Sunday, April 10, 2011

The ins and Outs of Expat Careers: Nicola McCall and A Tale of Adaptation

Nicola McCall calls the Netherlands
home for now
Photo: A van Mulligen (c)

British born Nicola McCall currently calls the Netherlands her home. Nicola’s life as an expat has been the consequence of her partner’s career – his employer has relocated the McCall family a number of times over the years.

Like Louise Wiles featured two weeks ago, Nicola is an expat coach. Whilst living abroad, her career and the development of her own career has been inspired and created by her own personal, expat journey. It has been a story of adapting.

Before Nicola moved overseas for the first time she worked in an international retailer’s headquarters as a Senior Human Resources (HR) specialist. She was responsible for employee relations, internal communications and employee engagement. With her move abroad, she formed a plan for her future career and actively pursued it. She explains,

“I intended to return to HR on our repatriation to the UK (which was planned for Summer 2006) so I did a UK University Post Graduate Certificate in Personal and Business Coaching, as this was a skill set being sought by HR functions at that time.”

But as we know, things don’t always work out the way we plan. Nicola found herself having to adapt when the family ended up staying abroad. She says,

“During the training I saw the potential to work with expatriate spouses in similar circumstances to my own and inspired by Jo Parfitt’s Career in Your Suitcase website and books, I decided to start my own expatriate coaching business in March 2006.”

There was a serious financial cost attached to this career shift.

“Retraining and accommodation costs whilst studying were in the region of £4,000. I had some career support allowance from my partner’s employers but the majority of the finance for my career change was personal,” explains Nicola.

She also needed other types of support to effectuate her desired career change,

“I could not have done the training in the UK nor home study without my partner’s support to care for our son. I also had support from my course colleagues, expats for practice and a mentor coach to help me complete my studies.”

However, the fact that Nicola is still living overseas five years later with a successful career of her own is testament to the fact that the personal investment was a worthy one. Her hard work and determination have paid off in the long run.

To all potential expat coaches out there, Nicola has some sound advice,

“There are many coaches coaching internationally so make sure you undertake training that gives you a qualification and accreditation that is internationally recognised. Join a professional association to support your continuing professional development.  Look carefully at what your niche is and don’t be surprised that you may actually attract those outside your niche in the first year!”

She encourages anyone who has an idea for their own business to give it a go. Nicola says,

“If you think you can – you can!”

To make a success of your overseas career, Nicola pinpoints an essential trait to help you keep going in the face of adversity,

“You need persistence. It is common to ask “why am I bothering?” particularly when you are facing the uncertainty of a new location, you are juggling family commitments, learning a new language, studying – in short creating a new life in a new location! But persistence will keep you on track.”

She also stresses the importance of a sound network and contact with peers.

“Asking for help and reciprocating when you can is one of the easiest ways to connect with others in a similar field – I believe it is part and parcel of networking,” she tells.

And finally, in Nicola’s opinion, a successful overseas career needs a dash of something extra,

“You need a sense of humour – it’s essential anywhere, anytime!"

Nicola's Recommended Links
Inspiring Expat Women sites and books: - information site covering expat women’s lives abroad  Robin Pascoe (see also her books) &  Jo Parfitt's resources for expat careers

Expat Entrepreneur: How to create and maintain your own portable career anywhere in the world - by Jo Parfitt 
containing a useful chapter on careers as an expat woman

Becoming a Coach/ Expat Coaching
Useful article from 2003 the Pathways and Pitfalls of Coaching - 

Career information   -  you can register on the home page for access to career tools 


Nicola McCall

Nicola McCall MCIPD is a UK University Post Graduate qualified Coach, specializing in coaching expatriates to find fulfillment during their work and life abroad.  Visit for more information.

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