How Do You Re-Invent Your Career? This Is What I Did.

The invitation to speak came in the form of a message, a night with the Qatar Professional Women’s Network, would I be interested in speaking? I checked out the evite “Hear our speakers talk about how they reinvented their careers since moving to Doha”.

So how do you re-invent your career?

How did I re-invent mine?

Let’s start from the beginning. I promise I’ll be quick.

What were you? What are you? What did you enjoy the most about your old career?

My background or my first real grown up career was in human resources and recruitment, but I didn’t make a straight line to get there. If I was to go back, way way back, it would probably be easier to list the industries I didn’t work in rather than the ones I did. I was lucky enough to do some temp work while I studied which gave me access to the water coolers of many different offices, but it definitely wasn’t always white collar. In between office work I packed oranges, sorted almonds, picked the mice out of apricots, and served beers at the local footy club. Anyone else have memories of washing ashtrays at 2 am in the morning? Fancy.

There was also some great gigs. I worked in radio, trained with the long term unemployed (there is nothing more satisfying than watching a young guy who is third generation welfare receive his first pay slip) and I did some great project work. Then finally I fell into what I considered to be my dream job, I landed a role with one of the biggest recruitment companies in the world at the time. And from the minute I started I just knew I was meant to be there. I loved it.

Now I was lucky enough to move around with my career. I picked up work here and there amongst having children in a rather irresponsible and haphazard manner (four kids, four different countries) and when we landed in Canada I went back to work in my field – just with people with different accents. It was when we got to Qatar that I realized I wasn’t going to be able to work in the same capacity that I had been. We had four children in two different forms of schooling, at the time we didn’t have child care, and we’d moved for my husband’s role. I needed something more flexible.

I’d love to be able to tell you that I then came up with a grand plan that led me here today – but I didn’t. Once again, it wasn’t a straight line, it was at times, and continues to be an obstacle course.

I started my website by accident. It wasn’t meant to be a public thing. It was going to be a family blog, private, just for the family. Ironically I started the blog to avoid over sharing – which is really really funny when you think about how much I have consequently shared in this space.

Once I began writing I realized I really enjoyed it. It helped me clear my mind, it helped me realize how I felt about things. The bonus prize is that I now have a space that both myself and my children can return to when we want to remember this life, this moment. And when you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer I can honestly say it’s a comforting thought that this space exists. Our stories are here, and you were here too (that’s you, my dear reader), you were here to talk me through it all.

Anyway, back to the re-invention.

The next step on from writing was joining other writers and bloggers groups. It was then that I learnt about the world of social media. Writers are sadists, while they’re all riddled with crippling self-doubt they continue to share their work. I shared along with everyone else and began to find my people. I got busy on twitter, interacted on Facebook, scrolled my way around the internet reading, listening, learning. I wrote nearly every day and from there I developed my own style without really thinking about it.

The biggest lesson along the way?

I stopped worrying about what other people thought about me.

I used to worry way too much about what people thought about me. I thought I was a fraud for trying to write. I thought (and mostly still do) that I was a terrible writer, and that when people told me I was any good they were generally just trying to be nice. I often chose to listen to the wrong voices. Here’s a few things my frenemies have said to me along the way.

“I could never do what you do? I’m very private I could never tell people the things you do”

“Does anyone really care though? I mean who wants to hear from a bored expat housewife?”

“Are you worried about your kids? What do they think about you sharing all this stuff online, are they embarrassed?”

But here’s the thing. Somehow, as much as these comments stung, as time went by I almost used them to fuel my energy. I learnt to focus in on the beautiful stuff, the support. Have you ever noticed that you can have 2o compliments on your new haircut but one dumb comment will have you reconsidering your choice?

As my blog grew so did my interest in social media. I started going to blogging conferences and learning about new technology. I learnt about YouTube (and realized it wasn’t for me), I learnt about Instagram (again, not really me), and I learnt about podcasts – now that, that could be me.

I taught myself how to record a podcast, and how to get it on iTunes. I read blogs about podcasts, followed Facebook pages, and then I asked a gorgeous and funny friend if she’d be interested in giving it a go with me. We giggled our way through the first few episodes – stuffed up the sound, got off topic, erased the wrong bits…but we had so much fun doing it.

Again, the self-doubt came.

“Do you think anyone actually listens?”

“Whats a podcast?”

“Do you make any money out of it?”

That podcast  has now had over 100,000 downloads and reached women in over 60 countries. We’ve done live events, interviewed hundred of expat women and shared thousands of stories and opinions.

I can’t get paid what I’m worth – it’s insulting.

I’ve had plenty of conversations with expat woman about money and the injustice of an employer knowing that you’re a little bit trapped by work visas and opportunities. I’ve written before about Grocery Money. Here’s my answer about whether you should be driven by money, and by that, do I think you should work for less than your worth?

Make your own calculations.

How long are you going to be in the country for? Can you afford to have an empty resume for that time? Is it time to choose a different career? Is it time to study? Is 12 months of underpaid work worth more to you when you get to your next destination e.g.. is the experience good experience for you? Will this job get you to where you want to go next? 

The reason I ask you this is because 18 months ago I landed a job that gave me complete flexibility to work wherever I wanted. It didn’t matter if I was in Australia or Qatar. It was a job that covered all of the aspects I’d spent the last few years learning about – writing, editing, online marketing and social media. There is absolutely no way I would have been offered that job had I not put the (unpaid) hours into learning a new craft. Remember, it’s not always a straight line.

Do you need to find your passion?

I’m not sure it works that way, maybe your passion will find you? It’s not going to just pop up and identify itself though – you need to go out and chase it. How?  Start something. Go and do something, anything! Think of something you’d really like to do in the country you’re currently in. Whether it’s a hobby, a skill or an entry-level position in an area that interests you – just go and start. I promise you’ll find your way to where you need to go – and when you do – shoot me a message and tell me.

Fake it until you make it.

It’s not going to happen straight away so build a support network to give you encouragement along the way. Get rid of the haters. Join a group, like a women’s network or an industry group or a meetup page on Google – but start to surround yourself with people who are doing the sort of work you want to do.

Are you ready to re-invent your career? I dare you to start right now.

  • Evelyn Simpson

    Great article Kirsty! I’ve found that, as a repat, the challenge doesn’t stop. When you’re home, you may find you don’t want to go back to your old career. And when you work out what you want to do, there’s that crazy CV and skill set to explain and market….. But your philosophy of doing things that are interesting and jumping on the new opportunities they create is a great one.

  • sundaebean

    “It’s not going to just pop up and identify itself” Exactly. This is what I see so many expat spouses struggle with in my work with them. They think, “I don´t know what I really want to do” so instead of struggling to find out, they go to default mode of doing what they “could” do or what (consciously or not) others think they “should” do. The freedom comes in the struggle of getting really clear on what you want to do and then holding on to that for the wild ride that it is until you have created it.

  • Hannah

    Yes yes yes!! Get you get it! I spent so long trying to recreate my career abroad, because it was my passion (working in sport), but it didn’t work, it’s different here (in South Africa) and I now have 3 kids. I heard a great talk about the phases of life, just because this phase means I can’t work in my passion doesn’t mean it’s gone forever. So I focused on something I could do, felt like a fraud (still do) but have loved learning new skills and meeting really interesting people along the way. Do I make money – not really, but hopefully when I get to the next phase of life the dots will join together. For now I have decided to stop worrying about the what ifs, and just enjoy this phase of young family life. Thanks for being so honest and for starting the podcast, I love it