I made a huge change in 2020. After living in Hong Kong for 11 years, my family and I relocated back to the UK.
Once we finally made the decision, the enormity of the move hit me. How was I going to do this? There was so much to do, never mind the fact that I would still need to run Prospect and my coaching business Transform in Asia while I was living in a different continent!
Logistically, we had to secure schools for my two teenage boys and buy a home for us all to live in. I also needed to officially exit Hong Kong by signing paperwork, tying up tax issues, closing bank accounts, getting out of our home, phone and wifi contracts, and so it went on. The list of things to do seemed endless and incredibly daunting!
But it wasn’t just the practical side of leaving Hong Kong that was occupying my mind, it was also the emotional.
Even when you’re certain that relocating to another country is the right thing for you personally, for your family, and for your career, your heart can tell a different story. During our time in Hong Kong my teenage boys, husband and I built phenomenal relationships, and I couldn’t imagine leaving these behind. In addition, the weather, the scenery, the food, the culture, the socialising and the travel all made the past decade such a special time. Was I doing the right thing?
Oh, and then COVID-19 turned the world upside-down just a few months before we were due to board the plane to England.
Six months on and we’re settled in Cambridge and immersed in our new life. It’s only now that I’ve been able to reflect on the experience and can offer tips and suggestions for people who are also looking to make a change.
So here are my top tips:
1. All changes – big or small – require a detailed plan
Whether moving flats, changing jobs, or relocating countries, make a detailed plan. Writing a plan and documenting what needs to be done, will make the change feel less overwhelming. Building in timeframes and sticking to the deadlines will ensure things get done at a steady pace, without the last-minute panic. Going one step further and telling someone about your plan will bring in some accountability and increase the likelihood that you will carry it out.
If you were managing a project at work, you’d no doubt delegate and assign duties. Treat your change the same way and see what you can outsource to others. If you are looking for a promotion internally, ask your boss for support. If you are looking for a new job externally, ask a headhunter to help you. If you are moving home, ask a real estate expert for advice and apartment options. When making a big change such as a country move, delegate as much as you can to others to handle the practical tasks.
3. Ask for emotional support
Don’t underestimate how your heart might ache at times. There will likely be many points along the way when you’ll wonder if you’re doing the right thing. What if you don’t like the new job or apartment or country? I had many concerns and doubts. Will the kids make friends? Will they settle into school? Will I cope with the English winter? All of these questions are totally normal and its important to talk to friends and or family to get reassurance and support.
4. Have an accountability partner or coach
It will be invaluable to have someone help you work through your plan, remind you of your goal and keep you on track to make the necessary changes. Ask a friend or colleague or family member to check in regularly to see how you’re doing. Or work with a coach to help you identify your goal and ensure you make the changes you need to in order to achieve your objective. I’ve coached many individuals in Hong Kong, Singapore and the UK make changes in their business life to help bring their goals to life. I also engaged a coach when I was moving back to the UK. She held me accountable, was a great sounding board, kept me on track and gave me the support and encouragement I needed.
5. Utilise your network
Who is in your network that you can approach to help make this change? For example if you’re looking for promotion in your current firm, who can be your champion or sponsor to make it happen? If you’re looking for a new role outside of your firm, who in your network do you know that can introduce you to the relevant organisations? We all know far more people that we think. As a starting point, write down names. From this initial list, ask yourself who can introduce you to people to make your change, who will give you honest feedback, who has a network that could be useful and who can act as a mentor to you.
6. Be kind to yourself
Making a change – big or small – requires focus, planning, resilience and perseverance. Changes can take time to achieve so make sure your plan is practical and manageable. Don’t forget to congratulate yourself when you tick things off your plan. If it doesn’t happen as fast as you had hoped don’t worry. Celebrate the small wins and remind yourself that it takes time to make big changes.
By Emma Dale is Prospect’s Co-Founder and Asia MD as well as a qualified coach and Founder of Transform Executive Coaching www.transformexecutivecoaching.com