The JGM BitBlog: “Here comes the sun” - From Career to ‘Coreer’ for older women

Journal of Global Mobility

Barbara Myers, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand
Kaye Thorn, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand

Let us set the scene - you are in your 50s or 60s, wondering what is happening with the world, frustrated with the workplace and needing a change, whatever that might be. How do you enact that change? How do you bring the light back into your life? What do you do when your workplace and career no longer seem important? For the women we interviewed, their response was both simple and extreme – they left it all behind. They left the security of home and family and everything that had regulated their lives to date. They decided to take some risks, to travel, work and seek adventures across the globe. There was no career plan, but a blind trust that they might be heading into sunnier times.  
Self-initiated expatriation (SIE) is a topic of increasing interest, but to date, the focus has been on professional workers and their career development.  Our article examines the SIE experiences of older women from all walks of life, with a focus on their personal development.  
Pre-SIE, the act of working was central to these women’s lives. They defined themselves by their work – a teacher, a nurse, a bank worker, an administrator. During the SIE, the women began to shape a life path that was based on a core of evolving values.  Overwhelmingly, they spoke of the personal development they had acquired outside of the work context. They spoke of changing values, of becoming less consumer-oriented, and more committed to frugality, simplicity and sustainability. Their eyes were opened to a broader global perspective, both in terms of the poverty and suffering some witnessed, and their acceptance of other people and other ways of being.  As their values and attitudes changed, so too did their sense of self and identity. Rather than ‘how should I develop my career’, the focus became ‘how best can I live my life’. 
Post-SIE, the women did not want their lives dominated and controlled by work and spoke of an ethical dissonance with organisations and their policies and practices. We suggest that, at this later-life stage, ‘career’ signified a narrow and dominating work construct that was increasingly irrelevant for them.  Our women were far more engaged in enacting a ‘coreer’, a life-path of individual interest, excitement and passion, centred around a core set of values and priorities that informed and infused their activities and commitments. We argue in this article for a broader conceptualisation of career theory that recognises careers have a tapestry of meanings that interweave and overlap through the life course. For our older women, the SIE was the catalyst for meaningful life transition and the enactment of a more authentic lifestyle. The SIE was the start of an unfolding and serendipitous experience through time, an evolving exploration of relationships, connections, and a new way of belonging and being. 
We leave the final words to Carolyn “[The SIE was] the most rewarding, enlightening... what’s another big word… AMAZING and life-changing experience of my life…yeah! I think I have evolved into quite a different person”. 

To read the full article, please see the Journal of Global Mobility publication:

Myers, B., & Thorn, K. (2023). From career to “coreer”: Self-initiated expatriation and personal transformation in later life. Journal of Global Mobility 11(2), 159-178.