Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Ins and Outs of Expat Careers: Louise Wiles and Expat Coaching

Photo: Enrico Corno
Born in the UK, expat coach Louise Wiles now calls Portugal home but this is far from her first stop on the expat express train. She moved to Spain a decade ago and then to Portugal before she repatriated back to the UK for three years. She then lived on Madeira Island for five years before landing last year in her current destination of Lisbon.

All this moving around is a result of her husband's career. But what about her own career? How has she kept it going with all the moving around and what advice does she have for other accompanying partners? I spoke to her to find out and discovered the expat career path is not always a straight one - but planning the journey is essential.

I asked Louise about her career starting point and what effect a move overseas had on her career. Louise explains how she turned a move overseas into a career opportunity,

"My original profession was in sales and then training in Sales and Management. When I first moved to Spain I considered working for the same insurance group, AXA, in Madrid but decided I wanted to do something different. I trained as an English teacher (TEFL) and had my own business for a year. Then I decided it was my opportunity to do what I had always wished I had done and study Psychology." 

Louise saw a move overseas as the chance to retrain
through distance learning
Photo: Shho
Whilst living in Spain, Louise obtained a Psychology degree from the Open University in the UK and followed it with a Masters in Occupational Psychology from the UK based University of Leicester. Both of her degrees were obtained through distance learning.

However, having obtained the qualifications, expat life posed another challenge. Louise explains,

"A big issue was how to get the qualifications recognised here in Portugal. Because I was moving around I never completed my three years practice work in order to become a chartered occupational psychologist."

When Louise left the UK for the second time, she went armed with a plan,

"I chose to complete a certificate in coaching and to build a business from home – portable and related to my experience as an accompanying partner."

Her portable career solution not only works with her mobile lifestyle, but it also helps keep the balance in her home life. Louise says,

"Running my own business also means that I am able to fit it alongside my other commitments as a mother of two young kids with a husband who travels a lot – my business needs to be run from home and flexible enough to work around the demands of two young children (8 and 5)."

Many expats face a similar need to maintain flexible working arrangements - and Louise has created her own solution.

I asked Louise what kind of support she has had to build and maintain her own career abroad. The answer is disappointingly typical for many accompanying spouses. 

"None – from any outside party – just me and support financially from my husband (well our family income!!).  Actually I think I did get financing for a language course and my TEFL course in Madrid from my husband's company during our first relocation – but I've have had no support since," shares Louise.

This lack of support in her own situation is the reason why Louise is developing a programme for accompanying partners which aims to identify and develop a portable solution for their lives abroad.

Louise's number one tip for others who want to pursue their career abroad is simple,

"Do your research before you leave your home country. Make sure your expectations are realistic before you move abroad."

She goes on to say,
"Check whether your home country qualifications are recognised in your destination country and if they are not investigate what you will need to do to convert them – if this is possible. If not, consider how you could build your own business or freelance whilst abroad. Think about how you would set up a business and what the requirements for registering that business abroad would be – you may not even be able to do so in which case consider setting up your business in your home country before leaving. You could also consider working as an associate for someone else."

I asked this creative expat coach which three skills she thinks are essential for the success of an overseas career. She says without hesitation,

"Determination, creativity and passion."

Louise's Recommended Links

Career in Your Suitcase by Jo Parfitt - a recommended read by Louise Wiles

Louise Wiles offers specific programmes for accompanying partners who want to create an individual portable approach to their career and lifestyle on relocating abroad.

To find out more about Louise and her services visit her website: or contact her by email You can also follow her on Twitter: LWexpatlife

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