In today’s globalised world, international professionals face a unique set of challenges. From navigating cross-cultural communication to managing the pressures of expat life, the journey of building a successful career abroad can be both rewarding and overwhelming. This is where Katarina Stoltz Coaching and Therapy steps in to provide guidance and support. In this blog, we’ll delve into the world of coaching and therapy tailored specifically for international professionals, exploring how Katarina Stoltz empowers individuals to thrive in their overseas careers and personal lives.
1: Tell us about your career so far and how you became a coach and therapist for international professionals!
It was clear to me already at age 10 what my unique skill was: problem solving. But it took me another three decades to turn that into a job! I grew up in Sweden with the belief that ‘I can do anything’, which made me try out many kinds of jobs before I reconnected with my true calling.
I moved abroad twice, first to Warsaw where I worked as a photojournalist for the Reuters News Agency. I was at the pinnacle of my career as a photojournalist, my articles were being published on the front pages of the International Herald Tribune and The New York Times when I decided that my life needed to radically change. From the outside, my life looked glamorous, but I was slowly burning out. I didn’t like the person I was becoming. I didn’t like how I treated people. A few years later I followed my heart and moved to Berlin to live with the man I had fallen in love with.
After my successful but draining career as a photojournalist, I took stock of my own priorities. I realised that only by reconnecting with my true self—the one that thrives on helping other people —could I live my most fulfilled life. I took some time off to figure out my next steps, retrained as a holistic life coach, and founded Katarina Stoltz Life Coaching in 2016. I then went on to train as a psychotherapist. Over the last seven years I have helped thousands of clients, both in person and online, to tackle the challenges that come with moving abroad and changing careers.
If you're curious to read more about my career changes, and learn six steps for a successful career change, check out my blog here.
2: Congratulations on being in the ‘TOP 100 FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS IN GERMANY’ & being FEMCOM Winner 2023! Tell us more about this award and what did you do to achieve it?
Thank you! FEM-COM stands for FEMale COMpetence. It focuses on the professional, but also the personal qualities of the participants. My community and the FEMCOM Awards business network voted for me. I had to present my mission, what makes me stand out and what changes I will implement in 2023.
3: You are an expert in expat challenges and life transitions. Talk us through your expertise and how you help expats transition.
The expats that come to me usually feel stressed and overwhelmed. Not working and living in your home country can be challenging on many levels. My clients are highly functioning individuals who have climbed the corporate ladder or have their own business. When they come to me they have reached a crossroads, not knowing if they are in the right career or right country. They might have changed their job, partner, moved house or relocated to another country and discovered it didn’t impact their mental or physical health for the better. Usually in their effort to please everyone else’s expectations, they’ve lost sight of what they really want. I help them build their confidence and unlock the pools of strength, determination and resilience they already have.
I know what it’s like to face the ups and downs of life. And I draw from my expertise working with thousands of clients, as well as my own experiences in the corporate world, as an entrepreneur, and as a wife and mother who has moved countries twice. I know the impact the “harder, better, faster, stronger culture” can have on our health. I’m helping my clients prioritise their well-being at home and at work so they can achieve fulfilment without burning out.
4: What are some of the challenges you have faced along the way in your life and career? How did you overcome them?
The main challenge has been lacking guidance. Believing that ‘you can do anything’ is on the one hand helpful – I had the confidence that I could master any job or obstacle in life. On the other hand, it also made me jump from one job to another, one study to another without a clear direction or vision. I was missing mentors and role models to inspire and support me, someone to help me see my unique qualities and unlock the courage to follow my true calling. I overcame this challenge when I first started working with a coach, then a therapist, and then regularly engaging in international networks of people with similar interests as mine. Having mentors who believed in my unique strength, and getting professional help, made all the difference!
Another challenge was that I never 'fitted in' in the corporate world. I wasn’t interested in climbing the ladder and living according to values that were not aligned with mine. It took me a long time to realise I needed to become my own boss, and since I started working for myself, I have never dreaded a workday!
5: What advice would you give fellow female expats and professionals who may be considering or need help to start taking the steps into therapy? What advice do you have for newbies to the world of therapy?
Almost everyone needs therapy! Some people believe psychotherapy is only for people suffering from mental illness. Therapy can be truly life changing for anyone feeling unhappy, for anyone struggling to live life to the fullest. The desire to get to know oneself can be reason enough.
If I was going to therapy for the first time, I would always choose to do it in person if possible. I don’t offer online therapy myself, as I believe you need to see the full person to get an idea about who they are, and to also be able to build trust, which is crucial for successful results.
I would focus less on the method the therapist is using and instead ask yourself the question ‘Do I feel safe enough to open up to this person?’
Go and try out at least three different therapists to experience the difference and then decide whether you can imagine sharing all your struggles with this person for the next months/years.
6: We hear so many people talk about ‘burnout’ but not many of us know what it is or how to prevent it. Can you share your advice and knowledge on the subject?
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained and unable to meet constant demands.
Burnout doesn’t happen overnight, it’s usually a consequence of living under stress for a longer time. From my experience burnout is a response to unhealthy boundaries and is caused by not knowing when and how to say NO, people pleasing, unrealistic expectations and superhero syndrome (I can do it all!).
There are many red flags to look out for to prevent burnout. If you feel constantly tired or exhausted, it’s a sign that you need to make some lifestyle changes.
Typical sign are:
feeling irritable, less enjoyment of activities you previously liked, becoming increasingly negative, unhealthy eating and drinking habits, your motivation levels are dropping, chest pain, shortness of breath, headache, palpitations, feeling less engaged than normal and disconnected from others.
When people seek therapy it’s often for anxiety or depression. What causes anxiety is often the inability to say NO. We often agree to things we don’t want. In almost all of my coaching and therapy sessions, we work on boundary setting. I see boundaries as a gateway to healthy relationships and a fulfilled life.
My advice is that if you have been exhausted and stressed for a while, start using my guided journal to start identifying your energy drains. This is a good starting point for saying NO to what causes your stress. Then it’s good to work with a professional, a coach or therapist to help you towards a long-lasting change.
7: You live and work abroad… Tell us about your own experience as a female expat. What is life like for you as an international professional?
I have worked in the corporate world, started my own business, got married and became a mother abroad. My experience is that none of this has been easy. When you are far away from close family and childhood friends, it takes time to build up a network of people who can support you. You are more dependent on friends and neighbours to help you out.
Starting my own business, I had no one to ask for help, for an example. I was new in Berlin and had to figure it out on my own. This takes much longer than if I had been in my home country where I know the language and have a wider network.
What I’ve learned is that if you’re willing to let things take a bit longer in your professional life, and you put effort into building a network, life abroad can become much more exciting than staying in your home country. That’s how it’s been for me! I live among an international community which gives me more fulfilment than my life did in my home country.
I work with people from around the world, giving me insights to different cultures and ways of being. Most of my friends are internationals like me and have an understanding for the complexity of living abroad, and we all support each other. I’m also proud to bring up my daughter in this environment where she at the age of 11 speaks three languages fluently and has a very easy-going nature towards people of all cultures and ages.
8: What advice do you have for women looking to advance their career to international level?
My advice is to look at what compromises you are willing to make, for example, ‘is it worth it to take a pay cut to move abroad? I took a 90% pay cut when I moved abroad for the first time at the end of my twenties. Was it hard? YES! Was it worth it? YES!
If you think ‘advancing in your career’ means a better salary and a better position, I would check your online network and reach out to women in similar industries who have done what you want to do and ask them for a chat online. There are many women out there who are willing to help other women.
I would not overthink it too much as my experience has shown me that we only know the answer when we try it out, not when we’re trying to think our way to an answer.
9: What inspired you to create the free guided journal ‘Time To Thrive’?
A lot of my clients are busy, high achieving individuals and I wanted to create something where they could see results within a month. When I saw how useful it was for them, I decided to make it available for free for anyone.
By using it, you will identify energy drains so that you have more energy and time for the things that lift you up. It doesn’t only boost your energy but also your confidence, and you gain clarity and courage to move forward. You can download it here.
10: Lastly, you say ‘PRIORITISE YOUR WELL-BEING AT HOME AND AT WORK’ - What are your key tips to achieving this?
1. Learn to set healthy boundaries. Identify where in your life you’re not saying ‘no’. Start practising setting boundaries more often even if you’re afraid of not being liked.
2. Schedule micro breaks throughout your day. Instead of rushing between tasks and activities, make sure to plan short breaks both at work and in your free time.
3. Practice self-care. Make a list of things that make you feel nourished and alive. A bath? Time in nature? Dancing? Yoga? Journaling? Reading a book? Make sure to add it to your calendar.
Far too many people I work with stay in toxic workplaces and relationships for too long. They suffer in silence and their mental state gets worse. When we’re younger we might think, ‘I can’t give up yet’ or ‘I should be able to handle it’, but staying in this ‘survivor mode’ for too long can lead to chronic symptoms and diseases later on in life. Therefore, my advice is, prioritise your well-being NOW and invest in yourself so that you stay healthy and can enjoy life to the fullest!
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