Marriage/divorce, relocation/migration, critical illness, new job or starting a business, are just a few of the important life events that one may have to deal with at some point in their lives. If you’re lucky, you may only have to deal with just one of these life events, and hopefully one that you choose. Sadly, sometimes, and for some people, the circumstances are never that easy, and they don’t ever get to choose. Regardless of who you are, how strong you are, your situation, dealing with any of these life events can be a potential “deal breaker or game changer”, fundamentally altering life as you know it, and sometimes-forever. Life events have the potential to derail people, or place them on a path towards actualizing their personal and professional dreams and goals. Whichever the case, the range of emotions that people experience during, and after any of these life events might include: fear, sadness, confusion, doubt, uncertainty or happiness, hope, excitement and fulfillment. So how does one manage these challenging periods of transitions? How does one cope with the far-reaching changes which life events produce?
In 2012, I made the decision to migrate to the United States. This decision meant I would opt to leave my solid job (Nearly 10 years), my homesweethome, my friends, my native country, and life as I knew it, to start over all in a whole new big world. I recall many of my friends, and co- workers expressing congratulatory sentiments. and well wishes, amidst the sad expressions/ sentiments about being sorry to see me go. All were confident of my continued success, and encouraged me to continue to do my best. Like many other people who have also made this decision,(Some say brave and courageous step), I also recall feeling some trepidation about the move, wondering whether I would successful, whether I would like it, whether I was doing the best thing etc. At the same time, I brimmed with hope, and excitement about the move, and the possibilities of fulfilling my personal and professional dreams.
As with any major life event, adjustments are inevitable. Managing the changes that come along , and making the transition is never seamless. For the process of change is often times painful and difficult as challenges and uncertainty abound. For me though, everything has not gone according to plan, there have been many detours and significant strides. I have had to totally re-invent myself, re-position my skills, adjust my mindset to consider other opportunities that are not directly related to my background, to effectively navigate my current environment. I have learnt that, it is one thing to be successful in your own country where you have many advantages (by virtue of just citizenship), or the ready knowledge and understanding of how everything works. But, establishing yourself in a totally new and different country, with a different culture and climate, coupled with the pressure of competing with people who are equally, or much more qualified than you, for the same employment opportunities, is no easy feat. There are barriers everywhere (Tangible and intangible), yet at the same time, there are limitless opportunities that I didn’t have, might not have thought of, or known of before.
Like many other people in this situation, I spent many waking moments doing research, and trying to figure out how to position my skills and experience, acquire new skills/certification, and brand myself (Read related post on Branding) for an international market, to enable me to find employment opportunities commensurate with my education, skills and background. I found that, my previous experiences and exposures mattered, but , only to the extent that I was able to show solid employment and work history. In this new environment, I was an “unknown quantity and quality”. My ability to prove that my skills and experiences were relevant and transferable became even more paramount.
In managing this life event and trying to make this change work for me, I have learnt some important lessons, and gained some new insights that might prove useful to persons grappling with how to make the change work for them, or how to effectively manage the transition periods in their lives. As such, The tips I’m sharing for managing life events are not exhaustive. They might apply to one life event more than another, and might not apply to some persons but not all.
- Have a vision and make it clear: This simply means you need to plan and have a plan (in your head and down on paper). The phrase-“fail to plan or plan to fail”, is true. Your plan should clearly answer the 5Ws and H questions, i.e .Who, What Where, When, Why and How? This is key since even the best laid plans may go awry. However, having S.M.A.R.T. goals will help you to organize yourself, clarify your short to long-term goals and prioritize key activities. Having a clear vision will also help you to communicate your brand to the people you seek help from, and help them steer you in the right direction.
- Build and establish a new network: The fact is, your network of friends, family and professional connections, might no longer be just a drive away or readily accessible. And even if they are, they might not be able to help you in your new environment, to the extent to that you might need support. The world works differently from place to place, and you will need to establish yourself in your new environment and in your field. One strategy I found hugely beneficial in my move was, doing informational interviews. These interviews enabled me to connect with new people, professionals in my field, understand how the industry functioned, as each person I met with, referred me to, or connected me with other professionals.
- Develop and lean on your support system: Whereas one can reasonably expect support from family and friends, help can come from the most unlikely places and people. Continue to believe in the generosity of the human spirit. If you need help, ask for it. People are and can be generous with their times, resources and connections. So be kind and polite to the people you meet, and help and support others when and where you can. Some days will be better than others as you experience near hits, misses and curve balls coming at you from all sides. On other days your emotions will run high, and will need to step back, hear that encouraging word from a friend, or just need someone to take the time to listen as you share your doubts and frustrations. Don’t be took hard on yourself, every experience is priceless
- Stay focused and positive: As you attempt to make the transition, you will find that everyone will have an opinion on what you do, or what you should be doing. This may apply to the kinds of jobs you should be seeking, where might be the best place to settle, or even how to prepare your resume (Omitting education and/or experience).It is wise to listen to the advice your receive, but be careful of the advice you accept. Surround yourself with positive people, for some persons might not be able to see your vision, or to even support it. To some people, your vision may seem too lofty, or vary too far from their own personal experiences and/or the expectations they hold for themselves. Therefore, it is most important that you stay committed, know who you are, what you can do and what you are about. This will help you to stay focused on your own goals, and not accept the limits that some people place on you, or set limits on yourself. Ultimately, it’s your life, your decision, your goal and your dream.
Finally….Keep an Open Mind! Always Be Positive! The journey continues as long as your life does!
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Everything is an opportunity in life.
Indeed Alex~ Thanks for reading.
Nice one T, was hoping u would have expounded on SMART, it came up in a course I’m doing, I understand it thou….
Great work T. I can identify with the challenges of change and your advice is on point. Thanks
Thank you for reading and your feedback Kiesha
Underestimating triggers can lead to higher levels of emotional turmoil but on the flip side you will understand how you respond to challenging situations. Standing back, being patient & accepting what can be controlled and what can’t creates deeper levels of practical wisdom for conserving resources. The journey is important because you will be defined in how you choose to live your life the way it suits you. Change throughout our lives is envitable, some we embrace while others are thrown at us but as long as we move forward we will all get to where we need to go in the time frame that works for us at our own pace. There is no right way to go as we are all unique , just do what feels right for you.
So True Julie~ Thanks for sharing your insight and experience.
Great read! Transition is never easy… I made the decision in 2009 and I lived by the four tips you suggested, especially setting goals and having a support system. I remembered every time I applied for a job I had to tweak my resume in order to fit the job requirement. Luckily, I had the opportunity to study here without paying a dime out of my pocket and I made sure that I cease every chance I got to do internship, go to workshop/seminar/webinar to present, joined many organizations and build network with people in the industry in order to stay ahead of the game. Like you rightly said, one has to re-invent and re-position them self in order to be successful when they decide to transition to something new, especially a new country.
Thanks for sharing Kerry- you’re spot on. You quickly have to figure out what you want and go for it- cease opportunities and seek help, pushing through the setbacks/ detours.