#GlobalMobility #3: The international couple: How to tackle dual career issues in international assignments

Monica is a career woman. She is successful until the day when her husband gets an offer for an international assignment to Switzerland. First, she cannot work as their two children of 4 and 6 need to get used to their new school / kindergarden. Once the kids feel settled and the new apartment is fully furnished, Monica starts looking for a job. She finds out that she has the wrong residence and work permit (the L-permit) and that her résumé gets rejected instantly. Her great experience is a corporate inhouse lawyer of more than fifteen years is suddenly worth nothing. Her former company did not want to lose her so they gave her a return option. Monica calls her former boss and asks if she can do freelance work so that at least she stays up to speed in her field.

After speaking to more lawyers she finds out that she is not an exception. Many of them work in roles that do not exactly match their experience. Then after a year Monica finally finds a role in an international corporation. A year later her husband is offered a new role in the Middle East. The discussion starts afresh.

Do you recognize yourself in this story? I have met many Monicas over the last few years especially in Switzerland, the haven for international corporations. One of the issues in my coaching sessions that comes up a lot is that women easily give up their career to move abroad with their husband. Sometimes I hear similar stories from men, but they are a lot less. Often the woman loses her professional identity which is an important part of her and feels lost for a while. Sometimes companies help with career coaching, often the woman is on her own, left alone, depressed and the relationship suffers.

Another issue is a lack of communication on the part of the assignee’s company. Sometimes women move here and find out what their work permit entails. An L-permit in Switzerland can be converted into a work permit but it is often harder to apply for a job with this permit type.

Many women or “trailing spouses” do not know how to convert their résumé so that it fits Swiss standards. The HR recruiters on the other side do not have enough international experience to “read” an international résumé.

What can you do, when you in such a situation?

1)   Gather as much information about your host labor market as possible.

2)   Find professional advice on how to adapt your résumé to the local market.

3)   Define your transferrable and global skills.

4)   Discuss freelancing with your former employer before you quit.

5)   Get a return ticket to your former employer.

6)   Discuss with your spouse how your career will benefit from the move.

7)   Agree on a long-term vision of both of your careers and how they will fit in your life plan.

What is your view?


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