This is the second article in our series on Motivators for Coming Home
When you return “home” to find a partner from a similar cultural background, family, friends, and colleagues might view that decision harshly. International organizations often see mission above people; friends may wonder about your priorities too. Returning to find a partner can be viewed harshly, unlike returning for other needs, such as taking care of family that you already have. Returning home for “husband-hunting tour” or “wife-hunting tour” can result in the manifestation of stereotypes. While some are enumerated below, it can go much deeper. Some people have probably been told they haven’t tried to find someone hard enough. They have been too focused on work. The accusations run the gamut. If you’ve faced it or are currently going through it, reach out – I’d love to profile your journey!
First and foremost, for those who have chosen to return based on a self-assessed need to find a partner – well done! It takes courage to prioritize your needs when others don’t see them the same way. Brene Brown in her book “The Gifts of Imperfection” talks about courage coming from cor, the Latin for heart. She notes that it was once defined as “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” I like to see it as leading with one’s heart and prioritizing your heart’s needs and vulnerabilities. Choosing to identify and fulfill your need for a partner is therefore listening to your heard and letting it lead – it’s courageous.
On a personal note, I chose to return to the U.S. after five years overseas primarily to reconnect with friends and family and with an ulterior motive of finding a partner. To ensure my success, I did two things:
(a) I reconnected with friends and family. This gave me balance and helped me feel honest in my decision-making to return.
(b) I completed the activities in a book called “Calling in the One” which was recommended to me by a coach. It helped me recognize that what I sought from a partner was greater self-affection. Self-affection would also help me recognize external affection, what a partner could actually give me.
I was lucky, I got both balance (I restarted Nextpat!) and found a partner. It takes a different level of discipline and prioritization than the one I used overseas. That is partly what this series will be talking about.
If you’ve followed the long list of celebrity “self-help” books about Leaning In or Out or Thriving, you know that “Work-Life Balance” is the buzzword of the moment. Yet, there remains a market for “balance” – because finding it can be hard.
The biggest suggestion I have is to “own your truth.” Ownership of your decisions, recognizing what you are choosing and why, helps you ground decisions you have to make to adhere to your priorities. It also lets you have #noregrets. Nextpat partners with you to find your journey and help you navigate these decisions and your priorities! Contact us and we'll schedule a time to chat!
Nextpat reviews the stereotypes surrounding the choice to prioritize self and some ideas for pursuing your goals upon return.
STEREOTYPES and WAYS TO COMBAT THEM:
1. You leave work on time because you don’t care about your job – colleagues and bosses may think you are unwilling to do the job, just because you choose to prioritize your job differently than they do. First, recognize this is their issue, not yours. However, if it’s your boss, it’s important to figure out what makes them tick and how to avoid that.
a. Excel at your job: do it the best that you can in the time you have. Ensure that you are on top of your responsibilities and outstanding items are appropriately documented. I find that my top producers are those who prioritize and focus at work – doesn’t always mean they are there the longest.
b. Help your colleagues or boss understand why taking care of yourself helps make you a better employee. People living their best life do it in every part of their life. Be sure that when you are at work you are focused and present – any appearance of laziness or unwillingness to commit will be attributed to your priorities not your capabilities. Demonstrating that attention while at work will also convey that you are taking it seriously.
c. Know your boss’ ticks: If your boss really needs you to be there for a certain amount of time to feel like you have been productive – know this. Understand it and make a decision about where that leaves you. Do you stay, what is the cost, is that cost worth staying? It might be! It might be a matter of figuring out how to make the most of the other hours to achieve your goals. Also, once you know how your boss assesses competence, you can demonstrate it. If it involves sacrifice early on, it can pay dividends as the set up for a conversation to make a future request (of higher importance).
d. Keep it Private: While I’m a huge fan of authenticity, your personal goals are personal – they do not have to be shared at work. Keeping your personal life separate from work let’s your choices be truly yours. Ideally, it also keeps performance reviews based on your actual work, not your personal choices.
2. If you seek a partner from a similar background – you may be accused of being unaccepting of another culture. This is especially true for expats, who have the highest rates of inter-cultural relationships. Owning your truth is the mantra for responding to this. If you feel this judgement, it is likely because you for some reason believe it. The suggestions here are other ways to think about your choice.
a. Diversity comes in many forms: Diversity is not just about culture, race, or gender. Diversity is about the way you perceive and engage with the world. There is tons of diversity in every population. You happen to choose one in which the diversity is more complementary to your perspective.
b. Living with Someone is Different than being Friends with them: You can be quite accepting of how people choose to live their lives and practice their values and at the same time accept your own choices of how you wish to live your life. It is absolutely fair to choose to find someone that shares the choices you do. It is also not closed-minded to choose harmony in your home life.
3. You don’t have a family or outside commitments – If you are a single person, your boss may prioritize your colleagues’ family. You might be asked to stay later or pick up extra projects because you have “more time” than those colleagues.
a. Have Boundaries: Be disciplined in knowing what your priorities are and how much time you want to allocate to them. It is all too easy to fill your time with tasks instead of big picture goals that might have fewer tangible tasks, in the beginning. Knowing when to say no and what your limits are will help you communicate those and prioritize the way you want.
b. Communicate your planned schedule with your boss. Ask your boss how often they think you will need to stay late, for what types of reasons, how the boss decides who will be responsible for these things, and what expectations you can have to plan your outside activities.
c. Discuss your outside life: When you have a dynamic life, full of commitments, and you discuss it people are likely to listen. Knowing that you prioritize some exercise regimen, or cooking, or a class you are taking, or volunteering, helps people see your priorities and boundaries without you making them explicit.
4. You are ambitious – Many organizations see returning to the “mother ship” as an opportunity to network. Networking can be critical to your next promotion or overseas assignment. Some people may be unable to come home due to the financial difference between an expat package and a salary at home. These people in particular may see your choice to return (especially if you are single) as ambitious.
a. Authenticity: Being authentic with your own return story will help people to understand your motivation for returning home. Similarly, authenticity ensures that you treat people at various levels of the organization similarly. It makes you effective at networking in every direction, while also ensuring that you network for contacts, not for promotion.
b. Competence: People who appear to be talking to the right people, but not backing it up with work are often seen as ambitious. Being effective at your job helps to manage this perception. Similarly, being a teamplayer, who gives credit to their team, helps to prevent ambition stereotypes. Ambitious people will take the credit for projects they participated in and highlight their contribution without doing the same for the rest of the team.
5. You aren’t looking for new opportunities. Ironically, to help protect your priorities, your boss might avoid proposing new projects or opportunities for you. As with several others, this is about the conversation and relationship that you have with your boss and your own prioritization.
a. Be explicit about your work goals. Discuss your professional goals with your boss. Know what resources are available. Be ready to explain what you are willing to commit to work in order to achieve those goals. Similar to above, also be ready to explain your boundaries for activities that do not drive towards your goals. Also remember that some goals are achieved through being a team player even if they do not build directly to your professional goals.
b. Know what Opportunities you want and be Willing to Ask for them. This can be hard! You don’t want to come across as ambitious, or worse you assume that the person who has the opportunity available knows what resources you bring to bear and has chosen otherwise. Assume noble intent and that people don’t have all the information they need. If you see an opportunity you want, ask for it. If you are denied the opportunity, it still opens the door to have a conversation about what you want and how to get there. It also reminds the person to keep you in mind for future projects.
Finally, a note of caution on how you perceive a “spouse-hunting” time back home. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught in the cycle of seeing a tour/contract as a proposed timeline. Don’t schedule out your romantic life. Scheduling the milestones you want or need to hit can result in missing important conversations. Alternatively, it can force you to meet artificial deadlines and result in missing the fun parts. Lastly, artificial timelines can limit your willingness to be available if you do meet the right person “too late” before your next tour or contract abroad. It’s easy to get caught in the trap and
Nextpat is happy to coach you through that – e-mail us to schedule a chat!
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