The fast and furious pace of a city can be depressing, and perhaps no more so than for Hong Kong's middle-aged people, who may have spent years at a job that no longer holds any meaning for them. Winnie Chiu, of Healing Hearts Psychotherapy, helps such individuals to get their lives back on track, drawing on the obstacles she has faced in her own life.
How did you become a life coach?
Growing up, I had no idea about what I wanted to do. I finished secondary school and worked as a clerk, and then as a salesperson.
When I was 20, I decided to become a professional musician, so I went to Britain to study music. I recorded a couple of songs but my music career never took off, so I returned to working in sales, about which I was really not passionate.
I asked myself what I liked doing, and how I could make use of my past experiences. As I loved working with people, I became a trainer, delivering sales training on behalf of different corporations.
During one session, a client asked for career guidance, and in discussing his situation with him, I realised that I could, in fact, be a life coach.
What qualifications do you need to be a coach?
There is no necessary accreditation to be a life coach. But knowledge in psychology and counselling is crucial.
I had a bachelor's degree in psychology and master's degree in counselling. I also went to Singapore to do a coaching course, accredited by the International Coaching Association.
I read many books and researched topics online to further build my skills.
What makes a good coach?
Coaching is a people job. You must have the heart to help, and the curiosity to get to know your clients.
You must also be open-minded and non-judgmental when clients tell you about their difficulties, and be able to communicate empathy. Every client is special to me, and I try to inspire them.
Who are your clients?
Most are middle-aged men and women who are dissatisfied with their jobs and lives.
They may have good salaries and high social status, but they are unhappy. Many have emotional problems and lack self-confidence.
My job is to lead them out of their misery. I review their strengths and interests to offer them career planning advice or to help them find a second career.
Through interacting with clients, I have realised that anything is possible. Once the client is able to break through, he or she will become positive again - this really inspires me.
What do you see in the future of life coaching in Hong Kong?
For many in Hong Kong, the word `coach' still seems only to bring to mind sports, but this is changing. More and more people are becoming aware of the importance of life coaching to enhance their lives.
I am also employed by corporates to do executive coaching for senior members of staff. The development of this in Hong Kong is in the preliminary stage, but there is potential.
What career advice do you have for youngsters?
Be true to yourself. Don't copy your peers or do a job because your parents want you to. Also, give yourself a talent review. Think about what you are good at, and try to develop in this direction.
Some people never consider changing jobs because they are being promoted and things seem okay enough. But the question is if you can find meaning in what you do.