Career Moves: Going with the Flow

May 20, 2016 By MARISA RIJPKEMA 0 Comments

Marisa reflects on her experience of moving to the Netherlands from a foreign country and asks:  is going with the flow necessarily a bad thing? Find out what she decided below.

A few weeks ago I had a job interview. It was really intense.

We covered all the basics first – tell me about yourself, tell me about your past job experience, yada yada yada. It was hardly my first job interview and I came prepared. I gladly explained who I was and how I had gotten to this point.

The interview seemed like it was going well, until all of a sudden it wasn’t.

His questions got more and more probing and at a certain point, I felt that instead of telling them about my life and experience, I was actually justifying it. The question that threw me off the most was: “You seem like the kind of person who just ‘goes with the flow’ of your life. What drives you?”

Now I realize that, as a stand-alone question, it might seem fairly innocent, but in the context of his other questions, I understood that he was asking me to justify the decisions I’ve made, which have led to a less-than-linear career path. He wanted me to show him that I am consistent and he wanted me to prove to him that I wasn’t a flake.

I tried to answer as best as I could, but in truth, I totally fumbled. I was surprised by his accusation and I found it to be an offensive question. I left the interview thinking: What’s wrong with ‘going with the flow’ of my life? Why is this something that I needed to justify?

It’s true that 10 or 15 years ago, I never expected to marry a Dutchie or move to the Netherlands. Life surprised me with that one and I did have to adapt my path accordingly. We lived together in the US for a while and then made a joint decision, when the time was right, to move to the Netherlands for a variety of reasons that most expats probably understand and most Dutchies probably take for granted.

It’s true that 10 or 15 years ago, I never expected to marry a Dutchie or move to the Netherlands. Life surprised me with that one and I did have to adapt my path accordingly.

As a result of this carefully-thought-out decision, I had to make a career switch. It was something that I did knowingly and there was a very logical explanation for why I did it (which I had already explained to my interviewer): my previous career simply doesn’t exist in this country, so I chose something else that built on my existing skills and experience and took my career in a new direction. Again, I wasn’t rash about this decision and I sought out additional education that would help boost my skills and enable the transition.

But let’s say that I hadn’t made any of these decisions carefully and that I really was just ‘going with the flow.’ I still don’t understand what’s wrong with that, or why I needed to justify it during a job interview.

Everyone gets thrown curveballs. That’s part of life. Sometimes they are hard and pose a real challenge, for example sickness or getting fired. And sometimes the curveballs are really great, like when doors open up that take you to new worlds. Being able to adapt accordingly and make the best out of any situation, is a strength that I believe doesn’t require justification.

Most expats know that going with the flow of life, even with the flow of the good things, isn’t always easy. I made a conscious decision to leave everything in my former life behind and to move to a country that would allow me to raise my (then future) children in a better and healthier environment. But it was hard and I haven’t loved every minute of it.

Most expats know that going with the flow of life, even with the flow of the good things, isn’t always easy.

It took me a long time to build the confidence to do simple things like go to the grocery store or call a dentist. I struggled for months and years to build enough language skills to understand what was going on around me - and even longer to find people that I could relate to and truly call friends. Some days totally, TOTALLY sucked. But I stuck with it because I knew that, in the long run, things would work out for the best and that I would be glad that I did it.

And my stories aren’t unique. Having been in this community for a while now, I can say that we have all been there in one way or another. We are all just trying to get by and make the best out of the challenges that come with life’s curveball.

So, interviewer, now that I’ve had some extra time to reflect, I’d like to answer your question again:

Yes, I AM the kind of person who goes with the flow of her life, even when it’s not easy. I do it because I know that I am making good decisions for myself and my family and THAT’S what drives me to keep going, even when it’s really really hard. I’m a stronger person because I’ve followed the path life set out before me and faced my challenges, which in turn, makes me a better employee.

I don’t deserve to be judged as an inconsistent flake for having ‘gone with the flow.’ Rather, I – and all of my fellow expats – deserve a round of applause, for having the courage to follow our paths, instead of fighting the current.

Marisa is a 'third culture kid,' and while she doesn't remember ever crossing into adulthood, she now finds herself trying to integrate into Dutch life, while mastering the delicate art of being a mother, and figuring out her career as she goes.


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