Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Acting with Empowerment: Advice for the Voluntarily (or Involuntarily) Relocated

I know exactly how they feel, I thought to myself.

I was sitting at a table of "trailing spouses": those who relocated to support their husband's or wife's career (in this context, a medical career). There was wide range of emotions emanating from where we sat: confusion resulting from being in a new country, excitement stemming from the new opportunities that a change in geographic scenery brings, anger from being pulled away-albeit willingly-from a stable atmosphere to one with limited opportunities.

As I looked at the faces of my companions, I smiled inside. I, myself, had experienced many of their emotions when I moved to be with my spouse. Excitement could quickly give way to unhappiness, wonder to anger.

Transitions like this are common, whether you are a trailing spouse, a college graduate relocating for a new position (or relocating back home while still in the search process), a worker who finds himself moving after losing a job, or any other reason that results in a voluntary (or involuntary) uprooting. Those who find themselves in the middle of this transition while also being in transition with their careers can feel discouraged, victimized, depressed, and very unhappy. The most prevalent emotion, I believe, in this circumstance is desperation: a stomach-sinking "what am I going to do now?" feeling.

My general message to anyone in the midst of this is a heartfelt: "you're going to be okay." But that's not to imply sitting on one's thumbs; follow these tips to make the transition smoother:

Assess your situation: Everyone's situation is different and what may be good for you may not be good for someone else relocating, and vice versa. Is finding a nice place to live the priority, or is finding a job? Do you have children whose needs must be tended to? Are there recurring negative feelings surrounding the move? I recommend those experiencing a move to take care of their basic level needs first before moving to the more advanced ones. A job could be in either of these categories; do what's best for you.

Connect with the community: Strong relationships can make a move much more palatable. I encouraged those at my table to start volunteering and networking as soon as possible. They will not only feel more a part of the community but they can leverage those relationships into employment if they act diplomatically and intentionally.

Stay connected to your field: Continue to remain a member of professional associations and other networking groups that relate to your field, and if you're not a member join. It shows commitment to your field and you can remain vigilant of future openings through these professional connections.

Don't act out of desperation: If finding a position is a high priority, there's a tendency to accept anything that comes around, even to "get a foot in the door." I don't recommend this approach: it could contribute to even stronger feelings of unhappiness and limit you from opportunities in your field. However, if you're not able to find a position in your field, look for one in a related field or one that will allow you the flexibility to continue your search, such as a temp job or a part-time job. Focus not on the desperation of your situation but the opportunities that you are creating for yourself.

I gave away many copies of my business card that night and did not stop talking to my tablemates until they left assured that there was someone on their side and that they could contact me for assistance. Relocating is hard, but having to find a new job at the same time can be very stressful. Approaching your circumstances with a positive attitude and a sense of empowerment will put you in a position to maintain your career success.

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