In a career, up is not the only way

Spouses of internationally mobile employees can have a difficult time finding work in a foreign country, as Ayesha Hartlett discovered. But thanks to her ingenuity, and a new network supported by Maersk, she found a way.

ayesha-harlett-mci-global-hr-partner
Ayesha Harlett: “Up is not the only way in a career. I was open to taking a sideways step through an internship.”

International Dual Career Network (IDCN)

  • IDCN is a global non-profit organisation founded in 2011 by Nestlé in Switzerland to facilitate the job search of expat employee spouses, and provide companies with access to an international talent pool. 
  • As a global partner, Maersk works with IDCN chapters in 13 cities around the world, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai and London, and the network is growing.
  • Read more here

As a global company, thousands of Maersk’s international employees work in a foreign country. Moving to a new job in a new country is a challenge in itself. But that challenge gains a new dimension when considering that many of these people are accompanied by their spouse or partner who may have given up their own job to follow them abroad.

According to global HR consultancy Mercer, one of the main reasons for expat workers to leave a foreign assignment is that their partner has not found a job and is unhappy in the new country. In a 2015 report, 41% of the multinational companies surveyed labelled ‘spouse / partner unhappiness’ as a key reason why international assignments fail.

A daunting experience

HR professional Ayesha Hartlett experienced this situation first-hand when she left her friends and family in South Africa, to follow her husband to Denmark when he landed a job at Maersk in Copenhagen.

“It was a daunting experience to come to a new country where you don’t know anyone, you have no network, you’re not working and you’re faced with one rejection letter after the other,” says Harlett.

It was a daunting experience to come to a new country where you don’t know anyone, you have no network, you’re not working and you’re faced with one rejection letter after another.
Ayesha Harlett, Global HR partner, Maersk Container Industry (MCI)

To kick-start her job search, Hartlett got involved with the International Dual Career Network (IDCN). Maersk is a founding member of its Copenhagen branch, which aims to facilitate the job search of mobile employees’ partners, as well as provide companies with access to a highly qualified international talent pool.

The network is run on a volunteer basis by partners, who arrange events on topics such as the local job market and interview techniques, as well as networking opportunities with recruiters from member companies.

Tough in the beginning

Through the network, Hartlett contacted Maersk and offered to volunteer in its HR department as an intern.

“Up is not the only way forward in a career,” says Hartlett. “I was open to taking a sideways step through an internship. I accepted it would be tough in the beginning but I think doing so showed I was determined, pro-active and willing to get involved.”

Her determination paid off. Hartlett used her time at Maersk to deliver results on her projects, get a feel for the working culture and build relationships with relevant stakeholders. By the time her four-week placement was up, she had landed a job as Global HR partner at Maersk Container Industry (MCI).

Ricardo Sookdeo, Head of Group Talent Management says: “At Maersk we make an effort to support employees in making a smooth transition when relocating to a new country. That also means thinking of the reality their partners are met with when looking for a job. They are often very qualified people who really want to work, so we need to do everything we can to support them in finding job opportunities.”

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