Category Archives: Trailing spouse

Job search: Are you missing in action?

Off the radar

Getting on the job search radar!
I have spent the past week with two different women, of two different ages. Their backgrounds could not be further apart. One is a young graduate, seeking entry-level employment, the other a woman in her 40s, with extensive supply chain and procurement experience, as well as an MBA. She has taken an eight year parenting break, relocated internationally with her husband and is now dealing with the inevitable challenge of explaining motherhood and her CV gap.

Both want to enter the workplace. Both are struggling. Both are drifting off the job search track and are M.I.A. Despite feeling they had nothing in common, even just idle chat reveals the numerous common elements. Not only were they simply failing to get the jobs they wanted ( when they could even find a job they were interested in) they were receiving no response to their CVs, sometimes not even a rejection letter.

Back on track
All job search candidates regardless of age, gender or time in life need to have some basics in place, so here are some easy tips to get back on track:

  •  Identify and articulate transferable skills. It doesn’t matter how you do this but this is a critical exercise, taking time and thought. I repeat my mantra – if you don’t know what you’re good at, how do you expect anyone else to know? Recruiters and hiring managers are not telepathic and don’t have the time to drag it out of you.
  •  This basic but critical exercise leads to the creation of an effective mission statement and elevator sounds bites. CVs should stop disappearing into cyber space and interview performance will be strengthened. If there is any hesitation in delivering your USPs – practise and practise again!
  •   Establish and develop a professional online presence. This is vital for anyone, male or female, young or old, entry-level or transitioning. Failure to do this is tantamount to professional suicide. The entry-level woman had received no advice from her university careers advisor to create this type of profile, which in my view is a scandal in itself! Careers advisors – read my open letter! The older candidate needs to resurrect and tap into her existing network from her days as a professional woman and connect with them virtually on platforms which simply did not exist when she was in the workplace ( LinkedIn, Twitter, Google +) This small step shows you care about your professional image and that you are current in your approach. Your LinkedIn profile url can also be used in an email signature or on other online profiles as a way of extending the reach of your CV.
  •  Create a modern CV with targeted keyword usage. Their current versions are probably not getting past ATS ( Applicant Tracking Systems) or coming to the attention of recruitment sourcers. 97% of CVs, it is maintained, are not read by a human eye! Once again this could account for a failure to obtain an even a first interview.
  •  Most jobs (estimated at 85%) are not advertised. Creating a strong online presence and strengthening a personal brand will drive traffic to your professional profile. It’s no longer about looking for a job – it’s also about raising visibility to ensure you are found. Many jobs are also only advertised on LinkedIn.
  •  There is no substitute for strategic networking at any age and stage. No matter how young you are, or how long it’s been since you were in the workplace, we are all connected to someone! Have some simple, but good quality business cards printed – you never know when you need them! Connect and re-connect. Join networking groups and professional bodies especially if any membership has lapsed during a career break.
  •  Be active. Inactivity is not just a barrier to getting top jobs, it’s a barrier to getting any job! It’s also a great way to beat negative thinking, and maintaining your confidence, vital in job search. It also gives you data to monitor, from which you can make any changes to your job seeking strategy.
  •   Tweak those strategies . Don’t panic and especially don’t be afraid to change. Nothing is set in stone and what works in one set of circumstances may sink like a lead balloon in another! Be flexible

But most importantly never give up. The estimated time to get a job is reported to be on average a minimum of 7 months currently. If you carry on struggling – seek professional help. It will be worth it in the long-term!

Good luck!

Down but not out! The power of the past!

Snail mail can work!

Old methodologies can work! Today the pace of technological change is phenomenal and the process of searching for a new job has moved away from the more traditional methods towards online, electronic strategies. Tried and tested techniques once standard for job seekers are now becoming at best outdated, and in some cases, totally obsolete. Career coaches are constantly hammering home to job seekers how important it is in today’s job search market to keep abreast of the wide variety of job seeking tactics that are available to us all on the internet. Included in this list are professional platforms such as LinkedIn, online job listings, other social networking sites, company websites and so on.

Embracing change
However, there is now a half a generation at least, who know of no other way of looking for a job other than online. Older demographics are also starting to understand that change is inevitable and even the Luddites embrace parts of this brave new world, albeit reluctantly: posting LinkedIn profiles, joining Facebook, uploading CVs electronically and raising their online visibility. But younger demographics, mainly out of ignorance, can at times be just as closed to trying out something, not necessarily new, but new to them.

Other than seeing things on old movies or Mad Men, they are not familiar with, and have no experience of, job search processes that weren’t carried out via the internet. However, there are times when traditional time-honoured methods cannot be totally ruled out and can even bring some benefit.

Mr. Postman
I was working recently with a young man based in Buenos Aires. He is engaged to be married and wants to relocate to Europe, to at least be on the same continent, preferably in the same country as his fiancée, who lives in Munich. They had agreed that he would be the one to move: he was entitled to Italian nationality via his grandmother and could therefore work in the E.U. He also speaks 5 languages fluently, compared to his wife to be, who has a mere 3 under her belt.

Together we created a career transition strategy, identified his transferable skills, raised his general visibility and targeted the companies he would like to work for. Despite his best efforts, progress was slower than he would have liked, which was putting pressure on his relationship.

Long shot
So I thought and suggested (somewhat tentatively) that he could write some letters. There was a silence. Then the dialogue went something like this:

Pietro: – ” But I have written. I’ve sent all sorts of mails and LinkedIn messages”
Me: ” I know – but what about writing a letter, printed on paper ( I’ve seen his hand writing – not good. It would be hard to believe he is older than 9) put it in an envelope and post it in the mail with a copy of your CV. It’s something you haven’t done and might be at least worth a shot’
Pietro: ” Wow – you mean like a letter? Like in snail mail? That will take ages. How do I know they will get there, or anyone will read it?”
Me: ” Yes I mean like a letter, like in snail mail. How do you know anyone’s read your emails? You don’t. You could send a registered mail but that might seem a bit over the top for a CV! Give it a try.”

Long shot
So he did and 8 letters were duly dispatched addressed to the contact names he was trying to reach in his preferred target companies, giving dates of his next planned trip to Munich. During the next month he received by various means, 3 requests to contact the company to set up information interviews. Not a bad result for a long shot.

So there are things that we can usefully blast from the past and there are others that could prove difficult. I saw one old school suggestion of unannounced visits to a potential employer. Now 30 years ago that might have worked. Today it’s unlikely that any unscheduled caller will get beyond security, particularly in large organisations where even gate keepers have gate keepers. But in small informally run companies – even that might work on a lucky day . The visitor will find out soon enough if his/her presence is considered intrusive and they find themselves unceremoniously on the pavement.

Down but not out!
So the moral of the story is not to have a closed mind no matter what age you are and to assess all the tools in the job search box. Just as older job seekers have had to adapt to new ways of navigating the market, so Gen Y can learn from tried and trusted methodologies, which although mainly gone, should not be totally forgotten.

When is lunch with a STUD not a hot date?

Trailing spouse

When it’s a Spouse Trailing Under Duress
I’ve just had lunch with a STUD. No, this was not a hot date, but a perfectly correct meeting with a Spouse Trailing Under Duress aka …STUD. This is an affectionately humerous moniker given in Brussels to male partners following the careers of their female counterparts.

Jim is blissfully married to the beautiful and successful Angela and has 2 wonderful children. They moved to Brussels from the US 9 months ago with Angela’s job as a senior VP with an international fmcg company. Jim and Angela were a two career family, so considerable discussion was needed before Jim finally decided to put his own career as a Sales Director in a B2B construction company on hold.

It was apparently not as agonising a process as I had imagined. ” There really was no duress! The opportunity, not just for Angela, but the whole family, was too great to turn down. The construction industry was badly hit last year in the US and although I still had my job, the company had been forced to make many lay offs. I wasn’t sure how much longer things could go on. Career wise Angela’s sector is buoyant and is pretty recession proof. The girls will get a wonderful education at a top international school. We are here for 3 years and intend to maximise the opportunity.

But what about his own career and professional challenges? ” What I missed most initially, was the structure of a working environment and the basic interaction and collaboration with colleagues. I struggled with not being able to define myself by my profession, thinking I would be perceived negatively – but I got over that pretty quickly. I’m setting up my own internet based business , so I just say that if anyone really pushes and I’m also taking an online MBA. So combined with being a “House Dad ” I’m pretty busy.

I asked Jim if he was afraid that those 3 years might impact his career long-term? “ I don’t think anyone can tell any more what will happen in 3 years. The economies are too uncertain. I intend to go back with additional skills and hopefully an understanding of international business. I think the experience is changing me and I may decide to do something completely different. I think people imagine we guys play golf and poker all day! But it’s not true. It’s also about how you sell it when you get back. I’ve read your blogs! ”

Aaah thank you! Someone reads!

I have trailed as a spouse, not once, but twice. Both occasions involved significant decisions impacting every part of my life and were not taken lightly. This was many years ago, long before global and mobility had morphed into biz speak and were simply two disconnected words in the dictionary. Facebook, email, Twitter, Skype and texts were just twinkles in a cyber geek’s eye and those were the days when I would almost knock the postman off his moped in my rush to get my letters! Remember those? Paper!

Back then it was regrettably mainly women who trailed with a multitude of organisations set up to support their assimilation. Now in dual income households where both partners have career parity and happily there are more women occupying senior roles, that is changing, but no less challenging. It’s becoming yet another interesting career transition.

Spouses and onboarding
In executive search when placing anyone internationally, I always hope that strong support arrangements are in hand for any trailing partners. Today, this can be either the man or the woman. The working partner tends to slip into an existing business structure and support network, which is quite often the same one they left behind in the previous country. All they do is go into a different office very day. This is not to diminish their challenges, but they are rarely completely isolated. So our mantra is that if the trailing spouse is happy – everyone is happy.

Each move will be unique and the success will depend on the destination country and culture, combined with the backgrounds and personalities not just of the working partner, but the whole family. I have seen many executives ask to be repatriated or even leave their companies altogether, because their partners or perhaps kids could not make the transition into an adopted country. Many marraiges end in divorce. Many organisations will provide either relocation or cross cultural support for the trailing spouse, because all research indicates that effective onboarding of the employee can be negatively impacted by an unhappy trailing partner. Some companies also provide allowances for language lessons, re-training and even coaching. Most countries have expat support organisations and very often national communities overseas have groups supporting incoming families.

What advice would Jim give to anyone in the same position? ” Consider it all from every angle. Financial, the kids, both careers, the shift in dynamics within relationships when one person who is used to working, stops, with the other one shouldering the burden exclusively. The whole family has to be committed and on board. It’s definitely not something to do if your partnership isn’t 100% sound. There are lots of challenges which you don’t have if you’d stayed at home and there is very limited network to call upon especially in the early stages. Otherwise – just go for it!”

In Brussels, the Belgian STUDS organisation is set up to deal with trailing male spouses trailing successfully under duress