ABC of Expat Woman’s Life: J – Job Anno 2013

ABC of Expat Woman’s Life: J – Job Anno 2013

It is amazing how the concept of work has changed over the last decades with more and more people deciding to leave a "safe" position in order to pursue their dream, mission, or passion.

I have seen many people quitting their jobs and going abroad to start fresh: to set up their own business, to become writers, artists etc. I myself changed my career to become a coach.

So, how come so many people want to change their professional lives? What motivates them to "deny" safety and stability, even temporarily?

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Have you heard about Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs? His theory offers a great model that I believe can clearly illustrate the above-mentioned phenomenon.

Maslow identifies 5 distinct levels of human needs. Let’s try to "transform" them to career-related motivation.

When I work with my clients, we aim for the highest level - namely, the self-actualization - but let me first explain how people make their journey through the other levels too by starting from the bottom of the pyramid:

 Physiological needs

We all need a job to cover our main basic needs: hunger, thirst, a roof above our head... Then and only then we are able to go one step higher.


The next level in the "pyramid of needs" is safety. OK, you have food on your plate and you are in a position to pay your bills but is that enough? Don’t you need to know that this condition will endure? For example, career-wise, don’t you need to have, say a permanent contract?


Our next basic needs are belonging and love. People need to feel that they belong, they need to feel accepted by certain groups.

Again, in terms of work, don’t you need to be surrounded by people that understand and accept you at your workplace?

Especially for expats and internationals, this is the first truly difficult stage. Working with people with different cultural backgrounds and ways of working may not be that easy at first.

How many times have you thought that it’s REALLY strange the way they do things here? I still do, every now and then...


In career terms: achievement, recognition and success. We need others to recognise the work we do - or better, we need to feel successful in what we do and others to appreciate us for that.

More than often, we think that success can (or should) be measured in rewards or other incentives so we want to get promoted, earn more, get a bonus etc.

So, let’s suppose you have all these. Do you need anything else? I guess so: to connect with your higher self.

maslow pyramid job career


This can also be characterised as a spiritual need. In our case, it can be described as the need to use your natural talents and contribute back to the society - to find your mission!

Many of my clients come to me when they already have reached the "self-esteem" level but they (sub)consciously feel that something is missing - that they are ready for something else, for something bigger.

Confront yourself!

In many cases they don’t even know what this could be. In other cases they are afraid to find out. However, in order to get to that level you need to confront yourself, your saboteur.

You need to overcome the natural fear of losing everything you have built up - or at least, the idea that you are going to lose them.

People often tell me that they feel guilty for aiming high. "Should I not just be happy with what I have?" they say... What they don’t realise is that climbing up the pyramid is an unstoppable, natural process.

We need to aim and go higher. And if we benefit others at the same time we will have a happy and meaningful life!

Here are some tips:

 Find out what level you are at the moment. Consider it carefully and accept it.

 Evaluate whether you are ready to go to the next level. Be honest with yourself.

 Think of all the possible ways of getting there. Write them down, no matter how “impossible” they might sound.

 Connect with people from your own level and from the one directly above. You need them for both motivation and support.

 You will probably be confronted with a lack of understanding from certain people at some point. This is to be expected - just make sure you stay on track.

Good luck!

Dorota Klop-Sowinska


Dorota Klop-Sowinska

Official Member of Forbes Coaches Council. I specialize in international career and expat coaching. I am the author of the book Career Jump! How to Successfully Change Your Professional Path...

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