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What Career Transition Has in Common with Moving Countries?

Both career transitions and moving countries involve stepping from a well-known, often mastered environment into the unknown and potentially daunting. These transitions frequently occur together in the life of an expat.

During my expat years, I encountered many professionals juggling life, work and career transitions simultaneously. They are in the process of defining what they want and what they do not want.

  • Expat Entrepreneurs: Some are expat entrepreneurs moving countries to seek a different lifestyle.

  • Burnout Recovery: Other expats relocated because they felt completely burnt out in their previous work environment.

  • Rediscovery and Growth: Some moved because they felt stuck and lost in life and wanted to rediscover themselves in a new country.

  • Career Change: Others decided to dive into a completely different field, leaving their stable professional jobs behind for something more fulfilling over time.

Whether you are going through career transitions, personal life changes, cultural shifts, or all of these at once, you might experience increased stress, frustration, disappointment, but foremost, a fear of being stuck and leaving the familiar behind.

1. Must-Haves and Don'ts

You made a hard choice for a reason—a brave one, by the way—uprooting your life or career and choosing to do something else in hopes of a better future. However, you might experience more stress and stuckness than before without stable standpoints.

Determining Your Must-Haves and Absolute No-Goes: Use the transition period to deeply discern the must-haves and absolute no-goes in your life and career in order to create the life and career abroad without repeating the old, harmful behavior patterns.

2. Learning the New Culture and Career, Unlearning the Old Ways

While learning a new culture or transitioning to a new career, the process starts off exciting. However, it also forces you to confront your internal biases and assumptions. It challenges you to adapt and grow, just as a new career or country would. During this observation, you will identify things that need to go, which you might find hard to say goodbye to.

Cultural Adaptation and Career Transition: The process challenges you to adapt and grow, identifying what needs to go, even if it’s hard to let go of certain aspects of your previous life.

3. Transition Takes Time

Adapting to a new field or country involves various phases and it takes time. The progress won’t happen overnight. This can leave expats feeling impatient and discouraged. As adults, we are accustomed to being proficient at our work, or even being experts. However, when facing a new challenge, moving from unconscious incompetence to the level of mastery in a new role or culture can take years.

Embracing the Journey: From Incompetence to Mastery: Embracing the challenge of transitions with openness, curiosity, and resilience allows for real, sustainable growth and both personal and professional development, instead of quickly falling into the panic zone, overwhelmed with accumulated challenges.

If you're an expat facing these transitions, share your experiences in the comments below. How have you managed the stress and uncertainty? Let's support each other through these transformative journeys.

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