Breaking out of the Box – a review of “A Career In Your Suitcase”, 4th edition


A-Career-In-Your-Suitcase-coverNecessity is the mother of invention and “A Career in Your Suitcase” is the perfect illustration. Now in it’s fourth edition, it was first penned fifteen years ago by Jo Parfitt, a natural entrepreneur who found herself disconnected when she followed her new husband abroad with his career. She quickly realized the need for viewing expat partner careers from a fresh perspective and learnt that careful alignment of passions and purpose with a business idea fuelled the motivation to succeed, despite repeated relocations.

“I soon realised problems are opportunities in disguise”

“A Career In Your Suitcase” helps you realise your potential by building on your existing passions, and shows you the tools needed to achieve your goal in a way that’s tailored to you and adaptable for future relocations. With an emphasis on “return, recycle and re-use” when it comes to applicability of core skills, “it does what it says on the tin” – equips you with the building blocks of a portable career.

Who moved the goal-posts?

The work world is changing, opening up like never before; twenty-first century expats are embracing communities and jobs abroad in increasing numbers. We joined the new wave of “internationalists” in 2010, and discovered firsthand the need for resources that recognize the entrepreneurial thirst for career progression instead of advocating a lifetime of pre-defined static corporate endurance. I never found happiness in cubicle nation and blamed myself for a poor work ethic when in reality, I was trying to conform to something that wasn’t a part of my make-up.

When the bottom falls out of your world

For many, accompanying their spouse on a foreign posting is the first time in their lives they’re without a professional identity. This ‘identity disconnect’, coupled with different cultural expectations and distance from the usual support networks gives rise to feelings of uncertainty, unhappiness and a sense of isolation.

And before you think issues of identity only concern those stalled on their ascent of the corporate ladder, let me tell you those of us who’ve abdicated career in favor of child-rearing also undergo a fundamental shift in our perception of who we are and who we think we could be, when we expatriate.

The neglect of the expat spouse

If there’s one step employers could take to minimize the risk of failed postings, it would be to make “A Career in Your Suitcase” standard issue for all “trailing spouses”. Unfortunately, the needs of the accompanying expat partner still take a back seat. In company surveys of future improvements, “more support for expat employee partners and families” rarely makes the list despite figures suggesting spouse and family issues account for a massive ninety percent of employees leaving a foreign post early. Big corporations still prefer to risk a post failing rather than invest in coaching for expats and their families.

The difference between flight and falling is perception

“A Career in Your Suitcase” capitalizes on this period of natural flux and growth in personal insight to help you focus your thoughts into a manageable road-map of how you want to proceed. The fourth edition is loaded with exercises and tasks to help you recognize your skills and strengths and has benefitted immeasurably from the collaboration of career consultant Colleen Reichrath-Smith. It puts YOU in the driving seat, providing the information you need to re-adjust your perspective and allowing you to use it at a time and pace that suits you.

Inspiring, invigorating and empowering, it’s an open-ended work visa for the nomadic soul, invaluable to expats and entrepreneurs alike.

By Aisha Ashraf

An autistic Irish immigrant in a cross-cultural marriage, Aisha Ashraf is the archetypal outlander, writing to root herself through place and perspective. Published in The Rumpus, The Maine Review, River Teeth, HuffPost and elsewhere, her work explores the legacy of trauma, the nature of being an outsider and the narrow confines of belonging. She currently lives in Canada.


  1. Oh Lordy, you’ve done it again. I also have a copy of this fabulous book ready to review as part of their Virtual World Book Tour, and now you have not only beaten me to the punch, but done it way better.. Now all that’s left for me to say is “I loved it, and have scribbled ‘notes to self’ over all the pages of my copy, so go and buy your own”. Catchy, hey?

    1. Oh Rachel! That brought a much-needed laugh on! The very idea that this review might be “way better” than yours when you have at your fingertips that effortless humor, perception that would make an eagle look short-sighted and the ability to sound extremely knowledgable on whatever you chose to write about. Get outta town, girl!
      I think Hemmingway would’ve thought your review far better than mine – cut the guff and get to the point. Is there no end to your talents?

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