The pandemic has given many of us the time to take stock and think about where we are in our lives and whether our careers are making us happy. Elizabeth Jerabek sits down with three Lantau-based coaches to find out what it takes to make a change
Many of us have just made resolutions to improve some aspect of our lives in the year ahead. From finding better work-life balance, to retraining to pursue a new job opportunity, to finally getting that long-awaited promotion, the 12 months ahead are full of possibilities. So what’s the best way to make those career changes a reality? Is 2021 your year to finally get some advice from a career coach?
“A career coach is a third party who cares about your success and happiness – and can bring active listening and questioning techniques that will help you see deep inside yourself in ways that you could not do alone,” opens DB resident and leadership and wellness coach Adrian Stones, founder of Zenshin Coaching. “Think of a coach as someone helping you to stay open, honest and motivated. A coach is there to help you take real action using insights that they can help you discover about yourself.”
Get the right mindset
For DB resident Tannistha Chatterjee, a master practitioner and transformational coach in neurolinguistic programming, and the founder of Dazzle Inside, the first step for anyone looking for new career opportunities in 2021 is to get in a mindset where you are truly ready to go after what you want.
“Making a major change can seem overwhelming because your mind protects you from impulses that could challenge your status quo, which keeps you trapped in your comfort zone,” Tannistha says. “In order for you to escape, set positive goals and make timeline-based, bite-sized action plans. Know that it takes less energy to push on to the next step than it does to hesitate and hold back. Each step forward is a choice in itself. Similarly, choosing not to try is also a choice and is induced by self-doubt.
“Ask yourself: ‘What is it that I want?’ Next: ‘What are the measures that I could take to reach my desire?’ Journal every possible action that could be taken towards your desire, followed by how, by when, and with whom. This simple act energises you with positivity.”
Tannistha is quick to point out that healthy coping mechanisms, like regular exercise and meditation, can help you stay on track and achieve your goals.
“It’s also important to journal all your possible strengths, every small to large accomplishment on your journey so far – and journal your current stressors,” she says. “Each time you feel negative emotions, consciously redirect yourself towards positive self-talk and affirmations instead. Most importantly, be kind and compassionate to yourself because you deserve it.”
Being kind to yourself includes eradicating any unhealthy habits that could be sabotaging your success. “Be mindful if you’re sulking, self-blaming, not sleeping or eating well, or venting your stress on others,’ says Tannistha. “First, be aware; second, pause and reflect; third, redirect yourself consciously.”
Tannistha’s last piece of advice? Don’t be afraid to fail. “‘It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that counts,’” she says. “A good way to be resilient is to quickly assess what went wrong, translate that into learnings, project those learnings into the future and put them to good use.
“Rejection shouldn’t lead you to automatically question your capabilities,” she concludes. “A few non-successes don’t make you a universal failure. It’s the meaning that we attach to any event, more than the event itself, which makes it significant.”
Adrian agrees that anyone making a career change will likely face setbacks, and he stresses how important it is to have a support system in place. “Talk to your network – family and friends sometimes know you better than you know yourself and they will support you through this transition,” he says. “There will be ups and downs – and this is not something you want to do alone.
“Ask for introductions through shared connections,” Adrian adds. “Talk to people you know who are doing what you are interested in and ask them what it is like to do that every day. Look for people – not a new job – on LinkedIn.”
It’s clear that advice from people already working in the field you are interested in will help you make informed decisions about your future. And Adrian stresses how important it is to ask yourself whether the career path you are considering will bring you long-term personal happiness. “Imagine yourself retired, when your professional identity fades into the past. What kind of person will be left then? For you, what would a life well-led look like?”
Emphasising the importance of digging deep and recognising your own potential, Adrian says it’s your personal strengths – “the closest thing any of us will ever come to having superpowers” – that will get you where you want to go. He says it’s also essential that you acknowledge the relevance of your previous experience, and how it can still be an asset even if you are changing careers. “You are never really starting over again from scratch. Your career to date and your life experiences are invaluable assets you bring to any new challenge.”
Adamant that marketable skills only increase with age, Adrian points to a 2019 Wharton study which revealed that the average age of high-growth US entrepreneurs was 45. “The same study indicated that a 50-year-old founder is 1.8 times more likely to be successful than a 30-something founder,” he says. “Why? It comes down to your work and life experience – and transferable skills.”
Get with the times
Of course, anyone seeking new job opportunities in 2021, needs to be aware that the pandemic has affected the recruiting process for both candidates and employers.
“Now, more than ever, it’s about standing out from the crowd, making sure you have a strong CV, cover letter and LinkedIn page, as well as being confident when presenting yourself,” opens Marie Swarbreck, Cheung Sha resident and founder of FLEXImums, a recruitment and diversity and inclusion consultancy specialising in supporting female talent looking to re-enter the workforce or change jobs for a better work-life balance.
“We have seen virtual interviews becoming a new normal to the point where employers are hiring candidates, based in Hong Kong, they have never met in person,” Marie adds. “One of the advantages of virtual, of doing the interview from the comfort of your own home, is that you can practice in front of your screen and record it – adjust your posture, the angle of your screen and work on your body language.
“When you walk into an office, the interviewer forms an opinion about you within seconds, often before you’ve even said anything. In a virtual interview, you have the advantage of being heard first so take advantage of that and prepare an opening, an introduction and have a first question ready. When being interviewed virtually, it is a lot easier to influence the interview flow.”
Marie also stresses that the way you close an interview is as important as the opening. “Make sure you have a brief summary prepared or a final question,” she says. “Keep track of time, thank them at the end, and do not relax until you have turned off the camera and left the call – doublecheck!”
Marie is full of encouragement for anyone looking to make the flexible work arrangements from 2020 more permanent. “If I were to go for an interview today, I would feel a lot more confident about bringing up flexible working, as everyone is doing it and it is no longer taboo. If the employer says, ‘We are all back in the office and hope to keep it that way,’ I think you know what kind of company and possibly employer he/ she might be. But it’s still worth bringing it up as, at that point, you have little to lose if flexibility is key to you.”
“Change is happening,” Marie concludes. “Company cultures are becoming more agile and flexible, and diversity and inclusion initiatives have become a priority.”