Tag Archives: Entrepreneur

Expat Mothers in Transition or “Where do I go from here????”

In the expat world we talk a lot about transitions. Transitions from home to a TRavelforeign country, from one culture to another culture, from one school to the next, from headquarters to a country office… I can go on and on. Yet today I’d like to speak about another kind of transition – a transition that’s very specific to mothers, and more so to expat mothers.

I’ve been off the radar for the last few weeks because I was co-leading a workshop for expat women looking at their next steps. Most of them were mothers whose children have reached an age where they no longer needed their constant care and involvement (read – teenagers!). And after dedicating their lives to moving their families from country to country, settling everyone in, caring for adjusting kids and spouses, running the household, and in general being the backbone of the family during the turbulent expat years, these women were finding themselves with additional time on their hands. And a huge desire to begin something just for themselves – be it go back to work, re-invent themselves professionally, or re-discover parts of themselves they’ve ignored and start something entirely new.

Many mothers around the world who have had the luxury to take time off work to care for their kids find themselves in the same predicament. In addition to the sadness of “one-moment-I-am-needed-and-the-next-I-am-not”, there is a lot of confusion over “where I am going?” What does this transition have in store for me? Where CAN I go?

And, I think, expat mother have it tougher. We are away from friends, family members, and support networks. Our resume is devoid of part time jobs and professional development courses… unless we count the freelance jobs of packing, taxi service, and nurse. Our confidence is often low because we’ve had our share of glazed over eyes every time we answer the question “and what do you do?” And our opportunities may be limited precisely because we might be living in a country where we don’t speak the language; have no permission to work; or if we already know that we’d be leaving within a couple of years.

Sure we’ve had an amazing life and sure we’ve had access to learning things that others may not have. And we are as resilient as they come. Yet this transition can be tricky.

Especially if we don’t give it proper attention.

Have you – or has anyone you know – ever go through this transition?

Note: the program we ran for expat mothers in transition will now be available to women around the world via the web! Please check here for more information. 

Recreating is Creative Recycling: an Expat Woman Experience

By Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar

I’ve lived in the Middle East for seven years. Along with appreciation for flexible ColorfulPencilsstarting times, humus with meat, and the women’s garment, the abaya, I have developed a list of axioms for success as an expat.

Many of these apply directly to the setting of the Arabian Gulf and specifically to daily events in Qatar.

One: In a high concept culture, the absence of a yes can be read as a no.

Two: The longer you sit, the wider your hips.

Three: Expat life is like a pressure cooker, the pressure of the unfamiliar forcing out whatever is inside.

Number three, however, could apply to any country in the world. What happens when your creature comforts- in my case catchall stores like Target, and a wide circle of friends- are taken away? When you find yourself in an entirely new environment and have to invent your own fun?

There are two stages. In the first you may find yourself working and sleeping in copious amounts. I alternated between an eighty hour work week and a docile weekend the entire first year I lived in Qatar. Coincidentally I also gained 15 pounds from my suddenly sedentary lifestyle.

Eventually (read two years later) I was literally sick of sleeping. I forced myself out of bed and took stock of the situation. This is when I entered stage two: the stage of invention. I wondered to myself what was interesting enough to keep me awake. None of the ladies coffee mornings or social groups had what I wanted, some expat grousing and home sickness mixed in with cultural stimulation.

I did the only thing I could: I created groups of my own. I put a small, free ad in the local events leaflet, advertising a writing group.

Writing, it turned out, was the first of many activities I would embark on to keep myself entertained. And in the process I not only found friends, but made several career changes. I went from being a university administrator to the editor of a series of books. A few years from that transition I found myself talking to the CEO who published J.K. Rowling and agreeing to work for his new company starting up in Doha. A few years from that (yes, I mentioned I’ve been in Qatar quite a while) I resigned from that job in order to pursue my writing full time and publish seven Ebooks on Amazon.

None of this could have happened if I didn’t live overseas. Or perhaps to state more accurately, none of this would have happened as quickly if I were shopping in Target every weekend or flying to my college reunion. Not that retail therapy or friendships aren’t important: I enjoy them on our holiday trips home.

But I found the treasure of expat life is the very fact of being taken outside your comfort zone. Once the irritation, anger, and realization hat in fact, no, your life is not “just like it was at home” because there is a McDonald’s down the street, wears off, you may find you have the greatest gift a person can be given. You have the time to mindfully choose how you want to spend your days, weeks, months – all those hours that stack up to years.

The first few months of a new year are the perfect time to ask yourself how you want to showcase the new you. What skills, passions, or projects have you been talking about for years that now lurk in a back closet, shaming you into silence with their persistent procrastination?

I’ve been writing since I was in my twenties. It took me a twelve years and another continent to recycle that passion from a hobby into a full time occupation. I now teach writing to undergraduates and stay up late at night scribbling away at my own work.

What is it you love to do and yet never have time for? That’s why they call it the gift of the present.

Mohana is still in Doha. You can read all about it on her blog: www.mohanalakshmi.com or follow her on Twitter @moha_doha.

Mohana is also a co-trainer for the “Living and Working in Qatar” cross-cultural course available online 24/7.

Are two heads from different cultures better than two heads from one culture?

When I arrived to Spain I didn’t really know or plan which way my coaching business would go. I knew that my international clients would keep finding me through internet, but I wasn’t sure what direction my practice would take in my new home. Would I be offering workshops? Giving presentations? Doing group coaching? Or working with clients individually?

With all these unanswered questions in the back of my mind, I decided to leave the decisions to the Universe and the field open to experimentation. You never know what life is going to offer you, right? Trying to push and control things never really worked for me and I always ended up disappointed and uninspired.

Days into this “non-plan” I made a new friend – a friend, who is also a coach but a coach from a different country and with a different training. And then I met another new friend. We got together for coffees and lunches and what do you know? A new, exciting idea began to take root and now the three of us are working together to develop it. Because of our different cultures, different backgrounds, and different trainings we come to this idea from three (or more!) different directions – a perfect recipe for both learning lots from each other and creating something fresh. It’s like fusion cuisine at its very best!

What about you? If you are an entrepreneur or a business owner who’s had to move her/his business to another country – what has been your experience in putting your efforts together with people from different places and walks of life?

Diversity=Creativity!

Like this post? Would like to receive expat tips and strategies from us? Sign up for our EXPAT TIPS MONTHLY and receive FREE “A to Z of Successful Expatriation™” Guide and Workbook. Based on experiences of expats around the world, it offers tools that help make your expat life the best it can be! Sign up here.   

Sharing the moment

by Margarita

These are the kinds of moments that help keep the stress and frustrations of being  a solopreneur at bay and I just had to share it with those of you who are not members of the LinkedIn group where this was posted!

I announced the upcoming Culture Mastery 4 C’s Process™ licensing/certification and received an amazing testimonial in a comment from one of the previous participants:

“I can’t recommend Margarita’s training enough! I’ve done it and regardless of all my experience and knowledge, it gave me a different insight into how to approach my training programmes. Relevant, pertinant, interactive, useful, and enriching. Margarita was a great facilitator and the other participants really took part and shared. Personally, since I did her training I have reassessed my programme contents and presentation and my clients love it!

No, Margarita didn’t ask me to post this, this is a real feedback…I used a lot of what we discussed in the course just yesterday, for the first time ‘live’ , with MBA students wanting an insight into intercultural management. I was able to demystify the theories, make it relevant and apply it to their professional lives. Must have done a good job because I’ve been invited back! Thanks M! (Helen Le Port of HLP Training)

Thank you, Helen!

So if you are a solopreneur and sometimes feel that it’s always uphill and never downhill — think of these moments and remember them!

If you want to use the Culture Mastery 4 C’s Process ™ with your clients, the next licensing/certification is taking place on December 1 & 8, 2011 via a webinar.  The early registration discount is only until November 24 — so sign up now!

Creativity and Cross-Cultural Ties — is there really a connection?

In a recent BNET blog (5 Ways to Foster Innovation) Kimberly Weisul says that:

“Roy Chua, of Harvard, believes that creativity is not necessarily about coming up with something totally new. Instead, he says, “most often it is about connecting ideas to create something different. If you have a multicultural social network, you are more likely to receive ideas that are different.” Chua surveyed a group of media professionals about their social networks, and then asked each to brainstorm about the future of the newspaper industry. A group of outside judges ranked the ideas based on how creative they were, and it turned out those professionals with ore multicultural social networks came up with more creative ideas. Chua conducted a similar experiment with college students, surveying their social networks and asking them to come up with a new advertising campaign for a fruit drink. Those with more contact with different cultures came up with more creative ideas.”

Now we’ve heard before that moving to another country and becoming an expat encourages creativity just for the simple reason of being in a different environment and being exposed to new perspectives.  By the same token, cross-cultural interactions and connections do the same job of exposing us to different perspectives and ideas.  But what’s our role here and who do we have to be to actually become more creative?

There are a couple of traits I think are very useful in taking advantage of your cross-cultural ties when it comes to becoming more creative:

  • Open-mindedness – if we are closed to new perspectives and ideas, no amount of them around us will help;
  • Courage – new things can be scary and taking them on can be even scarier;
  • Curiosity – digging deeper is part of adopting something new.

What do you think?  What other traits can be helpful here?

Want to take advantage of this opportunity to become more creative and productive when working across cultures? We have a couple of openings for executives who want to improve their intercultural competency.  Our individual cross-cultural coaching program is based on Culture Mastery 4 C’s Process™ — the program that helps people build their cultural competency.  For more details please visit here.

A coach or a trainer? Want to help your clients improve their intercultural competence?  Get licensed to use Culture Mastery 4 C’s Process™ in the upcoming webinar.

Individualistic-oriented cultures and greed – any relationship?

This morning listening to the NPR (National Public Radio) I caught an interview that the Morning Edition host did with an American venture capitalist Bill Frezza.  The conversation centered around job creation and the age-old debate that rages regularly between liberals and conservatives on whether or not taxing the rich affects job creation in a negative way.

What struck me was not the tax question, but rather the view that Bill Frezza held on jobs and on how jobs are actually not beneficial to business.  Jobs is an expense, he said, and creating jobs isn’t the goal of any business.  The goal of a business is making money for the owner and the shareholders as well as satisfying customer demand.  In other words, business owners aren’t supposed to be concerned about the American economy and the state of the country in particular – but simply about how much money they’ll make and how much profit they’ll take in.

Perhaps not quite the view I would relate to, but that’s beside the point.  His pragmatic approach seemed very ego-centric, very “as-long-as-I-make-money-nothing-else-matters”, and very … individualistic, if we want to put a culture dimension on it.  What about the world, I wanted to ask?  What about making sure that your money-making is contributing good to the world and to the society you live in?

It seems that Bill and many like him don’t care very much for that (at least that’s what came through in this interview).  And that makes me wonder – do individualistic societies where “I” is a lot more important than “We” create more ego-centrism and more greed?  Does the US with its very individualistic orientation lead the world in the number of greedy and I-don’t-give-a-f$#@% individuals?

Has this attitude been exported elsewhere? And how is this export thriving in your country?

Working across cultures – difficult or different or both?

How often do you hear similar sentiments expressed by expat managers and team leaders working across cultures:

  • There is zero initiative among my staff. 
  • No one knows how to follow up and deliver on time – I spend half of my week every week requesting things that have been long overdue!
  • All meetings that I have ever attended have been interrupted by at least one cell phone call – and the recipient always took it!
  • Even though I have a separate office (and close the door!), I find myself constantly interrupted by people dropping in to ask me (or tell me) something.
  • A meeting that should last an hour often goes for 3 hours.  It’s so difficult to get people to stay on topic and come to the point.

These examples of frustrations I hear from clients all point to how difficult – and different – it can be to create something together when working with people from diverse cultures.  The words difficult and different represent two different (no pun intended) perspectives of looking at this challenge.

If we look at it from the point of view of “how difficult” it is and nothing else, frustration, hopelessness, and an overwhelming desire to go home drive all of our actions and responses.

If we look at it as “difficult and different” we open up for the possibility of creating out of the difficult by looking at and considering the differences.  How can we create out of what’s different here?

Creating out of the differences requires not only this open-minded perspective but also a good knowledge of where the differences lie — it requires Culture Mastery:

  • What cultural preferences do you and your colleagues differ on?
  • How big/small is the gap?
  • How possible is it for you to adjust your cultural preferences – that is, will it infringe on your values/identity or will it simply be about changing your habits?
  • What cultural alliances can you create to be more effective?

What has been your experience in creating from the different and the difficult?

NEW at the Global Coach Center: Culture Mastery Course (online) that specifically addresses challenges described in the post above.

Copyright © 2011 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

To expat or not to expat: 3 tips that can help you decide

In today’s day and age expatriates are not only those sent abroad by their companies.  They are also people who decide to retire abroad; people who decide to move overseas on their own (although they might be called immigrants but more about that in another post); people who go to another country to study or volunteer; etc, etc, etc.  All of them have one thing in common: they somehow decided that living outside of their home country borders will be a good thing for them.  How does one decide that?  What can be helpful to consider before taking the plunge?

The tips I will list below may not fully apply to each category of expats but they will be helpful nevertheless.

Tip 1.  Consider the “why”. What is calling you to move abroad?  What’s driving your desire to relocate?  Is it the friends who keep telling you to do it and the grass just always seems greener on the other side?  Or is it the feeling of newness and adventure that’s calling you forth?  Are your reasons purely financial?

Discovering the motivation behind the thought of moving is your most important step to undertake before making any decision.  When you discover your motivating factors, you zero in on which of your personal values you’ll be honoring and which ones you may be neglecting. Making sure your values do not suffer in the process of your relocation is instrumental in making your move a happy one.

A simple process of making the decision based on values (as opposed to pros and cons process that most of us use) is the following:

  • First, identify your values.  What’s important to you in life?  Aside from food, water, and shelter what do you absolutely have to have in your life to make it worthwhile?  Make a list of those values (or if it’s difficult for you to give those values names, look at the list of common values at Global Coach Center site and pick the ones that ring true for you).
  • Second, chose the ten values that seem most important.  Imagine you are moving and you are only allowed to take 10, what would they be?
  • Third, draw the following table on a piece of paper and rate your chosen values on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the best)
Value If I move, I’ll honor this value at the following level (from 1 to 10) If I stay, I’ll honor this value at the following level (from 1 to 10)
Example: 

Adventure

Family/Grandchildren

Learning/Growth

 

  • What are you discovering?  What are your values telling you?

Tip 2.  Investigate. Learn a few things about your own cultural blueprint and about prevalent cultural blueprint of the country you want to move to.  This learning goes beyond the traditional clichés and the do’s and don’ts – in fact, this learning will help you see how compatible (or not compatible) your cultural habits and values are with the cultural habits and values of the majority of people in your host country.  If your compatibility is close to zero, you may be looking at years of frustration – so why do it?  You might be better off selecting another country if you set your mind on moving.

Tip 3.  Conduct proper reconnaissance. You are about to make a very important decision of your life, so consider spending a few months simply living in that country as a try out.  Feel what it’d be like for you to become the resident of that country for good.  Connect with other expats – those who are there for a short and a long run.  What are you learning that can help you decide?

Tip 4.  Don’t make this decision alone. Friends, family and an army of well-wishers will have their opinions about your desire to move.  And although they’ll be dong the best they can to be impartial, their advice will still contain at least an iota of how-will-that-impact-me thoughts. Besides, other people’s advice rarely fit when we are about to make a really big decision in our lives.  So find someone who will help you tap into your own wisdom — find an expat coach.

How have you made your decision to move?  Please share.

People who read this post also enjoyed:

Expat coach — where art thou?

Third Culture Kids — what’s in the “programming”?

What do expats look for?

Copyright © 2011 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

Accompanying spouse and career – what’s the motivation?

Why do we work?  What makes us want to work?  And what makes us feel sad when we don’t work?

In today’s economic reality, some of us may answer above questions with a simple “I have to put food on the table and provide for my family” answer.  And while this is a very valid point, I am not going to focus on money being the reason for work in this blog post.  Instead, I want to talk about what motivates us to have professional lives.

For many an expat – and here I mean the accompanying spouses – the reality is such that we don’t have to work.  Don’t have as in don’t-have-the-necessity-of-having-the-additional-income-in-the-family for the family to live comfortably.  Yet many of us long to have a professional life abroad, especially if we had to leave out jobs behind, when we moved.

So what motivates us to long for it?

  • Desire to grow?
  • Habit?
  • Fears (like the fear of not having something to do with our time or the fear of not being enough or the fear of being perceived as someone lazy or the fear of losing ourselves)?

How often do we really know what’s motivating us?  How often do we take the time to find out?

The reason I bring this up is that sometimes we want to work for all the wrong reasons – and we suffer internally (if we cannot work) for all the wrong reasons.  So until we shine a bright light on our real motivators for wanting work, we’ll continue holding onto the old habits and old attitudes towards work, even if those are not working out for us.

Here is one exercise to help you learn your real motivators for wanting a professional life:

I.  Answer the following questions:

  • What is important to me about having a job?
  • What is important to me about having a career path/professional life?
  • What do I look for in my professional life?  Without the presence of what will my professional life lack meaning?
  • What’s disconcerting about not having a job?
  • What’s disconcerting about not having a career?

2.  All humans can divided into those who mainly get motivated by away factors, those that mainly get motivated by toward factors, and those who get motivated by both.  The away factors sound similar to this:

  • “I want to work so that I don’t have to ask my spouse for spending money.”
  • “I am working so that I am never going to be poor.”
  • “I am starting a new business so that no one can say I am doing nothing with my time.”

The toward factors sound similar to this:

  • “I want to work so that I can buy myself whatever I want.”
  • “I am looking for a new job so that I can get more challenged.”
  • “I want my own business so that I can be my own boss and can be as creative as I want.”

Looking at your answers to questions above, gauge whether or not you are motivated mainly by away factors, towards factors, or both.  Usually the away factors, while having a place in our lives, don’t last and are not as compelling as the toward factors.  The away factors display our saboteur thinking and provide a negative-energy-filled pull towards having a career.  How valid is that thinking in your life now?  And what would you be without that thinking?

So what is at the heart of you wanting to work and have a career overseas?

People who read this post also enjoyed:

Trailing and not failing: how our relationships sustain us in expatriation?

What do expats need to stay?

Expat entrepreneur? Who is your ideal client?

Copyright © 2011 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

Expat entrepreneur? Who is your ideal client?

This December – as every December – I am reflecting on the road traveled and the road ahead, especially as it pertains to what I bring and what my unique contribution is to this world.  I believe in co-creating: us working together with the universe to fulfill the purpose we are here for.  And, among other things,  co-creating means really listening to what the universe is telling us, getting the hints, and taking them as our cues to get our part of the bargain done.

In coaching I see this as really tuning in and knowing who you are meant to work with. A lot of coaches talk about finding their ideal clients – people with whom they come alive and people they most love working with.  I’ve always liked working with expatriates and people who have an international itch, but this December I decided that I can define it even further.

How?

Apparently it’s very simple.  All I have to do is look back at all the clients that I have attracted over the years — the ones I loved working with — and bingo.  The universe keeps sending me my ideal clients and that’s my cue about who they are.

For example, the women clients I attract are all remarkable women that tend to be very hard on themselves. My clients run businesses abroad; move their families across continents; quit jobs and careers to follow loved ones overseas; support their spouses and children … they do all that and more, yet they often don’t feel enoughThey still feel guilty — guilty about not being enough and not doing enough; guilty not to be working, guilty spending the money they didn’t earn, guilty about having me-time, … and on and on it goes.  That on top of feeling alone, lost, unrecognized, and unfulfilled creates a cocktail that I like to call fog.  Fog of doubt, guilt, self-criticism, and not realizing that they are so much more than they think they are.

Among men I attract the seekers. I call them that because men who hire me as a coach are those who are looking to find their dream and their road in life. They don’t come to me because I coach expats – but they come to me because my expatriate and international background is something they identify with and something that contributes to their journey.

The gender definition isn’t set in stone, of course.  But looking back, I find it amazing that almost all of my clients have been my ideal clients and people I absolutely love working with.

  • So, if you look at your business, who is your ideal client?
  • Who have you loved working with?  What is it in them that draw you?
  • And how knowing this can help you identify your ideal client?

Remember to sign up for the Expat Club: 10 Weeks of Wisdom program. It has been specifically designed around expatriate issues and concerns and it’ll help you feel supported, encouraged, and inspired. Sign up here.

Copyright © 2010 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!