The Three Biggest Mistakes Expats Make in Career Change

You’re going to do it. You’re going to completely change your career.

Whether you’re doing it because of your desire to break free and move abroad no matter what or because all you’ve learned through the experience has made you seek out new horizons, changing your career is a big but brave step. InterNations Expat Blog_The Three Biggest Mistakes Expats Make in Career Change_Pic 5 And while the outcome of a more fulfilling and exciting career is great, the road there might be rather bumpy at times.

Let me save you some trouble. There are three mistakes you’re probably making, will make, or haven’t even thought about it. Don’t worry: they happen to the best of us — but you can avoid them.

1. Not Knowing Where You Want to Go

You’ve had it with your job; and here’s where the first mistake crops up to trip you up. You want something different, but do you know exactly what you want? Many expats take a break from their jobs only to find nowhere to go, or worse yet, they make a bad choice in choosing their next career.

Maybe you’re a nurse and have decided nursing doesn’t do it for you anymore, or you cannot practice it abroad; then being a home-care assistant would be the right solution for you, right? Well … maybe.

The reasons why you wanted change to begin with could also have you longing for Fridays at your new job. Not to mention that, if you don’t do enough research on the working environment and culture in your host country, it could be even worse.

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Rather than letting your mind punk you, get your career change right the first time by doing some solid outlining. Jot down what you truly enjoy about your work. Even if you’re looking to change your career, there are still some things that drew you to your former position originally and certain things about you that complement it.

Do you like helping others? Do you like the structure? Great. Now what else do you want from a job? Would you prefer a flexible schedule? How about more time at home? Perfect. Now you can narrow down what kind of jobs would suit these needs without falling into the same inflexible, at-work-too-much hole that drove you away in the first place. Perhaps becoming a counselor would be a better option?

2. Not Having a Roadmap

Mistake number two: let’s say you jump clear over mistake number one and set your sights on a job that was practically built for you. Great!

… now what?

Where do you even begin? If you want to run a company specializing in interior design (hey, why wouldn’t you?) and you have the skills, that’s fantastic, but no one is going to let you take the position without some official qualifications, previous professional experience and a strong network. For that matter, getting the position at your dream company will be impossible if they don’t know who you are.

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Now it’s time to lay the groundwork and chart out your course. Pull out the pen and paper again, and start reverse-engineering your career change.

You want to run your own shop in interior design, right? Perhaps the first thing is to get in contact with the higher-ups of this sector in your new country. How do you get in contact with them? Through LinkedIn. Do you have a profile? Create one. Will they pay attention to you? No, so build a popular following and more connections before contacting them.

Do you have the qualifications they’re looking for? No, so back to school. Do you have the experience they need? No, so look for a smaller position as a manager in a similar field, or work pro bono, or start writing a blog on this subject.

By having this roadmap in place, you can follow each individual step to take you to your goal — and it’s encouraging to look at what you have already achieved along the way!

3. Not Reaching Out to Others

You might have guessed from the last solution that I’m in favor of networking — and trust me, you have to be. If you have your roadmap and the complete profile of your dream job, you could run into mistake number three like a truck into a brick wall.

If you’re introverted like me, or just extremely busy, it’s easy to isolate yourself and forget to reach out to others. This leaves all your efforts high and dry, because no matter how experienced you are, how can you get that ideal position if no one knows you, recommends you, or introduces you to a new opportunity?

Better yet, reaching out to others may mean sometimes asking for help working out your goals and roadmap from mistakes #1 and #2 above. Meeting new people, talking through your dilemmas, or even seeking professional help are all important elements of your success overseas. InterNations Expat Blog_The Three Biggest Mistakes Expats Make in Career Change_Pic 3


It can be hard to break out of your comfort zone, but get a crowbar (and some comfort food) and get to work. By taking a few minutes every day to engage on social media with people in your desired field, or just inspirational people in general, you can make connections that will springboard you to greater opportunities. Better yet, these people can offer you a hand up when the going gets tough, offer advice to improve your situation, and make those vital recommendations that will get you your dream position.

Rita Golstein-Galperin is a Career Makeover Strategist® for expat women and the founder of Expat Renaissance. She is an author, entrepreneur, public speaker, as well as a career and business coach for expats. Rita helps expat women rediscover, redefine and reinvent themselves while thriving overseas!

(Image credit: 1) StockSnap 2) iStockphoto 3) & 4) Pexels)

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