Celebrating 1 Year in Singapore!
I’d like to start this post out by thanking myself. Yep! “Thank you, Elisa, for taking on your fear of moving away from your country and family and gifting yourself this amazing experience”.
A year ago, I packed up my life and boarded a flight to a new adventure in Singapore. I had a desire to move to another country simmering in me for the better part of my adult life, but I always suppressed it because of this looming fear that it would be too emotionally hard. Eventually, I decided that it would be pretty awful to live the rest of my life regretting that I did not move when I had the opportunity, so I took the plunge. Though my move was transcontinental, there are key lessons that are applicable to many career and life decisions.
Take risk! Take risk! Take risk!
When you hear this, you may think I mean something radical like quit your job and found a startup or join the Peace Corps. Hey, if that’s your cup of tea, go for it! But if that thought makes you want to vomit out of fear, you’re not alone. Those of us with big dreams often get ahead of ourselves; we want to impatiently boil the ocean. Maybe we are even scared of the dream, so we altogether ignore engaging with it. The best thing to do is break your ambition down into small steps. For example, one of my biggest fears about moving abroad was being away from my family. Before moving to Singapore, I had the opportunity to go to Colombia for a month on a work assignment. I realized that while I missed my family, FaceTime does wonders for staying connected and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. That trip gave me confidence to consider a long-term assignment abroad. If you name the specific fear instead of letting it hang over you like a dark cloud, then you can put a plan in place to help overcome it.
Let’s say you have an aspiration to move to a new function in your company. If you’re honest with yourself, you may not know all that move will involve. Start out by doing your homework. Reach out to a few people in that function so you can better understand their responsibilities and how their success is measured. Perhaps you can ask your manager if you may take on a stretch assignment in that function. Oftentimes, when I make these recommendations to people, they get a bit frustrated because it seems like a lot of work. Well, yes, it is a lot of work and you must own that. No one is responsible for your development, but you! So, let me give you a swift kick and remind you to save the drama for your mama and get to work. 😉 By taking small steps, you can still take a risk, but in a methodical, well informed way.
Sweat equity must be earned, again!
When you move to a new role, it brings many positives such as growth opportunities and new challenges; however, it also usually introduces a whole new team of people who don’t know you and your former accomplishments. I made a mistake early in my career when I transferred from New York to New Jersey as a sales rep and assumed that because I was more experienced, my learning curve would not be as steep. It may have been true about the day to day job, but it was absolutely not true of the people. Even if you had a strong personal brand, you’re now an unknown entity and you need to roll up your sleeves and prove yourself, again. That situation taught me to stay humble and never assume that my reputation will carry with me.
When I moved to Singapore, I knew that trust building would be key, so I was mindful to take the pressure off myself to produce results immediately and rather focused on integrating with the Asia Pacific team. You must take the posture that nothing is beneath you. For example, I was tasked with planning our region’s 2020 kick off meeting. I went to extra lengths to make sure the event was not only full of good content but made everyone feel included. For one of our sessions, we had speakers from 6 countries, so I worked with them to hand select a song that represented their culture. From KPop to Bollywood to Journey everyone was well represented and had a blast! Now, I could have felt that I was too senior to do such a small task, but at the end of the day, people will only come to trust you by knowing that you genuinely care. (Plus, I never turn down a good dancing opportunity.) Through that event, I bonded with my colleagues and was recognized as a true team member. Notice I didn’t say that I impressed them with all my marketing knowledge and know how. That is important and is expected, but people are first driven by connections, which must be earned through putting in the work!
You can do hard things!
Woof! The amount of sleepless nights I’ve had in my career are countless. I really care about my job and the outcome of my work. When I moved to Singapore, I was taking on a lot of variables. I left a business I had 12 years of experience in and took on a digital marketing focus with little experience in a new geography. Against the advice of a few people, I accepted this challenging role. I was nervous, and to be clear, I still am nervous, but you know what I learned? I can do hard things! One foot in front of the other, one day at a time. If you have good emotional intelligence and a solid foundation in business, you’ll find that many of the problem’s organizations face are similar. I am not saying they are the same or equal, but many times there are transferrable learnings. So, the next time you shy away from a new challenge because you think you can’t do it, think about situations you have overcome in the past. For example, in my current role I need to align 13 countries on a direction for our digital marketing strategy. Well, I have never done that before, but I did align 12 regions in the US on a marketing strategy and prior to that I navigated complex health care systems to win major contracts.
Of course, you need to be reasonable with how big of a jump you are taking, which is why good counsel is important, but a bit of a stretch never killed anyone. You will get bumps and bruises along the way as I have, but you will learn more by pushing yourself than you would in a job that doesn’t challenge or inspire you. One of my favorite quotes is by Teddy Roosevelt, “…the credit belongs to the [woman] who spends herself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if she fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that her place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat” (female descriptors mine). I get chills every time I read that quote. Do yourself a favor and read it again. I, for one, do not want to be a cold and timid soul. I believe that if you’re not being challenged, you’re not growing. Get to it, sister!
My wish for you!
I am at the midway mark of my assignment in Singapore. It has been full of very high highs and low lows and let us not even begin to speak of COVID-19. But when I think about my future, I know I will always be happy that I took this risk. It would have been a major mistake and loss if I didn’t push through my fear to enable this amazing experience. I feel the same for you! What amazing things are just on the other side of your fear or intimidation? We need more courageous leaders who are willing to take on new challenges and improve our world. That’s why I want so much for you to know how much greatness is already in you and how much it robs the rest of us when you don’t use it or embrace it. Imagine what your life could look like a year from now by simply taking the first step!
Go get 'em!
PS What's a dream or aspiration you'd like to pursue? Comment below! I'd love to hear from you.