Career Options and the Accompanying Partner

When one partner is assigned to a new role abroad there are obviously many benefits for all the family particularly the new knowledge and new experiences gained from living in a new country and culture. For the employee there is also the challenge of working in a new environment and gaining the international experience that organizations are increasingly demanding of their employees.

For the partner the assignment may create mixed feelings. Valued careers may have to be left behind and indeed for some it may be impossible to find employment in their host country due to work permit restrictions. Others may view the move abroad as an opportunity for a welcome career break, a chance to take stock, review even retrain. Those with families will perhaps welcome the opportunity to spend more time with their children.

A survey conducted by the Permits Foundation in 2008 found that prior to relocation abroad 90% of accompanying partners were in some form of employment.  Post relocation this percentage fell to 35% of all accompanying partners. Taking these figures in isolation it would be easy to surmise that partners were willingly taking the career break opportunities that their expatriation provided.

However this appears to not be the case as the same survey also found that 75% of those partners who were not working whilst abroad stated that they would like to work during the assignment period but were currently not doing so.

So it seems that a large number of accompanying partners would like to work but are not.

·       What are the obstacles that are preventing them from doing so?

·       What impact does not working have on their sense of personal fulfillment and satisfaction with life?

·       How do these satisfaction and fulfillment levels compare with those of accompanying partners who are employed whilst abroad?


These are questions that I (Louise Wiles, Success Abroad Coaching) and Evelyn Simpson (The Smart Expat) are interested in answering. We have created a survey which investigates the issues of career choice and the accompanying partner.

The Survey explores three questions:

  1. What career choices do accompanying partners make?
  2. What factors determine and influence the choices that accompanying partners make?
  3. Is there a correlation between accompanying partners’ satisfaction with their career status and their overall satisfaction with their lives?

This research is valuable because the Permit Report also demonstrated that the ability to be employed whilst abroad has a significant impact on the willingness of candidates to accept an assignment, to complete an assignment and to extend an assignment. Understanding the obstacles and factors that partners face in achieving a form of employment whilst abroad will help organizations to provide more timely and appropriate support.

If you are a coach or relocation specialist who works with accompanying partners then we would greatly appreciated your help in forwarding this article and survey link on to them and asking if they would be prepared to participate in the survey.

If you are an accompanying partner currently living abroad then please go to this LINK and complete the survey. It will take only 15 minutes and is completely anonymous.

We greatly appreciate your help. If you would like us to send a copy of the survey results to you then please contact Louise and include SURVEY RESULTS REQUEST in the title of your email.


Thanks to 89studio for the free pic!

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About the Author

Doris Füllgrabe

Doris Füllgrabe

Hello! I have been an expat for nearly 20 years, I'm a certified MBTI® Master Practitioner, and also hold certifications in the Neuroscience of Personality, and the Berens CORE™ Approach. After a decade in executive coaching and training and volunteering at the ECA, I've decided to pursue more creative endeavors. I'm happy to keep in touch with this community and hear from new expat coaches, so feel free to contact me, or browse my archived blogs on, and use the resources provided on this page. If you'd like to commission a unique piece or hand lettering or calligraphy, please visit Thanks for visiting and all the very best wishes! :-)

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