Relocating for company or personal needs is becoming a more frequent choice point in many careers.
This is especially true with increasing comfort in working remotely and the growing number of creative ways to meet company needs. Many couples and families are also finding the more flexible work from home option provides better integration of career and personal needs. These concerns have been fully tested during the time of the Coronavirus and social distancing lockdown. The enforced experiment may be changing the work world permanently.
During this time, I’ve been curious about just how many people are currently relocating for their career.
During this time, I’ve been curious about just how many people are currently relocating for their career.
I’ve been working with coaching clients of all career stages moving—not only across the States—but around the globe.
Some are moving to attend graduate school while a mate accepts a new job or works remotely for a company that values them.
Some people in advanced careers are finding new career opportunities in cities or countries they’ve always wanted to explore.
Some are moving closer to their grown children and grandchildren, some with mates who are retired and supportive of the adventure.
This article will take on several subject matters regarding global career relocation:
Challenges of relocation for work impacts not only your career trajectory, but also company profitability, marriage and family outcomes. An assignment overseas or in a new city may offer exciting new opportunities when it goes well. It can also derail, even end, a career or life path when it has no plan for “life after” or it goes awry.
Whether you are a US citizen relocating abroad or you’re from another country coming to work in the United States—whether you are single, partnered, with or without children—at this stage of your career, relocating for your company may be an important next step on your career path. It may even affect your life choices.
If a relocation assignment fails, the price tag for a company is costly. The stakes for an individual, couple or family are also high if everyone is not on board or ready for such a transition. Clarity about the assignment and expected results, length and what comes next, as well as making sure it’s the right next step for everyone in your family is crucial for a positive outcome.
Very few companies have the resources or commitment to invest in a preparedness assessment, strategic planning and support services that will maximize your success.
Since this is your career and life, seeking the resources to make this immediate decision within the context of your future plans will both grow your career and your personal relationships for life.
To animate this topic, let me share an example of a client I’ve coached through multiple years and many aspects of the relocation process.
A Multi-Relocation Coaching Example
Matt is in the prime of an experienced career.
Matt came for coaching fresh out of graduate school and the end of a young marriage. I’ve coached him across the years, life and career stages. Just turned 50, Matt’s a highly valued and seasoned business leader in a global company. He oversees thousands of employees in multiple countries. He also has a family and two pre-teenage kids. This wasn’t always so. He started out single and fresh out of grad school like most. He has successfully grown in his company and career through thoughtful growth guidance from within his company.
To keep a whole life perspective, Matt initially engaged my services and then included Sally, his future wife in some of the the coaching as they became committed to creating a future together. Early on I coached them in the mindset, tools and skills of the Big Picture Partnering approach to relationship which I had developed earlier with much success. They continue to work as connected partners and apply this approach to everything they do, including their kids as they’ve grown.
As Matt’s career progressed, growth in leadership demanded national and global relocations. As a result, he and his growing family have moved 5 times internationally in 12 years. At each stage, Matt and his wife consult with me. Typically there is a runway of time, and a combo of factors which help determine what is open to negotiation or not, and what is choice. It’s a complex set of company, individual career, marital, and family considerations to weigh each time. Because we’ve consistently taken time to assess the many personal and professional factors that each choice point brings, Matt has grown in a career he is confident, capable and proud of. He and his wife are strong and close together. Their family is values based and enjoys their international opportunities. Everyone knows that at the right time they’ll return to home-base, and everyone has a say in the transition.
Research Backs a Careful Approach to Couples Career and Relocation Choices
Jennifer Petriglieri, a professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD, interviewed 100 dual-career couples who were committed to their partners and their careers. These interviews culminated in her book “Couples That Work: How To Thrive in Love and at Work,” and included executives, mid-level managers, freelancers and entrepreneurs, in different fields, from 32 countries around the world. Her research found three big mistakes many couples make when they move for one partner’s job.
“How can we make this work?”
Translation: How can we combine two busy lives,
two meaningful careers and not hold lifelong regrets?
– Jennifer Petriglieri
Each of these leads to resentment, lost opportunities and regret if not attended to at any choice point, and especially in career relocations:
The first mistake cited is to avoid the power dynamic that can arise based on money or who has the leading career. Tit-for-tat, giving in or making it all about money lead to resentment and deterioration of equality. In Matt and Sally’s case, we’d talk through the needs of each family member for every relocation. It’s a high value for Matt that his family’s needs come first. These familial needs are weighed along with Matt’s leadership satisfaction, and another high value he holds which is care and loyalty to the many he leads and develops in their roles within his company. Sally is fully informed and involved in his career thoughts so there are no surprises. We three then revisit and refine each move, life and career progress at least 4-6 times a year in virtual or in-person coaching conversations, often as a couple and sometimes with Matt or Sally individually.
The second mistake cited by Petriglieri is thinking too short-term. I find this is also true for many couples who are sometimes more in the moment, meaning about 2-3 years out. They are not reflecting on the whole life experience they wish to have, individually or together. Time gets away from them and they sometimes sadly discover it’s too late to do some of the things they had on their wish list. It hadn’t become a life-plan for them. As Matt’s career coach, and he and Sally’s relationship and partnering coach this couple has always been committed to living in the now, but it’s within the context of having thoroughly discussed each life stage needs for them as adults, and for the stages their children are growing through. Every year they revisit their individual, couple and now family goals using an exercise I introduced them to early on. It’s become a ritual around the New Year’s time and creates an anchor throughout the year.
Moves are often made for big career advancement putting that partner in the spotlight, which can diminish a mate’s visibility. This is the third pitfall to work against that comes out of Petriglieri’s interviews. The negatives can work both ways with the spouse not wanting to seem unhappy and the leader downplaying their experience. The advice is to find ways to keep talking it out openly, which is what Matt and Sally were given permission to do early on. One tool from the Big Picture Partnering Toolkit is an exercise called “Regular Talking, Taking Turns Listening.”
While not always easy, Matt and Sally have always worked so that both their contributions are equally valuable and respected. This requires bringing it up, or checking in, when one person’s needs are not being met. They’ve done a good job over the years to keep these feelings “on the table”as they’ve implemented the Big Picture approach to their relationship. It’s paid off through many career relocations!
5 Tips to Maximize Your Career Relocation and Life Success
1. Discuss Your Preparedness
Assessing your preparedness for both relocating and taking on an assignment, and your ability to hit the ground running once there, is huge, and it’s half of an individual success equation. If you have a mate and family, having the necessary supports in place so that everyone on the work team and the home team can be successful is crucial.
Some companies offer “mobilization services” in house, or more often, they supply a list of service providers for packing, moving, cultural and language training, school enrollment, tax advice, and so on.
Preparedness for you—the employee/leader—goes beyond these tactical arrangements. I highly recommend hiring a career coach knowledgeable about the impacts of relocation and relationships. Even if you are not in a relationship right now, but you wish one sometimes in your future, having help with some life-planning—along with immediate relocation decision-making—will serve you well.
Taking time to clarify details of your assignment, strategize your next steps—including contracting resources for your mate and family members—will ensure that your new assignment gets off on the right footing.
2. The Tactical Does Count If Doing It Yourself
Whether your business is handling all the details of your relocation or you are taking on the many details yourself, finding a reliable and trustworthy moving company is imperative. ConsumersAdvocate.org understands this process and conducted extensive research on how to choose a mover and what to watch out for when doing so. This guide on the best moving companies based on in-depth reviews, features a side by side comparison of 6 different moving companies voted “best for” in various categories. The companies were assessed on the services offered, type of coverage, company type, and reputation. They recommend to always obtain at least 3 different quotes, look into the pricing process, and understand what the movers won’t move.
3. Assess Mate and Family Readiness
Having your mate fully on board is seen as the number one factor in a the success of a career relocation assignment—for both your company and for your marriage. If it’s your career the relocation is for, I’d advocate for you to have a career coach who works with couples so you both have an opportunity to voice your concerns, fears, frustrations, needs, even excitement about the opportunity.
Dual-careers and quality children’s education are key issues that couples must address.
When you, your spouse and family members have advisors and a couples coach to discuss all aspects of this change in your lives, everyone is more likely to go in with eyes-wide-open and prepared to work as a home team in the new environment. Discussing the pros and cons, the skills needed individually and together, creating a team spirit, helps everyone feel included in the decision to relocate and invested in a positive experience.
Knowing that your mate and children are supportive, supported, and prepared for the changes will give you peace of mind and allow you to focus on the work assignment ahead.
4. Get Support Throughout an Assignment
It’s not just getting there and unpacking your belongings. Most assignments are for a 2-3 year long haul. That means having support people and advisors who know you and your situation to turn to for advice, maybe even skill development, as well as encouragement throughout the term. If we reflect back on Matt’s experience, executive coaching, leadership coaching, along with the couples coaching helped him navigate some tough assignment not discussed here. It helped him evaluate if he should stay or go, and also receive the support and counsel he needed to weather those challenging times.
So necessary supports are for you as the individual/leader as well as couple/spousal support. It’s commonly known that how a mate adjusts is a key anchor for your success. It’s advisable to put resources in place beforehand as a preventative measure. That way if things go awry or someone becomes unhappy or dissatisfied it can be addressed immediately.
Enlightened companies with the funds sometimes provide executive coaching in relocation assignments. More often cultural resources are offered for the family. Since relocation adjustment can be a stressful experience for some, being prepared with resources can mitigate future problems.
It’s important to inquire about the support resources provided by your company, for you, your mate and family members. And, to consider outside resources when these are not available.
Such support and strategic assistance will help you when stressors or challenges arise. They will also give your family the support they so often need under new circumstances.
5. Re-Entry and Next Assignment/Life Phase Planning
While it’s ideal to anticipate the next assignment and where you wish to live even before you make a big move for your company, surprisingly, sometimes there is no next assignment. Sometimes there is no job upon ending of an overseas stint. Or you may be required to make another unanticipated move in order to remain with a company.
While this is not the case in a high leadership position such as Matt’s, I’ve heard many horror stories about mid-level and competent managers with no place to land back at home after an assignment abroad. This is where some good life planning, along with coaching to ask the right questions of your company, open communication with all, is important. Because this outcome can derail a career and a family if not clarified beforehand, or discussed all along the assignment.
When faced with such a choice point having resources to assess, clarify and strategize your needs—and your family needs—will help you focus on re-visioning next steps based on your values and long-term goals.
Whether your company prepares you for life-after a relocation assignment, or not, its important to have the resources to help strategize your next steps, make sure your mate and family are on board, so you re-enter or move to that next assignment—or next job—as seamlessly as possible.
Facing a Global Career Relocation? We Can Help.
- For more information on careers and relocation needs go here.
- Information on the Big Picture Partnering approach to strengthen your relationship is found here.
- And to schedule a conversation about any of your career or relocation needs, please contact me here.
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