Dual Career Challenge – Members’ stories
We asked two spouses, Isabel and Dustin to share their stories of how they have managed the dual career challenge as they relocate with their staff spouses to the various World Bank Country Offices.
Isabel Alvarez has a Masters in Industrial Engineering from the University Carlos III in Madrid and has worked as a Procurement Director in the aerospace industry and energy sector for most of her career. She has relocated to Switzerland, Luxembourg, United States and recently Austria with her spouse. This is how she has managed her career over the 4 relocations.
Dustin Watson is a government relations and public affairs professional with 30 years of legislative, regulatory, and public policy experience. He has lived and worked in Myanmar, Poland, Singapore, and the United States. With each move, he used his experience and expertise in a variety of sectors which include a private lobbying firm, an international business association, a mobile money operator in Myanmar and a non-profit.
- AS A PROFESSIONAL WHO MANAGED TO HAVE A SUCCESSFUL CAREER IN SEVERAL COUNTRIES, COULD YOU PLEASE TELL US HOW HAVE YOU ACHIEVED THIS?
Isabel: My husband and I have tried to balance our careers in all the countries we have lived in. I would say that flexibility is the most important skill that helped me keep my professional career. The experience in the energy sector that I gained in the first country we relocated to, opened many doors for me, not only in procurement but also in other areas of the business. Later, when we moved to Washington, I got a consultant role at the WBG in Project Procurement thanks to my broad experience, and I returned to the private sector some years later. In Austria, I took a gap year to study and hopefully this will help me find a new job here!
Dustin: I offer employers an honest assessment of who I am and what I can offer to fit their needs related to an open position or one they are interested in creating for the first time. I never oversell myself, exaggerate my work experience, or promise something I know I cannot deliver. The fit has to be right for me as much as it has to be for them. I also gravitate to being rather selective with my employment choices based on my morals.
- DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE JUST BEEN LUCKY OR HAS THIS INVOLVED INTENTIONALITY AND PLANNING?
Isabel: I would say it is a combination of both. There is definitely some planning, but life certainly brings a lot of unexpected things to your career. The WBGFN Career Lab Alumni Network has been very important to me in the last relocation, and I got the motivation I needed to get back to study!
Dustin: The bottom line is you can't be "lucky" without first making an effort. I take a holistic approach of incorporating mass self-promotion in the context of flooding the local market with my resume and tailored cover letters combined with the traditional steps of a job search. This offers me the opportunity to get to know people, places, and local culture when I am "lucky" enough to get an interview. Yes, one can get a bit of luck if you happen to get the right people eyeing your resume at the right time for the right position. In that sense, I have been "lucky" with the positions I secured keeping in mind all the letter writing, research, coffee chats, phone calls, faxing, pre-screenings, rejections, interviews, second interviews, more rejections, third interviews, and even more rejections to layer on to the others. Point is, let it be known loudly, that you are looking for employment.
- HOW DO YOU DECIDE AND AGREE ON WHERE TO GO NEXT?
Isabel: This is a difficult decision that has to be made with your partner after careful consideration of many family aspects. We always plan together as a family and involve the children in the decision. For me, it's professionally more challenging, I would say, as managing the uncertainty of finding a job can be tricky. But it has worked so far, and my husband has managed the timing of our relocations to fit our kids’ and my job´s requirements.
Dustin: In terms of the next country posting, I'm usually the last to know so it is easy for me to simply agree with the decision that has already been made. I know this may not work for others, but it works for me. In terms of the next job as a result of a new posting, I follow the steps previously mentioned. I'm not going to work just for sake of working. It has to be a meaningful experience to me, and preferably one that is aligned with my skillset and background.
- HOW DO YOU RESEARCH THE LOCAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES IN THE NEW LOCATION?
Isabel: My recommendation is to be very active in the social professional networks to check for opportunities. Check what may be required in terms of accreditations, previous experience, and start working towards that goal. Don't hesitate to contact other professionals through LinkedIn for advice, I found this extremely helpful. Don't be shy!
Dustin: Three things come to mind: Local online media outlets catering to expats; local chambers of commerce (because they serve the expat business community); local expat events and community gatherings (when in the host country). The expat community will be tight anywhere you go, and often will be a great source to network.
- WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO WANT TO CONTINUE THEIR CAREERS AND BE GLOBALLY MOBILE?
Isabel: First, make sure your partner is willing to support you and is considerate of your career. Relocations in the WBG can be very challenging so planning every move together is very important. Invest in your education and language skills. Engage and be active in exploring job opportunities, talk to people, prepare your "elevator pitch" and join the WBGFN Career Lab Network!! You are not alone.
Dustin: As the world shifted to a more virtual work experience, finding something that will not have to end when you need to physically exit one country for another would be ideal and provide continuity. Outside of that, be realistic that your employment time will likely have an expiry date. This is fairly common knowledge and accepted within expat business circles and therefore be happy with the choice and prepare accordingly when the time comes to move on. Opening new chapters will be challenging but can be so exciting as well.