No regrets
Mirjam had been working in HR management when her husband was offered a role by DSM in India. Although at first, she didn’t like the idea of abandoning her career, or losing her financial independence, she has never regretted the move. Her plan was always to keep working during the four-year posting: “I did lots of different things, both paid and as a volunteer, and certainly not always on the level I was used to.”

Work identity
It wasn’t simply about filling the gap on her CV. “I also discovered my work identity was very important to me,” adds Mirjam, who eventually found an international HR role with a company she used to work for in the Netherlands. When she returned home in 2009, she was able to stay with the same company: “So finding a job or re-integration wasn’t really a problem for me.”

Something substantial
Looking back at her life abroad, she only regrets one thing: “I could have followed courses I was interested in.” But ultimately she advises expat partners to look for something substantial – not necessarily in a monetary sense. “It’s great to work as a volunteer, but try to find a long-term project that keeps you busy for a few days every week.”

Have a story for CV
Should you choose to take a sabbatical for a year, that’s okay as long as you have a story to explain it, Mirjam says. “That’s different from doing nothing for three years. If you find a job, paid or unpaid, take it, even if it’s at a lower level than what you are used to. It’s good to broaden your horizons, keep building your CV and gain international experience which employers usually value.”

Henk Dam
Global Connection

Adapted and edited from an original article, in Global Connection’s media for spouses (B2B subscription), on the subject of return to work.