The Expatriate Experience

The expatriation process brings the agony and ecstasy of life. Why does it seem to strike so many notes in our psychological and emotional spectrum? From the stints abroad I have happily and consciously undertaken, each sparked a wide range of responses such as: culture shock, being a minority, feeling boxed in by labels – single, white, female, traveling alone. I was a foregone conclusion shut out from complete immersion in my host culture and language. Some people stay in that space of anger, resentment and isolation and blame others for their unhappiness.

Given this prospect, why would anyone choose to live, work, love, dream, play or create outside of that place which one identifies as ‘home’? Wouldn’t it be infinitely easier to stay in that comfort zone of predictability, a perceived sense of security, the familiar? Quite simply, crafting a life abroad can be the most supreme high a person can find – forget the artificial stimulants and diversions that mask bliss and just book a ticket for Destination Unknown!

My career in the global mobility field focuses on strategically moving talent (read: people like you and me) around the world equitably, compliantly, productively, empathetically and, we hope, successfully. How can success of this emotional journey of expatriation even be measured, defined and judged? I would suggest this is achievable through a holistic Talent Management system spanning recruitment, candidate selection, goal-setting, support, skills recognition and reintegration. Underpinning this process is the powerful discipline of coaching.

Distinct from other modalities such as therapy, counseling, consulting and mentoring, coaching is a partnership focused on moving a coachee forward to achieve specific goals and sustainable results. Clients are drawn to coaching when they may feel overwhelmed, are in a state of transition and/ or when they have goals they are committed to act on but don’t know where to start. Sounds like a typical state of affairs for an expatriate!

There may be several pain points for expatriates – here are just a couple: an executive who has enjoyed proven success in his/ her market but is lost to adjust to a new one, an employee who missed signs of maladjustment of his/ her family in the host location and is now at a crossroads to decide if the assignment should be cut short. Coaching allows us to confront and challenge our conditioned beliefs and programming, identify our values that manifest as our ‘hot buttons’ and laser in on the root cause of what is blocking us from forwarding the action and accomplishing our ambitions. The vulnerability and self-inquiry inherent in expatriation make it an incredibly ripe moment to reconnect with our truth, passion and core desires. Without bold and courageous expatriates, this world may have stopped turning on its axis long ago.

Written by Sarah DeHayes

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