Back to Work

Truth be told, I didn’t think it would be January before I was able to write this post.  Like everything else we’ve experienced since our adventure together began, the job search has been a journey.  Yes, I have a job!  Thus closes the symbolic loop since we cut ourselves loose from a stable income and reliable lifestyle 18 months ago.  I start work as Director of Marketing Communications for a local university this month.

Voluntarily leaving a solid career as the sole breadwinner at age 40 with 3 kids was scary.  However, fear of failing to land a job upon our return was terrifying.  Our adventure would not be complete or considered a successful experiment until I managed to land a legitimate, prosperous job.  Doing so was the final piece of the puzzle for us.  As such, a summary of the job search process and conclusion seems appropriate as our blog comes to a close.  One of our goals for keeping a blog was to inspire other families to break loose and create their own adventures, however brief.  After our own experience returning from a sabbatical and conducting a lengthy job search, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of planning, preparation, realism, perseverance and a strong network.

Before we left for Argentina, Erica and I made a deal that I would wait until April to even begin thinking about the job search and what comes afterwards.  Our trip became reality as a result of my planning gene, but my wise wife recognized I might begin planning our return the moment we arrived in Córdoba.  As it turned out, our life down south was a whirlwind and we all became absorbed in our new lives, making it easy to forget about impending reality for a time.  However, once we passed our self-imposed moratorium I threw myself into the process of preparing and searching for a job.  Having spent over 12 years with my previous employer, I found the experience fascinating, frustrating and a valuable learning experience.   Returning to the workforce following a sabbatical can make for a unique search and challenge, so here’s what I’ve learned:

Steps to take while still abroad:

  1. Preparation:  Use this time wisely.  I found it difficult to make much meaningful progress when I was still in Argentina given time and distance.   Therefore I immersed myself in job search and interview preparation.  Find a resource or expert that works for you (Mine was, beef up your LinkedIn profile, rebuild your resume, and get job boards set up.  This is also the time to research a new career path or focus.
  2. Study:  While it certainly signaled the impending end of our time in Córdoba, I spent the final few months writing and studying.  I developed answers for behavioral interview questions and worked out key accomplishment answers.  I spent hours memorizing answers to these as well as my “elevator pitch” before we returned.
  3. Warm up the network:  Like any relationship, your network takes work.  Don’t wait to ask for help or a job until you’re back in the States.  Keep in touch rather than going completely dark.

What I wish I knew earlier:

  1. Be focused and specific:  In hindsight I approached the search too broadly.  I found myself interested in a number of different roles and industries that made it difficult at times to concisely pinpoint my target to recruiters or companies.  While I’m thankful for the experience and happy with the result, my task would have been easier if I’d had the ability to identify the exact job and sector I was interested in pursuing.
  2. Career accomplishment documentation:  Keep a consistent record of accomplishments for each job WHEN YOU HAVE THAT JOB.  Building a great resume off memory is hard!  Consider buying this product too.
  3. Career Tools Interview Series:  A premium product from the guys at Manager-Tools.  I found this series of podcasts to be enormously helpful in interview preparation.
  4. The power of a network:  As a career salesperson,  I was conscientious of the value of a strong network, but only now do I really appreciate it.  I wrote a post on LinkedIn about how grateful and humbled I’ve been by the time and energy given by so many.  Build it, nurture it and repay it.


  1. Use your time wisely while still abroad
  2. A job search is a job and that job is sales:  I found myself leaning on my sales experience to keep grinding away.  Read my post about this on LinkedIn.
  3. Be intentional:  Develop your network now with thoughts to the future.
  4. Be ready to pay it forward:  I can only hope someday to offer others my time and energy as others have done so with me.  Start by asking each person how you can help them someday and thanking them.
  5. Stay balanced:  There are a lot of highs and lows in a job search.  Erica did an amazing job of supporting and counseling me throughout.  As in sales, it can be hard to keep grinding away and be “on” day after day.


  • Perceptions: I encountered a variety of reactions during my job search to our story, many very positive.  Our experience was actually a plus for some hiring managers who recognized it as accomplishment.  Goal setting, planning, organization, execution, and perseverance all were obvious skill sets I could point to as a result of our trip.  I was able to build a significant key accomplishment out of our experience abroad.   However, a sabbatical can also put you at a disadvantage in some cases.  As one recruiter pointed out, technology and the workplace changes rapidly, and a year + out of the game can give hiring managers pause.  Additionally, stepping out of the workforce mid-career is not a concept that most people can easily relate to.
  • Budget:  We budgeted for 1 year abroad and 6 months searching for a job back in the States.  It’s going to cost more than you thought so pad the budget!
  • Taking a step backwards:  A distinct possibility we considered when we jumped into this was that I would have to take a step back in career and pay when we returned.  This would be a natural sacrifice for our experience that we accepted should it occur.  I feel very fortunate that in the end I was able to transfer my skills and experience into a marketing communications role with a great organization and avoid a career hiccup.  However, consider the possible ramifications and be realistic.

The search will always take longer than expected.  Each major step in the hiring process seemed to take a month in my case.  Opportunities appeared and faded.  It’s a roller coaster.  I couldn’t help but become vested in a company during the pursuit.  My search for the right fit and role took 6 months.  It was a fascinating education in its own right as I learned a tremendous amount about numerous companies, the hiring process, interview preparation, and significantly expanded my professional network in the process.  While we did budget for a 6 month search, we didn’t expect it to take the full-time period and we budgeted too conservatively.  Despite considerable expense and stress, we have zero regrets.  We could never put a price on our experiences together.


Manager Tools

Tamara Murray:  Author of a number of relevant posts on LinkedIn well worth the read and perspective.

Job Boards:  I found these to be more targeted and useful than the big boys like Monster or CareerBuilder

  • LinkedIn:
  • Indeed
  • Zip Recruiter
  • Glassdoor
  • Simply Hired

Nomads in the USA

We touched down in Seattle a little less than one month ago after an amazing exit tour through Brazil.  Since we returned to the Pacific Northwest, we’ve traveled nearly 1,400 miles in a borrowed Suburban visiting friends and family and adjusting to life post-Argentina.  With our home in Portland occupied by renters until the end of August, we’ve travelled up and down Oregon and Washington hitting family gatherings and making the most of the end of a wonderful summer.  Couch surfing with friends and family prior to employment and the beginning of school has provided a great way to ease back into life in the States.  However, this nomadic lifestyle, while far from hard living, hasn’t been without its challenges.  Our family of five have now spent 6 weeks living out of suitcases since we departed Córdoba.  While this period of transition might not offer a true perspective into our reintegration until we’re back in our house, it’s been interesting to observe nonetheless.

After a year away the little things become much more profound.  We were all struck by the blunt language and behavior of the TSA employees in Miami when compared to the Argentines, but that might just be standard for the TSA.   As expected, we had instant sticker shock from our first “American” breakfast in the Miami airport.  I still can’t help but convert costs from dollars into pesos in my head and feel sick.  Adjusting to American tipping standards has been a tough pill to swallow also.  We couldn’t help but notice the number of obese people as we walked through the Dallas airport.  As we flew into Seattle, Ben spied an American football field and could not have been more excited.  Not hearing Spanish continuously has been strange and sad for Erica and me.  My first visit to a shopping mall in Gig Harbor, Washington was a shock.  So many people seem to take for granted the abundance and variety of products available to Americans.  We are still amazed at the cheddar cheese, salsa and peanut butter at the tips of our fingers.  The size of vehicles is another reminder we’re not in South American any longer.  Just like fast-food, cars and trucks seem super sized.  The caution and generous attitude displayed to pedestrians by American drivers is amazing!  Drivers actually come to halt at a cross walk!  The kids initially were confounded by what to do with toilet paper, but have quickly been assured it’s safe to flush here.  Erica and I are still occasionally surprised to see glass doors and windows without iron bars.  Everyday it seems we see or hear something that reminds us we’re not in Argentina any longer.

Reunited with cousins!

Reunited with cousins!

Despite all of the driving, it’s been wonderful to see old friends again and visit family.  The cultural differences between Argentines and Americans in terms of greetings and familiarity has been striking though.  After a year absence, a handshake or a quick hug between longtime friends would be considered cold and distant in Argentina, while being the norm in the US.  We seem to be torn between two very different worlds at this point.  Erica and I certainly have mixed feelings about returning.  We’re not yet settled into our old lives, and not entirely sure we want to drop back into them.  Erica and I miss speaking Spanish and try to speak often to each other and the kids.  The kids ask often when we are going back to Argentina.  We miss besos and the extraordinary affection we experienced in Argentina.  We miss our wonderful friends and asados every Sunday.  I’ve tried to reproduce asado for family and friends a few times, but so far it’s just not the same.  Someday we hope to build our own quincho and parrilla but obtaining the same cuts of meat will be a challenge.  It has been sad to read from a distance the continuing financial issues facing Argentina.  The recent default and sky rocking blue rate remind us of the real impact on the Argentine people.

The kids have had differing reactions to reentry.  Molly and Elliott don’t seem as phased as Ben.  Ben has always had a more difficult time with change.  Ben’s reaction as we arrived in Portland to be reunited with family was to burst into hysterical tears.  The moment and emotions were just too much for him.  As parents, we try to remind ourselves that we’ve put them through an enormous amount of change that calls for additional patience and latitude.  They are all clearly tired of living out of suitcases and driving.  Although normalcy is still a ways off, I’m sure they will love returning to our old house, neighborhood, and regaining a sense of familiarity.

We look forward with a touch of anxiety to watching the kids begin school again in Portland next week.  The job search continues for me.  Our uncertain future is both terrifying and exciting.  We plan to write more about the kids reintegration into school, the job search process and our lives after this adventure as we learn together where it all will lead.