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Working Abroad: Building Your New Career & Professional Identity

    Relocating to a foreign country comes hand in hand with a million tasks and pressures. On top of homesickness and culture shock, you’ll soon find that building a career abroad can be yet another source of personal crisis. 


   Everything changes when you leave your world behind in favour of the expat life. The very idea of who you are as a person can be thrown under a spotlight. 
Common expat doubts (Will people like me? Do I belong here? Was this a good decision?) have definitely reared their ugly heads in my mind whilst adjusting to my new life in Canada. But what I’ve quickly discovered is that it’s not just these questions about yourself that you are faced with; even your professional identity can become a mystery!

   
I am currently writing this post from my reclined cramped airplane seat as I fly back to Toronto from a Vancouver work trip. 
    In the 2 years since moving to Canada, I am now settling into my 3rd job role. To get to this place where I feel somewhat happy and confident in my Canadian career has been exhausting – and I’m still not 100% ‘there’ yet. I have so much more to figure out.

    When I first moved here, I never thought that finding a job to make me happy would be difficult. I’ve always known that I belong in Event Management since graduating university 6 years ago and great opportunities have always seemed to turn up for me. Despite this, I have found that building a new career abroad comes with endless unexpected questions and complex struggles…

Questions that quickly plague you:
▪ Will there be job openings available in my desired field here? With similar pay? Within a decent commute? 
▪ Does my job even exist here? Am I even qualified? 
▪Wait – Do I even want to replicate the same career in my new home, or should I be looking for a new career to compliment my new life change? 
▪ Who even AM I anymore? I feel like a totally new person after moving here. What do I even WANT to do?

     Hey, I feel ya. You are definitely not alone. The whole process can quickly become overwhelming. When you think about it, so much changes in your life when you move abroad that it only makes sense that your job is thrown into the pile of confusion too…

 
    It didn’t take me long to start doubting my chosen career. It was obvious from day one that managing large-scale events didn’t fit into my new life. All of the major event venues were in Toronto but a commute to the city was unreasonable. I tried it anyway and it was exhausting. Eventually I gave up as it made it nearly impossible to have any time to make friends or settle in my new country which was my number one priority.
So instead, I started to research what careers were available in my area and quickly realised I would have to stop expecting to perfectly replicate my career I had back home. 

I ended up settling for a role that was ‘kind of’ Event Management but also a hell of a lot of other stuff that didn’t excite or challenge me in any way. I gained a lot of experience and was able to adjust to the Canadian office environment which was very valuable but ultimately I knew that I wasn’t happy. 

Now, I’ve just started a new position at a fresh, young company that allows me to flex my events skills but also travel across my new home country of Canada. I’m loving it so far.

But.

    I still can’t seem to shake this feeling of unfulfillment. Navigating new jobs in a foreign world has me constantly reflecting on the experience and wondering, sleepless in the dead of night, who I even am or what I want to be.

     Moving to a rural area has definitely thrown me off balance. Limited options are a terrifying and frustrating obstacle.  Instead of falling blindly into a corporate city world, my new expat life has made me sit down and actively think about my path and the available routes ahead. It’s actually quite liberating. I’ve started this blog, something that I never would have found the time for in my busy English life and now I’ve even launched my own event management project for internationals living in Toronto (click here for more details)…

     I feel like I’m a completely different person now compared to the enthusiastic Event Manager back in England turning up for work in the familiar and mundane.
My new expat blood craves adventure and stimulation and change and money and freedom and stability and confidence and respect and opportunity and success. The new me is still being built as I build everything else in my new life and it seems like that person is completely insatiable.


     I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s ok to not know what path you’re on or where you’re headed. You’ve taken an unfathomable leap of faith to start over abroad and yet we as humans seem to expect everything to fall miraculously into place when it comes to our careers. We are counted on to start earning money as soon as possible. We are expected to be successful and happy in our work and to have achieved it all yesterday. 
But trust me – It is ok to not know. To not be sure. To want to try out a new career or to experiment with a new education.

     I still have no idea where I belong or what field will make me the happiest. For now, I pledge to accept this as part of moving abroad. I have faith that it will all work out and that more doors will open for me in this new country than ever would have for the girl back home who had it all figured out. 

What do you think?

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