In April 2009 I came to London leaving behind a lovely house in Amsterdam and my own business which I had set up five year prior to my move. I was a career coach and a recruiter. I had a so called portfolio career with lots of training and one-to-one sessions, interesting assignments and was working with different nationalities. As for anyone who chooses to leave their old home country behind, this was all ‘gone’ because my British husband wanted to move back to London for work.
Speaking fluent English I thought it would be no problem to start my business again as soon after I landed in London. But how wrong I was! I arrived in the middle of the recession. I was busy with surviving and finding my way around London instead of setting up my business. We were lucky enough that we sold our house in Amsterdam, found a new place to live in London so finally I could start my new career.
It was a lonely journey at the start.
I knew nobody and I didn’t want to mingle with the Dutch since I wasn’t going to be an expat who would leave in a few years. I was a strong networker and on LinkedIn since 2005. It was there where I found some interesting networking groups for business women but also some interesting Dutch groups. At the end of the day I couldn’t ignore my identity and I signed up for some networking lunches at the Dutch Centre in the City. I built some relations through my networking but it didn’t really help my business.
I had to rethink my strategy and – again- via LinkedIn – I came across a Dutch company, just setting up in London. It would mean going back to what I did six years ago (working with unemployed people) but I had no clients of my own and no real business network so, I swallowed my pride and applied for a regular job. It was hard work, long hours and demanding customers.
The job market was not doing well in 2010 with even a lot of higher educated people out of work. I worked for 1.5 year at that company and learned a lot but when they lost the contract due to a government change I realised I wanted to work independent again. I decided to focus on expat partners arriving in London without a career and having to start from scratch, just like I had. I could help them to build their network, advice on career changes and study opportunities.
And here I am today with another portfolio career.
Besides coaching expat partners I have made a move into education; something I was already thinking about back in Amsterdam and slowly realised in London. Via my training workshops for the Charity Focus I got into contact with a career coach at Imperial College Business School. Since two years I worked there as an Associate Career Coach; beside that I am working as a volunteer at MyBigCareer coaching disadvantaged children and am growing my expat partners coaching business. I am also working at the Netherlands British Chamber of Commerce; organising networking events for Dutch companies trading or investing in the UK. Looking back at the six years I’ve been living in London I can be proud of what I have achieved.
If you start from scratch in a new country it can take a while before you get any recognition. My personal experience is “what they don’t know they don’t buy”. If you are not from the UK as soon as you have some working experience here and preferably with a British company your ability will be trusted. Without building my online (LinkedIn) and offline network and without the help of friends it would have been a very difficult journey.
My personal and professional journey will continue. I want to do more in education and help more expat partners to create the life they are after here in London.
Nicolette Wykeman is the founder of Wykeman consulting, an expat career coaching company in London.