It's Guest Blog Time!
It was a harsh reality when our first PCS was to New York City during a recession. The housing market had burst and banks were being bailed out to ward off complete economic collapse. I worked in hospitality event management at the time and the job offers I was getting came with compensation that couldn't put a dent in our expenses. I realized then that my career trajectory had been completely sent off course.
Knowing the employment challenges and choices I have been faced with throughout my spouse's career, I invited Stephanie Anderson of Global Nomad English to share with you her pointers on establishing or re-establishing your career at your new post. You may recognize Stephanie as part of the Available Worldwide Podcast duo as well. Stephanie and Lauren have been sharing the stories of family members from the diplomatic corps on this thoughtful and inspiring podcast. When you finish reading Stephanie's tips, I encourage you to give Available Worldwide a listen.
Guest Blog by Stephanie Anderson
You’ve arrived at your new post. Your UAB and HHE are close to arriving. If you’re the direct hire, you’re getting to know your co-workers and settling into a new position. If you’re the accompanying partner (EFM), you’re catching your breath after transition season and wondering, “What’s next for me?”
So much of our focus during PCS is on the overwhelming disruptions to our home and daily life.
But, moving every few years can massively disrupt career continuity. Direct hires have
promotions to mark professional progress, but accompanying partners (aka trailing spouses,
aka EFMs) often feel like they’re starting from scratch in their careers at each new post.
Here are a few tips to help you maintain your professional identity once you’ve landed at your
Keep a ‘Weekly Wins’ Career Journal
Before you close your computer for the weekend, write a short list of your accomplishments over the past week.
What did you work on this week? Did you start or complete any projects? What are you proud of? Did you meet any goals? What were your wins? Did you learn any new skills or showcase any specific strengths? What quantifiable difference did you make?
Keeping a log of your accomplishments provides you with an easy reference when it comes time to write your annual review (EER or EPR). You’ll save time trying to remember what you did and finding the numbers to back it up.
For accompanying partners who freelance or telework, tracking your weekly wins is a nice way to see your professional progress over time. And if you’re in between jobs, re-training, or re-entering the job market, you might use “Plus, Minus, Next” bullet points to record what went well (+), what didn’t (-), and what you’d like to focus on in the week ahead (>).
Prepare a Portfolio of Your Work Experience Stories
Foreign Service accompanying partners often find themselves applying for a wide range of jobs at a new post abroad. The good news is we often have very broad experience; the bad news is that it can be difficult to identify and explain our transferable skills.
Additionally, applying for jobs in the Embassy or Consulate is often a case of “hurry up and wait.” You never know when you might be suddenly called up for an interview, so you have to be prepared.
By practicing the “greatest hits” of your work experience stories in advance, you can confidently describe your professional superpowers. If you know your best stories really well, you’ll be better able to shine the spotlight on different aspects of your experience to answer a wide variety of questions.
Developing clear, concise explanations of your past experience isn’t easy, but isn’t it easier to tackle it in your own time rather than “panic preparing” the day before your interview?
Have Your Elevator Pitch or Self-Introduction Ready
One nice (but also exhausting) side effect of moving to a new location every few years is the opportunity to reinvent ourselves. You probably feel like you change with each tour abroad, but do you update how you introduce yourself?
For direct hires, consider what you say when you meet new colleagues. Instead of using your title (I’m the new ___), try describing what you do (I manage __, I help ___, I work on ___). If you’re a supervisor, think about sharing your core values with those you manage. Unspoken expectations are hard to meet. Spend some time thinking about how you’re going to communicate your priorities to your team.
For accompanying partners who have a business, be sure you can clearly articulate your value proposition when you meet new contacts. In its simplest form, your value proposition might be “I help (X) do (Y) by doing (Z).” [See if you can find my value proposition in my bio.]
If you’re in the midst of a career transition and looking for work or volunteer opportunities, introduce yourself by what you can do and what you want to do: “I have a background in (X). I’m looking for a way to use my skills in (Y) to do (Z).”
A little advance preparation — tracking your progress, compiling your stories, and updating your introduction — can establish the professional tone for this transition and beyond!
Stephanie Anderson is an English language and writing coach, editor, and expat partner. She helps global nomads express themselves clearly, concisely, and confidently so they feel empowered to pursue their career goals...wherever they happen to be living in the world.
Stephanie works with conversationally fluent English users to help them "level up" their professional speaking and writing skills through personalized online language coaching.
Right now, she's offering an Interview Prep Package to help you create a portfolio of stories so you can confidently introduce yourself and your skills in any interview. To learn more, schedule a free, friendly, no-commitment consult.