We wholeheartedly thank Becky Kilsby of Freestyle Careers, for sharing her experience and telling what you can do when you have lost yourself overseas…
When I moved to Dubai in 1993 on a 3-year contract with my husband and two small children, I was excited for the new experiences we’d signed up for. I was ready for adventure!
I remember spending the first month or so getting the boys settled, meeting a few other mums and families and just enjoying the sun and novelty of it all.
I started learning Arabic and postponed thinking about my own career, happy to put it on the back burner for a while and enjoy the space.
It was only after a few more months that I realised I’d lost myself.
I was very busy being a wife and mother, but who was I any more?
Where had Becky the accomplished English teacher and career course designer gone? Just before leaving for Dubai I’d run two really successful courses for women returning to work after a career break – I’d designed them myself and got a real kick from seeing the impact the experience had on the women involved. Could I start something similar in Dubai?
I spent the next couple of months creating every excuse imaginable why I wasn’t the best person to be offering my course in Dubai – too new, too small a network, too inexperienced! Of course none of it was true, but I managed to convince myself that career courses just weren’t my thing any more. Underneath it all I now see fears of failure and that I just wouldn’t be good enough.
And before I knew it, the first year was over and we were away on vacation having a wonderful time exploring new places, catching up with family and friends back home and celebrating the opportunities of our new life overseas.
The fun, the fizzle and the final eureka moment!
It was only when I was on the plane back for our second year that my heart started to sink. What exactly was I going back for? And there and then I felt determined to start something that was ‘me.’ Going back to my teaching roots, I created literature courses for women; attracted a range of English language students; and moved into teaching academic writing in two of the local universities. This definitely felt more me. But something was still missing.
When I realized the missing piece was the joy of seeing clients start to believe in themselves again and make breakthroughs in their careers – the work I had been doing before Dubai – I decided I was going to retrain as a career consultant. Two years later and I was setting up a university career service, fired up with enthusiasm, confidence and ready to change the world!
Another four years down the road, with satisfaction that I had established something new – and that it worked well – I started to feel the organization I was employed by was changing into something far more corporate that the start-up pioneer vibe I’d loved. I could feel their values and goals were no longer mine.
At almost the same time as I noticed that feeling, I was offered my dream job in my other big love – literature – based on the voluntary work I’d been doing for them. I joined the Dubai literary festival – The Litfest! This was novel and challenging, but I loved the interaction with authors and the creativity of the team I worked with.
4 Steps to a fulfilling life
What did I learn from these career changes?
Firstly, that being active in the things you love doing allows previously invisible doors to open. Doing what you love is enriching, develops skills, experience and above all else – confidence! It’s so easy to lose sight of what matters most to you as an individual when you are the accompanying partner on an overseas placement. Finding your values, your passions and re-igniting these are the foundations you need to grow a new, fulfilling life of your own.
When I returned to the UK after 22 years in Dubai, newly single, children grown and with a blank slate in front of me, I had to draw on everything I’d learned about re-inventing myself. This wasn’t plain sailing, but in the past 4 years I can identify 4 steps to my current life of fulfillment:
- First, I got myself a job that provided stability. Drawing on my previous professional successes, I started work as a career consultant in the local university.
- Secondly, I dived deeper into what I wanted for the next phase of my life – what did I want this life to be? What was most important, how did I want to support myself and how could I bring it to life? This provided a true anchor and an inspiring vision.
- I added coaching qualifications to my repertoire and – cutting a very long story short – finally released myself from my ‘safe’ job to set up my own career change coaching business.
- I’m now doing what I love, empowering others to seek out their values, the impact they want to have in the world, their strengths, collecting all the dreams they’ve never dared to dream before, evaluating these for authenticity and designing a completely new life. One that aligns who they are with what they do. Freestyle Careers is born!
When you’ve lost yourself overseas
It’s easy to lose yourself when you’re an expat, but here’s what I learnt. You have all the answers within you already. Just ask yourself 4 questions:
*What do I want to share with the world?
*What are my strengths?
*What do I love doing?
*What can I start today?
I love working with people on a mission to find their true calling. These 4 questions underpin my Quickstep Career Change Coaching Programme and, while the obvious outcome is that my clients discover their fulfilling new direction, the hidden treasure they also unearth is their lost confidence – they know this is what they are meant to do, AND that they have the strength to make it happen.
My own expat experiences means that I love working with clients around the world to help them reclaim and re-design THEIR lives. Whether a new expat, someone who has lost who they really are in the expat journey, or they’re getting ready to return to what used to be ‘home’, I understand the challenges and excitements, the fears and hopes of these significant moments.
And above all else, I know it’s possible to create a life that truly honours who you are.
Career Coach and Founder