Cristina Muntean is a consultant, trainer, mentor and coach who specializes in personal branding, strategic communications, emotional and systemic intelligence for leadership. A former journalist with more than 12 years of experience in the Czech, Romanian and international media, she founded Media Education CEE, a PR advisory and training agency in Prague in May 2010. Her clients are executive level managers and entrepreneurs with Top100 companies in the Czech Republic and Central and Eastern Europe. Cristina is also an internationally certified trainer and coach with the Enneagram, a complex system of personal development, and a facilitator of systemic dynamics in organizations. She provides services in English, Czech, French and Romanian, her mother tongue. Cristina can be reached at +420 776 574 925 or at email@example.com.
The end of April this year marks a milestone in my life. This is the day when, ten years ago, Czech Business Weekly (CBW), the English language economic magazine where I worked as a reporter, then as the chief reporter and deputy editor-in-chief was closed, throwing our lives into disarray. A bunch of English language journalists laid off on a foreign market in the midst of the toughest economic crisis of the last half a century – what career journeys could open ahead of us? We couldn’t answer that question at that time. Ten years later however, life has a different flavor and a different perspective.
If someone had told me that day, when I was standing on the sidewalk looking at our offices for the last time, that ten years later I would have a thriving career in people development I would have told them they were kidding. I would also have waved them off had they told me that in 2018 I would have the honor to publish the first book on personal communications ever written in Czech by a non-native speaker – You, the Brand – Personal Branding for Career Growth, or for organizing the first digital conference in the Czech Republic, the Personal Branding Summit 2019, all of that on my own, without the backing of money or loving support of a life partner or by the impactful glamour of having worked in the past for a global company.
No. Ten years ago, life looked bleak. With losing our job many of us also lost our professional identity. To be honest, it’s pretty scary to have your sense of professional identity stripped away from you in one week and to have to deal with the consequences of such a cataclysmic event on your career. But life moves on, as we all, the former CBW team, had to learn on our own.
The Blessing in Disguise
What I wish someone had told me those ten years ago, as I was standing on that sidewalk, was quite different. As it shows, getting laid off from CBW was, in fact, a blessing in disguise that ended up propelling many of us on an entrepreneurial journey.
Stripped of what we knew we were left with no option but to do the best with what we had left. We became more resourceful. I decided to ask my tae-bo trainer to lend me 200 000 CZK, the price of creating a limited liability company in 2010 in Prague. We started learning new things. I joined a course to become a trainer of personal development. There I discovered the importance of emotional intelligence and the Enneagram, a complex and dynamic system of personal development which opened a whole new world for my relationships and work. I gradually learned how to mentor and coach. To finance my becoming I started taking companies on a retainer to execute media relations and integrated communications strategies for them. Now I mentor people on how to do that for their companies. In 2011 I was already conducting my first complex media communications development program in Czech. Soon after I discovered the power of systemic intelligence, which sky-rocketed my understanding of organizations and team work. My service portfolio was starting to shape up: advisory, training, coaching and mentoring on strategic communications, emotional intelligence and leadership. Through challenges, struggle and anxiety balanced by the joy of new client wins and relentless hope the pieces of the puzzle were finally coming together. It was only two years ago, in 2018, when I felt an inner shift. After eight years I was finally feeling that I had landed in my new profession: people development. And boy, does it feel good to have your own life in your own hands again after such a long, long time.
Nothing Can Prepare Us for Transformation
Looking back to what happened when CBW was closed I realize that nothing could have prepared us for transformation. Life happens; it comes and it kicks us in the gut, stripping away what we hold most dear: our health, relationships or our career. And we need to deal with it. What we are also stripped away of are our certainties: that we will be forever held by the gentle arms of an inclusive company or by the capacity of a state to pay our pensions. That’s an illusion. The sooner we learn to accept that, the sooner we can start stirring our life boat in the direction of something more meaningful – discovering, cultivating and unleashing our full human potential.
Your Own Unpredictable Journey into the Future
More and more leaders with whom I work on personal branding and people development assignments are currently noticing tectonic shifts in their careers and companies. These shifts are triggered by their company transformation processes or by personal burnout. As companies continue to redefine their mission, implement more digital and data-driven strategies and bet more and more on robots and artificial intelligence, our very definition of career management is transforming. In the 20th century our careers used to be linear: you join a company, develop your expertise and grow into new roles until you retire. End of the story. The career lifespan was anywhere between 25 and 40 years. Today we are considering careers with lifespans beyond 52 years. The jobs of the future, those that we need to fill in 10 to 15 years from now haven’t been even defined yet. On top of that we are also facing massive challenges in terms of declining physical and mental health across the board. This, but not only, is what makes more and more people to leave their companies to take longer and longer sabbaticals to recover, regenerate and redefine their life purpose. When they come back, they are different for they have felt the taste of empowerment. They have no hesitation to push back and say no to their managers. They understand the value of networking, strategic communications and personal branding. And they are ready to act – at the right time, for the right reason and in line with their life mission.
That’s why in the future companies with no sense of purpose will get more and more push-back from their employees. Leaders all over the world are currently in a process of redefining their approach from managing resources, processes and people to managing humanity and to leading with purpose in increasingly complex stakeholder systems. We are slowly moving into the era of Humanity 2.0 where the only certainty that we have is our capacity to stay humans: to discover those gold nuggets in our brain that we don’t know they exist, to boost our curiosity, creativity and to become more empathetic, considerate, kind and all-embracing. As we are more and more on the Planet, it becomes clear that the only sustainable way forward into the future is to learn to serve each other, as opposed to pillaging our resources and each other. And the people able to do that? Well, they are the same people whom life kicked in the guts, for they are those who know how to operate when all you’ve got left is your humanity. And this capacity, paradoxically, is our key into a better future.
So when the invitation is there for you on the table to jump into the unknown, just go for it. It will hurt, I am sure. Yet through pain we grow. Who knows, perhaps what we are experiencing today is nothing but the labor pain of a new form of humanity that is calling to all of us. In this light our whole becoming turns into a journey of personal discovery, individual and community empowerment. Just open up and feel free to embrace it – for your own good and for the good of us all.
By Cristina Muntean