Career blog

Every now and then, we tend to reconsider our situation, particularly our work situation. It can be disheartening to think of carrying on with all the problems and dissatisfactions, to say the least. Staying in an unfulfilling job will eventually make us unhappy, and being happy in our work has an enormous impact on our happiness as a whole.

It’s natural to conclude that it’s time for change. But is it time for a career change?

Stella Pennekamp, founder and expat career coach at Orange Expats sees many clients struggling with this issue and explains how to deal with it.


‘I’ve no idea what I want, but I know I don’t want this’

When we’re dissatisfied with work, often we don’t know exactly what the problem is, but we think the solution is to change career. I’m not happy at work, so work needs to change. Right? That might be the case. Starting afresh in a new career might be good for you.

On the other hand, it could be that the problem is not our career or job, and that changing will only move the problem to new surroundings. Moreover, we might even find that the problems are worse in our new situation.

In these difficult times, when jobs aren’t as easy to find as they used to be, it makes more sense than ever to learn to deal with problems in our work situation, rather than trying to escape from them.

And sometimes when we start to adjust our behaviour, we find that our job or field of work isn’t that bad after all. On the other hand, if changing career does turn out to be the right thing to do, learning to cope with problems will help there too!

So, first things first: let’s find out what the problem is and learn to deal with it, before deciding whether to change career.


Dealing with adversity

Work is important to us, especially when your job is the reason you moved. But no matter how well we plan our career path, there will always be bumps in the road. Life is not perfect. That’s something we can’t change or control.

We can choose to take control of how we react when things don’t go well, since there are many ways to think about the difficult situations we sometimes have to face. Some thoughts are helpful and healthy; some aren’t. And so it can be that we turn our desires and wishes into inflexible demands: into musts, shoulds, oughts and needs.

  • My boss must understand that I can’t do my job well if he doesn’t brief me in English.
  • If I change career, it must be a perfect job.
  • My company must recognize how hard I’ve worked and reward my loyalty.
  • My manager must realize I’m working too hard and reduce my workload.
  • My colleagues must understand that I feel isolated if they always speak in Dutch around me.
  • I must get that promotion or I’ve failed in my assignment.


Thinking in demands instead of wishes can block us from making progress, and lead to us reacting in unhealthy, self-defeating ways when things don’t go our way.


Taking time to make the right career move

In her practice, Stella often meets highly skilled clients struggling with these inflexible demands. They have been working in an international corporate environment for many years and feel like a full career change is the next thing to do in order to feel happy again at work: starting their own shop or cafe; opening a spa in the Caribbean; becoming a professional cookbook/ blog writer or dog walker; working on a farm or at a supermarket, doing one task at a time etc.

That could be really fulfilling and, for some, this really is the right next step. However, most of the time, it’s not the kind of work that suits their qualities and competences, and won’t lead to fulfilment, even though it might bring the freedom people like to feel at work.


Coaching from demands to fulfilment

Using an empirically proven cognitive behavioural training, Rational Emotive Behavioural Training/Therapy (REBT), Stella Pennekamp works with expats to find the root of their unhappiness or dissatisfaction with work, and to transform the way they cope with an unpleasant situation.

Stella is entirely convinced of the effectiveness of the method she employs. “I wanted to find a scientific way of helping people with the inconveniences they experience as they try to follow their career path, and one that can help quickly and effectively. As I learned about this method, I applied it to situations in my own life and found time and again that it helped me in far-reaching ways.”

Since then, Stella has helped countless expats along the road to career fulfilment.


Career coaching in context

And while her coaching focus is squarely on careers, that means not only helping clients in finding a job or deciding on a career change, but looking holistically at their happiness at work. “Many things affect expats while they’re here, and sometimes you have to take a detour from the career and work on other things to allow your work situation to improve.”

But both in work and throughout life, she believes that coaching should not be about changing what we wish for. “My coaching is about keeping what you wish for and dealing with reality as you go for it. But above all, go for it!”

By Stella Pennekamp