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Career switch as an expat? 5 questions to jumpstart self-reflection

June • 6th, 2022
by Geneviève Retzlaff, Certified Career Coach

Career coaching for expats in Germany

Rethinking your career as an expat: Same career or new career?


Rethinking your career when you’re an expat could be an exciting and/or daunting process. Learning a new language, new ways of doing things, trying to fit in this new culture, finding your place in this new world. Some want to rethink their career when they become expats because they were already feeling stuck in a career that no longer fitted who they are even before they moved to a new country. And expatriation sounds like a great way to start over. If not starting over, at least starting a new chapter. 


Do you feel ready for a change but have no idea how to start the process or figure out what else you could do? I recommend beginning with self-reflection.


I’ve drawn on the stories of numerous clients as well as my own experience to develop these 5 questions that identify if you are sitting “in the right chair (career)” or if you (and the world) could benefit from us redirecting your career path.


It is important to mention that this process will require a time investment. Answers might not come easily so allow yourself time with the following questions so you can sit and simmer if needed.


Also, you will notice that these questions are all open-ended. Close-ended questions will not help. They will only bring data that we don’t need (e.g:  How many jobs I’ve had since the beginning of my career?). We need to gain clarity on your current situation in order to determine how your successful professional future will look like.


Five questions that will guide your self-reflection


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1. Sorting the past: Who or what led you to think that your current career was right for you? 


The most common answer is that people chose their career paths according to their parent’s wishes and the definition of a “good” career path for them. Whether it is conscious or subconscious, this “noise” is hindering you from finding your true calling. It could also be that you jumped from opportunity to opportunity without really planning anything. Then you stop for a second and think: “Hang on. Is this what I really wanted to do”!?


2. Passions and employment: Are there any hobbies or interests you let go of in the past that you have been thinking about taking back up?


This topic is important and I invite you to reflect on it, but I do not recommend letting it be the only item you take into consideration for new career. Passions can remain hobbies you do outside of your work and do not have to be your work. That being said, it’s still possible to combine both and that’s why the reflection is important.


Perhaps, you can also use a passion to be part of your future career prospect. You can find a niche in your passion. For example, I was always passionate about feature films and was working in Human Resources. So I became an HR Manager in a visual effects studio. This is how I mean you can use your passion as your niche.


3. Stuck in your own cage? Are there self-limiting beliefs that are keeping you trapped in your current career?


They can also be beliefs that came from others but most of the time, you are your biggest obstacle to your career change. Some of our negative beliefs include “I’m not qualified enough for that,” “I could never do that because I’m too… or I’m not enough….” Find the self-limiting stories that are preventing you from making a career switch and write them down. 


The next two questions go hand-in-hand.


4. How is your ladder? What are you feeling about your current career trajectory? List those feelings, put them on paper. 


5. Option stay put: How will you feel if you remain in your current situation for the next 5 years and you don’t make changes at all? List those feelings on paper.


By comparing the two lists, you will come to reflect on “Is this where I want to be?” Do you want to be living with those feelings or are there different sets of feelings you would rather be living with? What are those feelings? This self-reflection guide can definitely help you clarify your state of mind when you think of your current career and is a great starting point to your transition.


Reflection can definitely be something you do on your own. However, working with a career coach will make you gain clarity on your next steps a lot faster. When you’re thinking of redesigning your career as an expat, you have your load of things to adapt to. These little things tend to cumulate and occupy a lot more mental space than one can imagine. Having a career coach by your side will not only make you move forward in your thought process but will guarantee forward movement in your career/life decisions. And the best thing of all, is that these changes are sustained over time. They are not temporary. We explore your entire self - not only the career side of your life. 


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Curious how career coaching can help you?

If you wanted to get a sense of what career coaching is, feel free to book a free and non-binding two-hour discovery call with me by clicking here.



Genevieve Retzlaff Expat Career Coach

Geneviève Retzlaff is a certified career coach, an expat herself and a valued member of the Expat in the City Expert Network. Find out more about Geneviève and how she can help you.

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