Natasha Chetty: “Fortune Favours Those Who Take a Chance”
“In 2012, I was the marketing director for a law firm in downtown Vancouver. The question ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ had been part of my performance review every year and I could usually articulate a good response. That year, the question just unnerved me. I’d been doing the same kind of work for 15 years and all I could say was, “Uh…here?” and look out the window, rather than at my boss.
I had heard of career burnout before, but never personally felt it. Until then. Every leadership responsibility at work felt beyond my capability. I had lost confidence in my skills and I felt isolated. I couldn’t imagine what I wanted, let alone articulate it.
Among the many ‘What should I do?’ conversations I had with people at that time, one was with a fellow IABC/BC member who had just taken a big risk by moving across the world to start a new career in a new country. She gently reminded me to look at all the advantages I had and to make the most of them.
At the time, the work that I was doing for law firms centered on reputation management. Professionals live and die by their reputations. A terrible reputation when you’re a lawyer doesn’t just mean that you’ll have trouble getting new clients. You might also have trouble attracting employees or business partners or you might lose your licence to operate — literally and figuratively. And I found I was increasingly being asked for information that was more multi-faceted than just straight business development.
In response, I had cobbled together information about reputation building from continuing education seminars and extensive professional reading to try to create some sort of specialized knowledge in the field. I’d been a member of IABC/BC for about 18 months and had taken advantage of a strategic alliance the organization had set up with the Reputation Institute in New York. Through this relationship, IABC members were given discounts for reputation management training and I’d completed an online course in 2011.
This was the only course I had ever found that talked about reputation management in a really systematic way. Now, I had a credible model to follow and a global network of experts to help me take my skills to the next level. What’s more, something “clicked”. I found an area of specialization that I could really get excited about. When an advanced level of the reputation management course was offered in the fall of 2012, I did myself two favours. Firstly, I registered for the course and secondly, I resigned from my full-time job.
I’d planned on taking a few months to decompress and sort out what I wanted. But one week after my last day of full-time employment, a friend asked me to do some consulting work for his law firm in Calgary. Rather than jump at the opportunity, I hesitated. Was burnout the right emotional state from which to start a business? I had to do something rather than wallow in inertia. So I took the contract, which led to other contracts that reignited a love for my profession, something I thought was all but lost. IABC was there for me at one of the lowest points in my career. And it was there for me as I bounced back. When I was invited to blog for a national online legal magazine, I turned to the resources on IABC’s website to get started. And when I need someone to provide expertise in an area that I’m unfamiliar with, I often access the membership database to find help.
As far as I know, I’m one of very few people in Canada who have taken the reputation management training. When law firms are trying to determine the type of consultants they need to hire in order to build their communication and business development strategies, or even their overall firm strategies, it’s given me a point of differentiation and a competitive advantage that has definitely opened doors for me.
Before I started down this path, I was feeling lost. Now I’m at a point where this is the happiest I’ve been with my career in a long time. When I’m asked ‘Where do you see yourself in five years,’ I have an answer that rings true. Running my own business while working with nice, interesting clients. And being very clear about what I want next.”
Some facts about Natasha
Current position: Principal at Bellwether Strategies where I work with lawyers, accountants and related organizations on strategic planning, reputation management and business development projects.
IABC member since: 2011
Biggest challenge of being an independent: I miss having paid vacation days!
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