Natalie Ekberg knows first hand what it is like to have a career crisis and have to change careers. “My own career was firmly on track as an executive in the Human Resources department of a Fortune 500 company. I loved the thrill of the corporate world; the people, the energy, the possibilities for career development,” she said.
However when her husband was transferred to an overseas post, she had to let go of her career. A five countries and two kids later, she realised that her experience at reinventing herself meant that she could help others do the same.
“I loved helping people change from despair and confusion to hope and clarity, and what’s more I felt was good at it. That was when I started exploring the field of coaching.”
Here she talks about how she changed her outlook and career and ho you can do the same…
You gave up corporate life when your husband was transferred to Dubai. What was the hardest thing about that?
It is one of the most courageous things I’ve ever done. The hardest part was leaving my family and friends behind, not knowing what to expect in a country with a different culture. I didn’t expect the difficulties I have encountered in securing a new job. I went from a “high-flyer” to “unemployable” literally from one day to next. I was 28 and full of life and ambition. To be told nobody was interested in giving me a job was extremely hard.
Did it give you freedom that you didn’t expect?
After a year of endlessly looking for a job, I finally got one, only to realise that a year of “freedom” has been now part of me and I missed that freedom when it was gone. I knew then that one day I will need to find a solution that would give me freedom and work hard at the same time. Having my own business has fulfilled that desire for me.
You had your first child in The Philippines, were you tempted to come home?
I actually went to have my child in Hong Kong, I was spending my last month of pregnancy alone in the hospital accommodation, waiting for his arrival. I have had some tough experiences in the hospitals in Manila during my pregnancy, thus decided to play it safe and have both my children in Hong Kong. Spending my last weeks of pregnancy alone was easy but it was the price I was prepared to pay for the safe arrival of my children.
You were volunteering at a crisis-call centre when you received a call that changed your life. Can you tell us about that…
While volunteering on the Crisis Line in the Philippines, I found myself attending to a deafening cry for help from a man about to commit suicide. Doing my best to keep him calm over the phone while a colleague dealt with the logistics of trying to get an ambulance to the distressed man, the hardest thing for me was to remain completely detached from the situation praying I would be able to stop him from committing suicide before help arrived. This was a turning point for me I had decided that I could not return to the policies and procedures of corporate life, and felt I needed to work in a role which would allow me to help people in a more “hands on” way.
What was the hardest thing about changing careers for you?
The hardest thing has always been managing the continuity and to maintain the substance of my business over the years of changing countries and consequently, business environments. It is extremely difficult to build a network and a name for yourself in a particular country, only to leave that country after a couple of years and start going through exactly the same process in a different country.
1. Identify what new career you want.
2. Prepare the plan how to get there in. Cover every detail that you can think of.
3. Allow ample time for this change to happen; there will be setbacks. If the time is not tight, you will be less stressed.
4. Surround yourself with people who will support you and believe in you.
5. Be prepared to do a lot of research and remain open-minded about how you will reach your final goal. Sometimes plans need to be changed; be open to that, as long as you keep your final goal in mind.[/callout]
How did your career change affect you and your family?
I’ve had the need to keep reinventing myself and my business many times to suit the needs I had at any given moment. I have to be super-organised in splitting my time between the needs of my business and the needs of my family. In order to make sure that I have everything covered, I book and schedule most of my personal activities a long time in advance. That way they are in my calendar and I treat them with the same respect and importance as I would treat any business appointment. The great thing about running your own business is the freedom of making your own decisions, I love that aspect and the responsibility that comes with it.
I really like the idea of helping people to change careers as I think that many people have had to, and are still having to as a result of the recession and the effect it has had on some industries.
I think the most important aspect that people need to accept is that life in itself is fluid, evolving and ever changing. Therefore changing career is a natural aspect of any change. Once we embrace the fact that our career is not static and we can change direction at any given time, based on our needs, the whole idea of change becomes more acceptable.
Why shouldn’t people be afraid of change?
Change can seem daunting at the time but we once we go through with it, it always feels good. Every change moves us to a higher level of our personal development. Some changes make us more happy and successful, other changes teach us a lesson. But no change is ever lost. Only people who take on board any change that comes their way and ride that wave can say that they truly lived. Also, we are intuitive beings and we intuitively know what is good for us and what is not. If you feel that change would be great but you are afraid, go for the first natural step towards the desired change, no matter how small it is. If you manage this, it will give you more confidence to take further steps.
How can others who want to change careers start?
Identify what it is you would like to do and then set up a realistic plan how to achieve it. It helps you find someone else who is already doing successfully what you would like to do and learn from them.
How can a career coach help that process?
Career coach is a great help. When you decide to go through a career change, your family and friends might not be supportive, because they worry for you. Your coach will support you through all the changes and show an unfaltering belief in you and your abilities. Coach will also hold you accountable for your actions, therefore the process towards the change will be much faster.
What 3 universal truths do you live by?
1. We can achieve anything in life if we believe in ourselves and if we work hard for it.
2. Every change, whether wanted or unwanted, helps our personal growth and development. When we look back and “connect the dots”, we can see how all those changes were necessary to bring us where we are now.
3. Trust your feelings always. When something doesn’t “feel” right, it ‘s usually because it isn’t right!
To find out more or book a coaching package with Natalie visit lbcareercoaching.com.