might not be effective for your goals. So how can you find a way that you can feel that you’re engaging in the interview process and the application process that is for both sides, not just one, also you. For both sides effective, appropriate and satisfactory, that’s the right cultural challenge.
So, I mean that’s another assignment I want you to think about, is look at the measure of Intercultural competence in the most basic form. Is it appropriate, satisfactory and effective? And just see when you go to your coach for the jobs and you get the advice from the experts in the local market, how can you tweak what you’re doing so for you and for them it’s appropriate, satisfactory and effective.
Mandy: I will do that.
Sundae: Okay, so you’re invited to do that homework and then you send me an update in like a week and let me know what’s going on.
Mandy: I will do, I really appreciate your time, thank you so much.
Sundae: Okay Mandy, you are welcome.
Before we go just give me quick feedback. What are you taking away from today’s session that wasn’t as clear as when we started.
Mandy: I want to say the connection to my health, that was like a lightbulb moment. it’s the same thing like, you know applying to all these jobs and not getting results is very similar to going to the gym and not eating sweets and cutting out alcohol and not getting any results or getting a negative result.
I would say that, I hadn’t really thought about it from like a brain or like a physiological standpoint that you can retrain your brain if you consciously say, “I will get a job, I’m going to get a job.” You can reset those negative thoughts that you’re having.
Sundae: Exactly, so give it a go, let me know how it goes and if you want to you’re invited to send me an update in a week and let me know how it’s going.
So there you have it, there’s your sneak peak between the two of us and her journey, I know how hard that feels and I know the delight when you get on the other side. So I hope that you take away from this Insider’s view of our coaching session that you should be careful of your thoughts when you’re going through the challenge of finding a job abroad or any big endeavor, because you are just one thought away from persevering.
You have been listening to Expat Happy Hour, thank you for listening.
I will leave you with the words of Bryant McGill, “Your future begins with your next thought.”