By Yvonne Quahe
WBFN Career and Program Advisor
Here are some typical comments I hear from participants during the Career Lab that I run at the WBFN: I loved my job but I had to leave to follow my spouse; I underestimated the cost in every sense of moving with him/her; I am tired of having to stop and start with every relocation; or, We discussed it but I didn’t think she would get the job. Does this sound familiar? Maybe you have said this yourself, or thought it, at least once.
Now that WBG has announced the increase in the global footprint and the plan to move staff to the field, this becomes a critical question that spouses of staff face, especially if you want to continue your career.
Use this as an opportunity to discuss with your spouse which countries you are willing to relocate to, given what is important to you and your family. The preparation for this conversation begins with clarity, with knowing what you want and what your non-negotiables are. This will be unique to each person/family. This list of non-negotiables cannot be too long, i.e., not more than three. Otherwise it would be impossible to have a conversation. Likewise, your spouse too should have his/her own list; these two lists will be the beginning of the where shall we go next conversation.
Once you have agreed on your list of our non-negotiables, look at the potential locations that you would consider. Once you have identified possible locations, do some research about whether these locations will really work for you, your spouse and family. Speak to people who are actually living at the location to get the most up-to-date advice/information. If you want to work there, it is imperative that you ask about both the work permit and the actual local employment market situations. Also, be aware that things change very quickly and someone’s experience last year may not be the same today. Ask more than one person to ensure that you are getting consistent answers to your questions. WBFN has a network of chapters representing families in eighty country office locations around the world, so please reach out to us and we will be able to connect you to multiple members who can help you with your research.
If you are a globally mobile family and your career is important to you, this dual career conversation has to take place frequently as you calibrate and recalibrate your moves based on what is important to you and your family. A spouse does not have to work at every assignment, but it is important that you discuss whose career will take precedence. If you cannot work in the new location, think about what you will do in the meantime to enhance your employability so that you can work at the next location. Try not to have extended employment gaps. This makes the return to the workforce more challenging.
It is never too late to start the conversation even if you have never done this before. Being intentional and making conscious, carefully-thought out choices based on clarity with your partner will enable you to take advantage of the opportunities that exist to help you thrive as you move.