From lovepat to expat entrepreneur: How to transform your expat career?

From lovepat to expat entrepreneur: How to transform your expat career?

I moved to the Netherlands for love – to join my (at that time) boyfriend, now husband, quite some years ago. Although I did manage to get a job before I moved, my main motivation to move was personal, not professional.

Years have passed and during those years I have claimed all different roles related to living abroad.

I have been a woman with a busy international career living in the Netherlands. I have been a mother experiencing motherhood in the Netherlands for the first time when my daughter was born. I have been an expat wife and stay-at-home mum, enjoying life in Mexico where I followed my husband for his career. I have been an expat entrepreneur, starting my own coaching business in Brazil.

Now, I see myself as an international-lovepat-mum-entrepreneur, running her business in the Netherlands. All these roles taught me a lot about myself, as well as the bright and dark sides of expat life.

Throughout the years, I have met many women who moved abroad. Some were really happy about the state of their career, others not so much. Their experiences, as well as my own, allowed me to make the following list of the most important lessons regarding your (professional) expat life:

Accept the situation as is first

Allow yourself to first experience the new situation and judge how you feel about it. Once I had a client whom I was helping to get a new “high-flying” job in the Netherlands, but after a couple of sessions, she discovered she actually wanted to take a break from her career to stay at home for a while to enjoy her new life. I know that when I was moving for the second time, I had huge plans on how I was going to run my business.

However, after the move, I realised my mindset and priorities had shifted to making sure my family was settled in well. I had many, many clients who, after landing in a new country, finally decided to follow their passion.

Be clear about your motivations and expectations but don’t be afraid to adjust them if necessary

Why are you moving abroad? Is it, like in my case, for love? Is it to advance your career? Is it to improve the quality of life for yourself and your family? Once it becomes clear to you, link it to your expectations. What do you expect from your career in the coming one, three, five and ten years?

I know many women who chose to become stay-at-home mums after moving abroad and were happy about it, although they had busy careers before they moved. I also have clients who stayed at home after moving abroad and are now utterly unhappy about it.

It is not a matter of what is right or wrong. There is no right and wrong, these are your choices and your decisions. The most important thing is that you feel good about them. Once you think about your future path, it will also be easier to make relevant short-term decisions regarding your career.

Look into your future life path

You have people whose lives follow their careers and you have people whose careers follow their lives. Do you know which one you are? Are you an expat who will be moving again in the next three years? If so, maybe starting a local career from scratch is not the best idea? Maybe you could start your own “portable” business instead, one you can take with you when moving.

Are you a migrant who knows that they will stay in the country for an extended period of time, perhaps even forever? Building a local career / business could be the better option!

Re-set your inner compass

As said at the beginning of the article, thanks to the many moves I have had abroad, I have learnt a lot about myself. I now understand what motivates me, what is truly important to me, what I am good at and what it means to me to have a meaningful life and career.

Moving abroad gives you this amazing chance to not only rediscover yourself but to shape yourself and your future. In order to do this with success, you need to find your inner compass and know where your North Star is.

Build your tribe

I think I repeat this in almost every single one of my articles, but I cannot stress it enough: In order to build your new life and career abroad, you need to reach out to new people. For some people, it is easier than for others. I know it can be difficult, as I am not the most social animal myself, but I've experienced personally how important it is to have your tribe around you and how painful it is when you don’t.

Please feel free and share your top tips on building your life and career abroad in the comments below.

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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