My husband has a fabulous job offer abroad for one to three years. Its a promotion, salary increase and excellent experience for when he returns to the states. Plus, we’ve both always wanted to live abroad. However, it also means that I will need to quit my current job and most likely won’t be able to work full time there. I have worked hard to build my resume — I have a graduate degree and strong work experience. I’m nervous about 1) not being able to find work when I get back because of the gap on my resume, and 2) that I’ll “lose myself” if I don’t have a job. What do you think?
Dear Career Doctor,
Last week, unfortunately, I confirmed your fear – many women find they have lost their identity and self-confidence after they leave the work force. This week, I will make some suggestions about how to handle the gap in your resume.
The first thing I would do is ask your husband’s company — through his boss or Human Resources — if they have any programs to help “trailing spouses.” Many corporations recognize how stressful it is to be the uprooted spouse and help the person find work in the new country.
If this is not the case, and you are correct in your assumption that you will be unable to find full-time work abroad, consider how you can use this “gap” year(s) to expand or maintain your skills. If you are unable to take appropriate courses in your new country, take some online ones.
Also try to find part-time or volunteer work that builds or expands your skills. Non-profit organizations may be very happy to have you work for them, although they may not be able to pay you. Since there are far fewer charitable/non-profit organizations in most countries compared to the United States, you might even consider joining forces with some other trailing spouses or “locals” and starting one.
Part-time work or study can be listed on a resume to fill your gap and remember, you don’t have to describe these as part-time when you do so. If you are unable to find work or study programs, know that companies are far more accepting of gaps these days since so many good people have lost their jobs. I know people who have been out of work for 3 years and have found good jobs: it all has to do with whether skills match the position — so everyone these days, whether taking some time off or working full-time, has to worry about keeping his or her skills relevant and up to date. It is a great stress in our fast-changing world.