Careers and Employment

How Can Expats Avoid Career Remorse?

Image Credit: Hays
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Maximum career fulfilment and achievement can be yours when you are in an industry that you truly enjoy on an emotional level.

This month, Peter Brunoehler launches his latest book, Career Fulfilment and Achievement in Southeast Asia: Maximising Success at 4 Key Milestones. Pulled largely from his own lengthy and successful expat career, this is an experience-driven, anecdote-heavy, full-career-spectrum read.

Not a book of theoretical advice, his guidance and suggestions are based on almost 40 years of professional satisfaction and accomplishment, including a lot of trial and a few errors along the way.

We’ll be reviewing the book soon, and also sharing excerpts which may resonate with readers embarking on their own expat career path… or those who are already on it!

Chapter 1: What Is Career Remorse and Why Must You Avoid It?

Career (n.) 1. A chosen pursuit; a profession or occupation. 2. The general course or progression of one’s working life or professional achievements.

Remorse (n.) 1. A sense of deep regret and guilt for some misdeed.

Taken together, career remorse is the realisation that an ill-chosen career, regardless of the earnings, perks, benefits, recognition, status, etc., is not providing the emotional satisfaction and continual passion that you want and need to go all out and ‘live’ your career.

Maximum career fulfilment and achievement are only possible when you are in an industry that you truly enjoy on an emotional level, versus a rational one. These industry choices can be made before you start (best), or early on (still okay) in your working life.

To choose:

  1. Know what industry or industries you have a passion for. You should already know, but I’ll give you some tips anyway to help ensure you choose correctly.
  2. Chart your career course in a way that will allow for a lifetime in that industry. Avoid getting pigeonholed into an industry that’s not what you want (more to come on this subject).
  3. You will possibly make some income sacrifices along the way, as well as some prestige and title sacrifices for a while, but it’s all worth it in the long run!

Some of the personal reflections used throughout the book to make certain points may be confounding and potentially even sound contradictory at first, but I offer these to illustrate how your early career decisions are absolutely critical.


I was employed for almost 40 years by several well-known, multi-billion-dollar in revenue European, American, and UK-based multinational corporations (MNCs). I advanced from an entry level role right out of university to numerous Country Manager, General Manager, and Vice President roles, holding country or regional or global responsibilities. I led thousands of employees and earned handsomely before I reached age 40. I retired early, in great financial shape. So, by most conventional measures, I was a pretty big success.

So how can this be related to Career Remorse since it sounds so positive?

In my career, I had a lot of power, led and worked with a lot of great people, made numerous lifelong friends, made very good money, and enjoyed significant achievements working for successful companies that are all leaders in their fields – primarily suppliers of industrial products used in the construction and manufacturing industries.

However, none of these employers were in industries that I felt any sort of emotional connection to, and as such, I never felt the passion that I needed to really ‘live’ my career.

I don’t want this to happen to you.

If you have passion for your work, career remorse can be easily avoided | Image Credit: University of San Diego

I want you to be on the right track – with passion for what you do – both early and sustainably, in your own career. Unfortunately, the scenario that is much more common – reason over passion – which is what I experienced, goes something like this:

  1. Many of us get started in a type of industry/career that we never intended to get into because it seemed like the best choice upon graduation, was a very practical decision, helped us to put food on the table, etc.
  2. Then, we tend to let that career control us rather than the other way around. We get promoted, we take a similar job with a competitor company for more money, better title, perks, etc., and things just continue to (passively) progress until we are virtually locked in there, and thus locked out of where we really want to be.
  3. While it’s possible to be externally successful in this scenario, it’s far less likely than if you had focused according to your true interests and passion, and thus, proactively progressed from your career ‘driver’s seat’ with you fully in control and doing what you love.

Considering that, depending on your age, you’ll spend up to the next 50 years working, wouldn’t you rather do something that you love to do? If so, you are fortunate in (a) realising it early in your career, and (b) wanting to do this in SEA because virtually every industry, via corporations that are home-grown or MNCs from all other parts of the world, offer terrific opportunities here. 

I was promoted four times in the first four years of my career. This was significant upward progress, including a move into people leadership in my mid-20s. Several times in my career, as a manager, then executive in the aforementioned industrial companies, I was told, “You really seem made to do what you do.”

This is the irony of my experience and advice. Apparently, at least outwardly, I seemed to fit what I was doing. In hindsight, I was probably convincing myself that these comments, and my ‘success,’ must have precluded the need for passion.

That is wrong! Had I had a book like this to guide me, to persist in the pursuit of one of my passions, I believe my career would have looked a lot different.


When you look back at the end of your career, you’ll clearly know that you attained significantly higher levels of satisfaction and success than you would have without the passion that you brought to your chosen profession.

This article contributed by Peter Brunoehler. Pete is a former multinational corporation executive, management consultant, and executive coach. He is now an author and a regular TEG Media contributor living in Penang with his wife.

"ExpatGo welcomes and encourages comments, input, and divergent opinions. However, we kindly request that you use suitable language in your comments, and refrain from any sort of personal attack, hate speech, or disparaging rhetoric. Comments not in line with this are subject to removal from the site. "


Click to comment

Most Popular

To Top