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Dual career... no pain no gain!

A first hand experience of what works best for an expatriate in search of a job in a new town, as well as making you aware of the need to negotiate the terms with the company relocating your partner, when there is a double career expectation!

When my family had to relocate from Berlin to Paris (it was the fourth time, in the last 9 years, of moving and changing country to follow my husband’s career with the same company), we had my husband’s employer reassurance that I would get their help to find a job for me in Paris.

As planned, once we arrived in Paris, I contacted my husband’s employer for support, but their reply “We do not have much experience in this area” left me to say the least surprised, and the company is a global player!
They redirected me to an external services: Net Expat, a job-search coaching company, which has offices in Paris, Brussels, Frankfurt, London, and Dublin. Net Expat helps trailing spouses finding worthwhile jobs in their new host country; they cover 41 countries. Their programs include a welcoming session (the objective of the coaching, useful facts and data), a personal and professional analysis, the creation and adaptation of the curriculum vitae to local standards, help in writing a cover letter, a session about efficient networking and intercultural challenges, and a list of potential employers.
After the first session, it was clear to me that it was left to my own initiative and my own entrepreneurship if I were to find a job, as most of the classes were around subjects I was already familiar with.
I knew where I would have liked to apply for a job and which were my strengths. Net-Expat concept is useful for someone who has had interrupted work experience and is seeking advice to revise its career or for someone who does not know the language of the new country and the culture.

The program lasted about three months, after which, I was on my own. I tried to send my CV through Internet job portals, journals (Figaro), and direct contacts. There were some responses and I had four interviews, but, due to the recession and market instability, there was no positive outcome.
I kept at it and finally one year later, I got a position in my favourite domain, Research and Infrastructure in the Transport area.

During my year of job search, I attended conferences related to expatriation and dual career issues and in those occasions I talked to many companies about their dual career approach. Some companies do offer job-search support to trailing, but to my surprise there is no clear policy, instead it is entirely based on a case to case scenario. In most cases is based on the company goodwill and desire to be helpful rather than an established requirement and procedure included in the moving package.

This experience has made my husband and me wary of the need to negotiate the terms more clearly with the company, so as not to get disappointed afterwards. We might be moving in few months, and this time, strong of the past experience, we have already alerted the company for the need of an outplacement or headhunter. I hope that starting to look for a job even before I arrive in the new country will shorten considerably the time to get a job. It is a fact that, as a rule, career interruptions do not show well on a CV and are not positively understood by HR or head-hunters, so I am doing all I can to minimize it.

To draw my conclusions, networking was in my opinion the best option for finding new contacts and help. It did take some time to get a job, but in the end I didn’t find just a job, I found the job!
On a positive note I must say that a year spent in Paris without working was an enjoyable one. I used my time to improve my French, play golf, increase my network, and most of all enjoy the gay Paris!

The Author of the article has eventually found a job at ECMT/OECD (European Conference of Ministry of Transport). She holds Academic grade of Doctor of Economic and Social Sciences (Dr. rer. pol.),  Degree in Business (Eberhard-Karls University - Tübingen), Intermediate Grade in Law (foundation course - University Eberhard Karl, Tübingen).