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Making A Career Change Abroad

Carlie: Hi there, it’s Carlie. Welcome to another year of Expat Focus podcasts. We’re kicking off 2023 with an episode about life and career change, which tends to go hand-in-hand with a decision to move abroad.

It’s certainly true for me. Actually, this year marks 10 years since I decided to quit my job and life in Australia, to move to the UK to see what else I was capable of.

My guest is Midlife Career Change Coach Josh Peck, who talks about our common motivations for making a change, the three key elements for success, and the common reasons that can hold people back.

Josh, thanks so much for joining me on the Expat Focus podcast.

Josh: You are very welcome. It’s great to be here.


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Carlie: I can imagine January being a bit of a peak time for you as a career change coach. What do you think it is about this time of year, the start of a new year that makes people really think about the changes they wanna make in their lives and act on it?

Josh: Yeah, it certainly is. It’s a really busy time of year for me. And I think there are a couple of things going on. I think partly, it’s actually a December issue rather than a January issue. Because I think what happens is you get to the markers of the year, and actually, it’s interesting, September is also a really busy time for me since people come back from their summer holidays. It’s the kind of points in the year where you realize time has passed.

You get to another Christmas, you get to another September, whatever it is, and you look back and you realize that the things that you had hoped you would do, career changes are often pretty high on people’s lists, you actually haven’t made the progress on it that you’d want. So there’s a sense of, another year and I’m still in this job that I decided a year ago or two years ago, or often three or four years ago, that I wanted to move on from.

And then there’s the sense of new beginnings. And you know, depending on where you are in the world, you often have a little bit of time off over Christmas, so you have a bit more time, a bit more head space. I don’t know about you, but whenever I take at least 10 days or two weeks off, it takes me a good week to kind of relax. And then in the second week, stuff starts floating to the top of my mind that’s been kind of covered over by all this kind of stuff of day-to-day work.

So there’s both that sense of time passing on and then there’s the sense of excitement, of what can come in in new beginnings. So I think it’s both of those.

Carlie: I love that meme that goes around every Christmas on social media of like, you’re in that time of year where you forget what day it is and you don’t know the time and you’re just, yeah, as you said, floating in your mind and really not focused as you’re taking time off and not needing to keep to a schedule.

Josh: So I’m really clear, I do mid-life career change, and midlife for me is less an age and more a time of life where you are kind of no longer prepared to compromise, no longer prepared to settle. Often actually, at a time of life where you’ve got so many responsibilities, even harder to make (inaudible), but you’re just like, no, I’m going to do it, whatever. But actually, I work with people of a kind of really wide range of ages, not everyone in midlife. But I think what goes on over Christmas or over holidays generally, is people start to understand that life can be different from the nine to five, can be different from the grind. And so they get to spend time with family and friends. They get to spend time in nature.

There are a couple of things that often pop up when I talk to people about actually, what do you want from a different career and a different life around it? And it’s more time, it’s more time with my family and friends, it’s more time on my own, more time to do the things that count for me.

Nature always comes up. I want to get out of the office, out of my study and into nature, out walking. So actually we get some more of those things. And we kind of realize over the holidays what we’re missing. We kind of think, oh yeah, actually there is more to life than just looking at spreadsheets for nine, ten hours a day

Carlie: It’s funny that you mentioned time and holidays because I made a career change myself when I was 28. And it was on the back of taking time off, I took four weeks off work, and I went to Europe. And I was working in breakfast radio, so I was very much living by the clock and I felt like my day was ruled by time. And it was taking that holiday, realizing there was so much more out there in the world for me to see and I needed to escape that clock to really, you know, discover it, that prompted me to make a career change and move abroad at the same time.

Josh: Yeah. And I would say about two-thirds of the people I work with end up going into some version of working for themselves, and the rest end up being in some form of employment.

There are three elements of a successful career change for me. One is about fulfilment, one is about balance, one is about financial independence. And the balance part is a big motivator. And that’s really about freedom and control. Do I have the freedom and the control to live my life in a way that feels like I’m actually living my life rather than living someone else’s nine-to-five? And that freedom and control, it’s hard when you are working for someone else. When you are doing that nine to five,  you’re basically building your life around the time you have left around the edges of that. And so, as you say, you know, when you have some time off, whether it’s going on holiday, whether it’s travelling, whether it’s time off over Christmas, that contrast between how you would like to live and how you are having to live through work becomes more pronounced and it can be the trigger that pushes people over the edge and into that kind of January career change.

Carlie: Have you noticed another trigger in the interest of career coaching coming from the Covid pandemic of the last few years, and people’s work habits changing with being able to work from home and understanding that you can have more flexibility in your life?

Josh: Yeah, I think there’s a kind of complex set of changes of triggers in there. One of them is actually a sense of, wow, this life is short and we don’t know what’s ever around the corner. And just a sense of, I need to seize the day, you know. So that there’s that.

There’s also actually a sense of, oh, I thought that being in this job was security and stability, and that security and stability keeps a lot of people stuck in jobs they don’t want to do. And actually, when big things happen in the world, you kind of get a clearer sense that, oh, nothing is ever as secure and as stable, as predictable as we think. And then there is the, oh, I’ve worked from home and I can see how this different life could work for me.

But then also, actually, what I see a lot is that people are working from home, but they’re working much longer hours, there are fewer clear boundaries, their work is kind of taking over, and it’s almost like the real benefits of being able to work in a different way are dangled in front of their face with all of the costs of still working in that way. So the pandemic has definitely been a big trigger in lots of different ways for people.

Carlie: Now, Josh, you work with a lot of different people based in lots of different countries around the world. Why do you think career change and moving abroad go hand in hand?

Josh: It’s really interesting. So some of those people are people who’ve moved abroad. Some of those are people who are kind of born and bred there. What I actually see, is that people look for different solutions for finding happiness. So when they’re unhappy in their job, they’re unhappy in their life, they think, well, maybe if I move abroad that that will change things. Maybe if I change careers.

And actually, my principle in career coaching is we don’t talk about jobs to start off with. We actually start on getting back to you. So what I always say is that a career change, particularly a midlife career change, but any career change, isn’t about a job. It’s about aligning who you are with what you do.

And so most people go about a career change, kind of looking on LinkedIn and looking on job sites and trying to work out, what do I have the skills to do? And that process rarely works. They get stuck going round and round in circles, they’ll find the list of things that they can do, and it’s very unexciting. And actually, the place to start, if a career change is about aligning who you are with what you do, then actually, what you need to do the work on is, who am I?

Okay, at this point in my life with everything that’s gone on, you know, particularly, you know, we change and often we start on our careers when we’re choosing our exams, choosing our subjects at 14 or 15 or however old it is, and then university and you know, then we kind of fall in. So often the direction of those has been set 10, or 20 years earlier.

And you know, through birth, deaths, marriages, pandemics, all those things, we’ve really fundamentally changed as people and our jobs haven’t caught up. And so we try and close that gap between who we are and what we do by changing job without actually knowing who we are. And I suspect the same thing is going on often with, kind of, changing country that actually people have a sense of not being right in themselves. And so they’re trying to change the context, the job, the place they live, the people around them without actually getting to that kind of core point of, okay, what is the unmet need in me? What is the need in me? What are my beliefs? What are my values? Who am I, what’s my identity?

You start from that place and it all becomes much clearer. And then you can decide. And I often work with people who’ve made a big, either a move overseas or move within their country, and also a kind of career change, and it hasn’t necessarily worked out or,  it’s worked out, but it hasn’t given them the thing that they were missing. And when we go back and do the work on actually who they are, not only does it make sense why it’s not working, but they’re then able to make changes that can kind of much better align where they are and what they do with who they are.

Carlie: So what can you tell me about some of these changes that you’ve seen your international clients make in their lives and careers through your coaching?

Josh: Yeah. I mean, the thing I can tell you is there’s no one size fits all. Some people come to me and they say-

Carlie: Everyone just quits their job to open a cafe, right? Isn’t that it?

Josh: Yeah,  not so much. But it’s funny, some people come to me and say, right, what job is it that I need to do? And I say, I’m sorry, I just don’t know that. What I don’t do is, I don’t know about you, but at school we had a kind of computer program where it asked you all the things that you liked, and if you liked books it told you you should be a librarian, and you know that kind of (inaudible).

Carlie: Yeah, I remember that book.

Josh: Yeah. My principle is, you have all your own answers. Like you already know, no one’s broken, everyone’s creative, resourceful and whole, you have all your own answers, but they get covered up. And so what I enable people to do is to find those own answers. And there’s always a point in the process where they get this flash of inspiration and where they know, they’re like, oh, I’ve always known this and yet I’ve never known it, and here it is. So the range-

Carlie: Like the aha moment.

Josh: Yeah. And the range is huge.

So I work with a client in India who worked in tech, who went on to be a breath work coach. Another client who went from kind of a very corporate job into being a writer. The range is really huge because it is about, it’s not about jobs. And that’s why I can work across the whole world. It’s not about jobs and job markets, it’s about who you are, what’s right for you.

Equally, it’s not always that huge. I’ve worked with a client recently who works in financial services and her change is from going and being an employee to being a non-executive director and having that kind of crossing the table, as it were. And then people who’ve gone from construction into agriculture. You know, a whole range. But, you know, I say to people, the world really is your oyster. There’s very little that people can’t do. It’s funny, the question people often ask me at the beginning is, oh, you will make sure I don’t come up with anything stupid and really unrealistic. No, I won’t because-

Carlie: Don’t let me make a bad career decision.

Josh: That’s exactly it. Like,  people really are able to do extraordinary things. And the thing that holds people back is actually not having too big an ambition, it’s having too small a one. Most people try and make a career change safe by keeping their ambition small and kind of manageable. Actually, what that means is, the benefit of the career change doesn’t outweigh the kind of costs. And there are some costs,  there are some challenges. Obviously, you are starting something new.

Incidentally, I don’t think you can start again. You take your network, your knowledge, your skills, your expertise, your experience with you. So, as I’m sure you found in your second career, it doesn’t take you nearly as long to get to the same level of success and kind of progression and income as it did in the first because you’re already this kind of developed package.

But if you try and keep yourself too small and your ambition too small, it’s just not exciting enough. It’s not life changing enough. So what I say to people is, you know, go for really big, ambitious, life-changing stuff. For most people, a big drive in a career change is wanting to feel more fulfilled.  And fulfilment is about having an impact on the world that feels meaningful for you, changing the world in some way that feels really meaningful for you. So I never try and constrain people’s ambition. I try and just expand it and expand, expanded, expand it.

Carlie: It was actually refreshing to hear you say earlier that only a certain percentage of people end up starting their own business or working for themselves. Because I was even speaking to Nikki, our last guest on the podcast, who was speaking about how she kind of had to create her own business when she moved from the Netherlands to Japan, because she was searching for a job as an English speaker without Japanese, and she just couldn’t find another option. And so becoming an entrepreneur was kind of the path she had to take for herself.

Josh: Yeah.

Carlie: I know that’s a situation that a lot of expats find themselves in. I know I don’t work for myself full-time, but I do work a little for myself. And at the start I was very adamant, I do not want to do this as my sole job. I have no ambition to be self-employed as the way I make my living. Do some of your clients feel a little backed into a corner like that, and how do you talk them through other things they can do when they are in those situations, in those thought processes?

Josh: Some people are really clear that they absolutely don’t want to work for themselves and others are really clear that they do. And then there’s a kind of middle ground of people who actually are unsure. And what’s really important is kind of really working out, is it fear that’s holding them back from working themselves? Or is it just a sense of,  that’s not what they want?

And so when we coach, we look at a whole range. We build up this kind of three-dimensional picture, and one of the things is actually, what does a great day look like for me when I’m working? What kind of organization? You know, do I really thrive in thrive in big organizations, in small organizations? Who do I want to be working with? Am I someone that works best on my own or in a team?

And when you build up all of that information, it starts to make it clearer, whether or not actually your kind of ideal working situation is working for yourself or for someone else. And then you can work on, okay, well what’s holding you back? Is it fear? Is it barriers in the external market? And then the thing really then is to work with people. And if they do want to be employed and they’re struggling with that, it’s to work on some of the other roots. And one of the big ones really is the hidden job market, which is, you know, if you look across the world, it differs kind of market by market. But it’s broadly similar.

About a third of jobs are recruited without ever having been advertised, often without ever having been to the HR department. They’re recruited in some form through word of mouth.

Now, there are all sorts of problems with that. All sorts of problems with unconscious bias and networks and all that kind of stuff. But it is part of the reality. And actually, people, particularly if you or you are in a country that you haven’t lived in before, where you don’t have a huge network, can feel very stunted by that. But actually, there is a way of working through that. There is a way of kind of putting that to your own benefit and to going out there. The way I always work with people is, you know, let’s identify the sector or the kind of jobs or the kind of companies you want to work in, and let’s kind of track it back to, what can you be doing?

Carlie: And what bars do they hang out in.

Josh: Yeah, absolutely. But you know, the thing is, we can come up with incredibly complicated technological solutions to things. The thing that I always take people back to is, whether it’s building our own business or getting employed, it’s essentially an exchange between two human beings. And you create a career one conversation at a time. And so, you know, even if you’re in a place where you don’t know lots of people, being able to have conversations which say to people, do you know anything about this sector or this company? Do you know anyone who does?

And over time, gradually building up the roots in that means that you can start to understand what that organization is, who some of those people are, and you can actually get access to that hidden jobs market. People seem to think it’s the kind of old boys network, and there is some element of that, but actually, it’s often much more fluid and you know, slightly more democratic than that. So there is a way in for people

Carlie: Now not to get negative, but I am curious about some of the reasons why you might fail in your goals, in your goal to make a professional change.

Josh: Yeah. So, there are a couple. One of the things that I see all the time, and actually I made my career change a while ago and I worked in politics for 20 years. I was a lobbyist by day, a nice one, not a sleazy one, a nice lobbyist by day-

Carlie: That’s good.

Josh: -working on only good causes.

Carlie: Not Big Tobacco.

Josh: No, I did no tobacco, I did no (inaudible), nothing like that. All good stuff. Lots of renewable energy and nice things like that. And then I was a local councillor in the evenings and weekends in my spare time. And then politics just stopped working for me. It’s still working practically, because I had young kids and it was a 24/7 occupation, but it just stopped holding the same kind of sway for me. It had always been my passion and it stopped being.

And when I was, you know, doing what everyone does and Googling how to change career, I read article, after article, after article, which said, just follow your passion. Find your passion and follow your passion. And actually, the mistake I see a lot of people make is they take something they’re passionate or interested about, often a hobby, sometimes a side hustle and try to turn it into their thing. I mean, that can really work, but there are three things you need to be really successful.

You need alignment. You need alignment with who you are and what you do. And you know, that can come from that place. You also then need something rare and valuable, which is a set of skills. And people don’t always necessarily align their skills with that kind of hobby or passion. And then you need a real sense of how you work best. And so if you are just going with your hobby or your passion, that can not work.

The second problem I see is that, those three things that you need, which are fulfillment, which are balanced, which are financial independence, if you have one of those really lacking in your first career, the likelihood is that you will overindex that in your second career. So if your job is incredibly unfulfilling, but your salary and your balance is okay, you’ll go for fulfillment at the cost of those things. So you’ll think, oh, you know, I just want to do something meaningful. I don’t care about the money, I don’t care how long I have to work. And you’ll end up doing something very meaningful, but being poor and totally burnt out.

The thing I see a lot actually, is people who do a job that’s quite meaningful but feel incredibly burnt out by it. And so you think, I just want to do something that’s easy, I want to be able to go home at the end.

And I remember this, I remember when I was kind of really struggling at work, and going in buying bread one day and thinking, oh, I wish I could just sell bread. You know, I just wish I could hand loaves over the counter, not even be an artisan bread maker, not have my own business, just sell bread.

Now the truth is, I would have been bored of that in about a week.

Carlie: Yes.

Josh: So, you know, iif you’re really burnt out, it can feel really easy to think, I just want an easy job. And I say to people all the time, you do not want an easy job. You want to be challenged. Fulfillment is being challenged. But you want to be challenged in the right way. You want to be challenged in something that you do really well. You want to be challenged in something you do, and you want to be challenged in a way that doesn’t burn you out.

So that’s the second thing. If something is really missing, whether it’s the income, whether it’s the balance, whether it’s the fulfillment, people often think that’s the thing that they need. And you know, the other things don’t matter. Having the three things in real balance is the secret to a successful career. And that’s a big mistake that people make.

Carlie: It’s funny,  before you get to the third one, because when I decided to quit my job and move to London, I was really, really into training Brazilian jiujitsu. And everyone’s like, what are you going to do in London? And I said, I don’t care. You know, as long as I have enough money to train Brazilian jiu-jitsu, I’ll work at a gym, I’ll wait tables, it’s fine. I’ve achieved my goals with my career in life, so everything now is just a bonus.

Josh: Yeah.

Carlie: And I think that attitude lasted the British summer. And after a few months, I was going crazy with how mundane the work was and not professionally fulfilling. So I completely relate to, I just want to sell bread. But, do you really? Maybe not, you know?

Josh: And it’s interesting actually, I was having coffee with a friend recently and she was talking about someone she knows who actually is an artisan bread maker, who set up his own business, and actually, even that he’s bored of now and he’s going into training to do something else. So, you know, even when you’ve turned it into businesse,  sometimes it isn’t the thing.

The third mistake I was going to say, and it’s actually a mistake I see lots of people make, it’s that thing that I’ve talked about already, of thinking a career change is about fitting your skills to a list of jobs and spending all your time on LinkedIn or on a website, you know, trying to work out what it is and just getting really, really stuck. So those are the three things that I see as kind of big problems.

Carlie: So then how can we guarantee success? I think you spoke on this a little bit earlier, but what are the things that we should really focus on when we’re looking to make a change in our professional lives to make sure that we look back and say, ah, that was the right decision,  and make sure you don’t regret or don’t achieve what you’re setting out to do?

Josh: Yeah, I would say there are probably three things. The first is, be really clear that you do need all of those three things in balance. You need to work out who you are and what will feel fulfilling for you. You need to know what’s important to you. A job is an exchange of our time in return for money. And so when you’re handing over that much time, and it’s a big chunk of time, it’s got to be worthwhile. You know, the money is enough for some people, it’s not enough for most people. For most people, you actually want to feel like you’re changing the world in some meaningful way.

So that’s number one. Make sure that whatever you are handing over, in terms of your time, is important enough in terms of the impacts that you give to make it feel worthwhile. Then there’s the balance, making sure that the balance is right. And then there’s the financial independence, making sure that you can earn enough. You’ve got to have those three things. That’s about knowing who you are. It’s about your kind of rare and valuable set of skills. And it’s about actually knowing how it is you ideally work. So that’s number one. Like, get really clear on those things. In the center of that kind of triangle of those three things sits your perfect future career. And that’s what we work through with people, getting to that point where, you know, all of that stuff around the outside and then being in the middle, there it is.

The second thing really is, and this is actually a large part of the work I do with people, it’s actually less self-confidence, more self-acceptance. The thing that will hold you back is the belief that you can’t. And most people have a basic belief that making a big career change is really hard, and they’re maybe not up to it.And so we do a lot of work on self-belief and self-acceptance.

Self-confidence is actually a product. You do something well, you get confident at it. Self-belief, and really self-acceptance, is the sense of actually, you know, whatever you think of me, I’m kind of worthy and valuable as a human being just by being me. And that kind of sense of, actually, I really can do anything I set my mind to. In this moment right now, I can literally kind of do anything. All we’re able to do is the single next thing, and in this moment right now, I can do that.

And so working on a sense of self-acceptance, of self-belief, is really crucial. And having a big life changing ambition for how you want to live your life, and what you want to do, and the sense that you can do that. And it can be both a life’s work, but also when you start looking at some of the beliefs you have about yourself, that are kind of ingrained from childhood, you can find that some of those stories actually made no sense whatsoever. And once you get clear on them, they can disappear really quickly.

And then the third thing I would say, and this is a really important one, as we often think about lots of things in life, particularly a career change is about the end goal. So it’s what I call, I’ll be happy when. I’ll be happy when I have a super successful career, when I’ve got lots of money, when I’m really successful. All of that that kind of stuff.  And it misses the fact that the only place we can ever be happy is right here, right now.

So don’t judge your career change on whether or not you get to a particular place. Judge it on whether or not your life is fun and happy now. And the same for where you are living. If you’re living somewhere different, don’t judge it on, I’ll be happy here when I’ve fully mastered the language or when I’ve got this big network of friends. Judge it on, actually, can I be happy right now in this?

And so what I see many times, people in their careers, they say, well, I’ll be happy when  I’m senior enough or earned enough that I can work less and spend more time with my family. And I say, well, you know, that point might never come. And when it does, you’re going to need to set another goal because you’re training your brain to only be happy when you are working towards a goal.

Actually get really good at being happy right now. Get really good at looking around and seeing all the things that are fantastic in your life right now and enjoy it.  You know, is this a job that I would enjoy doing on the day to day? You know, there’s always some things that aren’t great in life, in any job, but broadly, is this is a job that I would find enjoyment and fulfillment in right now, regardless of whether or not I get to that great summit upland of everything being perfect and everything having succeeded?

So those are the three things, I would say. You know, get really clear on the balance between who you are and what needs fulfillment, on what you have to offer, your kind of rare and valuable skills, and how you want to work.

Get really big on your ambition and actually on your ability to do it. You can get really kind of clear on, actually, I’m a really incredible human being and I can do incredible things. And actually whether or not you think I’m great, whether or not you think I’m worthy and lovable, whatever is in your head and is none of my business, I’m a fantastic human being, I’m going to go out there and change the world. And just get really present to whether or not I reach that goal that I set. The only moment I ever have is right now, and I’m just going to really focus on enjoying my life in this moment.

Carlie: Just finally, Josh, I’m curious to know what intentions and goals have you set for yourself in 2023?

Josh: Well my biggest one, always, is about presence. I just talked about it, but the ability to be really present in the moment is a life changer for me. So I want to work even more on being more present. The present moment is all we ever have. We spend most of our time in the past or future in our heads, but actually this present moment is all we ever have.

The kind of more practical one is, I have in front of me my kind of three year plan, and actually the way I want to work in three years, in one year, and in the next couple of months, really is to do the four by four. Four hours a day, four days a week, so that I’ve got lots and lots of time to live my life as I want.

Carlie: Oh, that would be nice.

Josh: And I’ve broadly achieved that now.

Carlie: Yeah.

Josh: But I’m still in that slightly, kind of employee mindset of working, working, working, working for 8, 9, 10 hours. And so some days I don’t achieve it. So next year, I’m going to work even harder to keep my work to four hours a day and to enjoy the time around it. That’s really important to me.

Carlie: This has been such a great conversation. I know I have gotten a lot out of it and I hope our podcast listeners have as well. Whether you’re listening on your favorite podcast app or the expatfocus.com website or on our YouTube channel, just search Expat Focus. Josh, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Josh: Thanks for having me. It’s been really great to talk to you and I hope everyone has found that useful.

Carlie: I hope you enjoyed that episode. You’ll find many more great conversations about all aspects of life abroad in our podcast archive – check it out at expatfocus.com, on your favourite podcast app or on our YouTube channel.

Sign up to our monthly newsletter and get access to lots of great resources to help make your move abroad easier, and I’ll catch you next time.


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