One of the fun parts of an overseas PCS (permanent change of station; it’s like being transferred within a company) is the opportunity to meet new people who are going through the same life upheaval. We swap stories about our movers, delayed flights, house hunting, schools, travel, food and then eventually get around to talking about the work we left behind.
I’ve done this a lot, so I’ve heard it a lot: having a career as a military spouse is really hard. Some have found a flexible company that fully supports remote work. But for the rest who want a career, each move comes with the burden of job hunting in a new market on top of setting up a new home. Some states offer reciprocity on licenses transferred from select other states (see here), and there are programs to reimburse spouses for some of the cost of relicensing in a new state. But what about those who aren’t in a licensed profession? Or who move overseas?
Time and again I talk with lawyers, nurses, teachers and other professionals who are disappointed to pause their career while they’re OCONUS. They worry about their prospects for re-entering the workforce when they return to the U.S. Some (hello) are lucky enough to return to a market full of professional connections and jump right back in. None of us are lucky enough to know with certainty if that will happen… or even where we’ll go from here.
I’ve chosen to let go of that worry so it doesn’t get in the way of enjoying the unique opportunity to live overseas. Letting go wasn’t easy, though, and has taken hours of convincing by brilliant and introspective friends. So I’m sharing the bottom line of all that hand-wringing for others at the start of that journey. Hopefully letting go of the worry is easy for you!
Being moved overseas isn’t “taking time off.” There are countless resume-worthy skills required by an overseas military PCS! Here are six that you’ll carry with you the rest of your life:
Before you got notification of an OCONUS assignment, had you given thought to where you’d begin if you had to sell your house and move all your belongings to a home you hadn’t yet picked out in a foreign country you had never visited? The pages of To Do lists and deadlines are proof alone that anyone who has moved overseas has at least proficient project management skills.
The first time you do a military PCS, you don’t even know what you don’t know. From how to get your family with your 500 pounds of luggage to and from the airport to which schools are the best for your children, there is an abundance of information (and opinions) to sort through.
Never mind the hours you spend scanning for the best flight deals and lodging to the best destinations for your weekend getaways!
Setting up life in a new country at a new base requires dozens of starting-overs. Applications, accounts, registrations, licensing, taxes, billings…you have to shut down or pause your life in the US, update everything that can be used with an APO box, and start fresh with an entire household in a new country.
Adaptability & resilience
Raise your hand if you’ve also learned to drive on the left side of the road? Because life must carry on. There are many little and big ways we adapt to our host country to live a life that feels comfortable or familiar. (Though I have to confess, after six years I still check the weather in Fahrenheit.)
At this point for me, starting a new life in a foreign country isn’t as intimidating as it used to be. The truth is, committing to living far from home for a few years can be scary, especially if you don’t know anyone before going. Especially if you’re in a country that doesn’t speak your language. It takes courage to pave your way, to be seen and find your place. And you do it.
I don’t think it’s uncommon for the moving process to include a time when you’re tired of waiting for your household goods and you kind of hope the container fell off the ship so you’ll be reimbursed enough to go buy all new things. It doesn’t happen, so you learn to get by with what’s available. Eventually you learn the shortcuts and secrets to maximizing the resources available to you and make your new life all over again. (At which point I must acknowledge Google Translate for all its usefulness in our years in Italy!)
Of course there are many more. What else would you include on this list?