What I’ve Learnt From Making Career Decisions Around Someone Else

It’s not easy making sacrifices in your own career for someone else, but it changes your perspective on work when you do

Sometimes it feels like going through life blindfolded
Photo by Oscar Keys on Unsplash

It’s hard to control your career progression

When I first moved because of my boyfriend’s career, it was to go to Melbourne from Amsterdam. At that point, I had been working in events for 8 years, developing content for exhibition brands, and had worked my way up the career ladder. When my boyfriend got his job offer, I was either about to get promoted or look for a new job, in a more senior position. I wasn’t tied to the job that I was in, but I could definitely see a successful career path in the industry.

You often have to start from scratch

After making the decision to apply for jobs outside of the events sector, I kept coming up against the same hurdle. A lot of employers wanted to see that I had experience working for other Australian companies, which left me in a bit of a Catch 22 situation. It really felt like the years of experience I had, counted for nothing. In the end, the job pool I had to work with was limited and I had to take a more junior role — I was at a point where I just needed a job. Luckily for me, it was the sort of environment that I was quickly able to prove myself and get rewarded for it.

You have a constant feeling of instability

When your career is dependent on someone else, it’s hard to feel in control of your life generally. When you’re used to moving around as frequently as we are, there’s a feeling that it can happen at any moment. In the last 6 years, I’ve lived in 5 different countries and have had more than 10 addresses. (It’s a nightmare when it comes to applying for visas!). With that frequency of change, it’s really hard to set roots down anywhere, so it’s almost impossible to commit to anything long-term — buying a house, starting a new project, making friends. And it can feel a bit lonely. Add to this, any situation where you’re dependent on a company sponsoring your visa, and it just becomes stressful. Not the ideal situation to flourish.

You need to keep reminding yourself your career is also important

One of the reasons we’ve moved because of my boyfriend’s career, not mine, is that he’s always likely to earn more money than me. This is due to the nature of his work, and the fact that he’s further on in his career (he’s older than me). When I first met him, the sector he worked in meant it was common to have to move where the money was. Jobs were linked to specific projects that had funding, and they could be anywhere in the world. That creates a mind-set…it makes looking for work overseas to progress your career more natural. But making decisions based around one person’s career, can make it feel like the other person’s is less important. On the one hand it is, if you base it purely on financial return. But, in terms of personal fulfilment, and how it contributes to you as a person, I would argue differently.

You’re opened up to new experiences

I probably wouldn’t have lived in half the places I have if it wasn’t for my boyfriend’s job. By living in these different places, you get to meet so many people from around the world, and have experiences that can only happen in places where you don’t speak the language, or have a different approach to work and life.

Forced career changes mean learning new skills

In the last two jobs I’ve had, I’ve been forced to move out of my comfort zone, working in different environments and in different roles. As frustrating as it was to start from scratch, it definitely taught me new skills that, added to my previous experience, means I now have a much more valuable offering. This forced up-skilling makes me more attractive to future employers. I can be more flexible in roles, and can apply for positions that maybe I couldn’t have before.

Putting yourself in challenging situations creates resilience

It’s really tough moving to a different country — not knowing anyone, not having a network around you and having to build a life. It’s also difficult moving when your partner has a job and you don’t, because they gain a ready-made network of people through work, and a sense of purpose. When you’re in that situation, and faced with rejection after rejection from job applications, it can be hard to find the motivation to keep trying. Yet you must. And continuing to push on will eventually reward you, making you realise that you can survive and build a life in a foreign place.

There’s freedom in not taking a traditional career path

When I was in my 20’s I was ambitious to become a CEO or some sort of high-powered leader. Now, I’m still ambitious, but I’m less fixated on what the end goal should look like. The fact that we’ve almost always moved for my boyfriend’s job has taken the pressure off me pursuing a certain image of success. Instead, it’s given me the space and freedom to experiment, to try new things and learn what it is that I really love and want to keep doing, without a fear of failure. There’s a sense that in a new place, there’s always a learning process. Things are different, so it’s ok for things to go wrong.

Content strategist and brand storyteller who has lived & worked across the globe. For more like this, subscribe to my newsletter: https://follower.substack.

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