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Turning Points @ Work

By Elaine Cercado

A major turning point at work alters our path in life. The trigger is usually a problem or a crisis. And we don’t get to see the end-point until we decide to go through the situation and come out of it. As Steve Jobs has famously said,

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

Twenty-one years ago, the multinational company I worked for had an organizational gap in the South East Asia business. The position of cluster manager for Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and South Asia remained vacant for several months despite an active search.  The head of South East Asia also looked at an internal pool of “high-potentials” and one day called and offered me the job, which I accepted after discussing with my husband.

There were hurdles along the way. First, the role required my family to relocate from Manila to Kuala Lumpur. Our only child was just one year old at that time so having someone we trusted to look after him while I worked was important. Second, my husband’s career was thriving in the Philippines.  His support and willingness to leave his local leadership position to search for an uncertain regional job was key.

With the strong support of my husband, his company and my company, we relocated and settled into our host country. This made me the youngest and first woman expatriate, who moved from our country to a regional business leadership position in the region.  This was the time when global mobility was not as common as today.

Fast forward to 2018 in Singapore, where we’ve lived for the last 18 years. That one major decision in 1997 changed the course of my life – and my family’s. It was the turning point that led to many more twists and turns, and finally led us to where we are today. As I reflected on my career’s turning point, two things stood out:

Problems are opportunities in disguise. They’re opportunities that could bring out the best versions of ourselves and the best times of our lives. But the path to success is not an easy road. It takes steep learning, hard work, sacrifices, energy, courage and resilience. It requires openness to diversity and agility to adapt. It also generates priceless rewards and blessings like wisdom, wide perspectives, inner strength, faith, joy and friendships. Experiences help us discover more about ourselves and the world around us.  As my favorite quote goes: The way out is through!  

Taking a risk is necessary to change. My boss took a risk and trusted his gut when he offered me, a young inexperienced manager at that time, an international assignment. I took the risk when I accepted the offer. My husband took the risk when he left a secure job – yet his story was the best testimony of change as he found success in another global company and regional job. If we all remained with the status quo, we would have missed out big time on learning from our decisions and from growing beyond our comfort zones.

What’s your turning point at work? What has made it a turning point? What have you learned through it all?  Was it worth it?