How a Career Coach Helped Me Find My Professional Purpose and PassionJul 24, 2019
In this blog, I share my personal story of losing my entire self-identity and my career goals, and how I worked with a coach to rebuild my career into something I never imagined was possible.
I thought I knew what I wanted
For so long, I was laser-focused on becoming a COO.
I had a clear vision and was executing against it. I started out my career at a prestigious consulting firm, and then moved to a start-up software company where I was consistently promoted year-after-year, rising from an entry level Business Analyst to EVP of Professional Services and Operations.
I was on the brink of becoming a COO, either for that start-up company (which had become a mid-sized company) or for another company.
I was so close to realizing my goal.
But, then it happened.
My personal life changed my plans.
We chose to relocate to Hawaii for my husband's job.
I couldn't continue in my role because of the time difference and distance. I was no longer in a position to manage the business units for which I was responsible.
I was forced to resign.
I put my dreams and goals on hold. I thought it was the worst thing that could have happened, career-wise.
So, I had to figure out a plan b
Luckily, my company offered me a role as a part-time strategy and management consultant (as an aside.....in hindsight, I ask myself why didn't I think of that option?).
So, my career continued in a much different capacity and focus. I was working 40 hours a month and I suddenly had a lot of free time that I never had in my entire professional career.
It freed me up to think.
It freed me up to refocus on my personal goals and family.
It freed me up to re-imagine my goals and WHY I wanted to achieve them.
This time and space was invaluable.
And, then we moved back to the mainland
We spent almost four years in Hawaii, and I worked as a consultant that entire time. I fell in love with the balance, with making my own decisions about who to work with, and with the financial benefits.
Then, we moved back to Colorado.
Traditional jobs started calling. I could get back on that COO track if I wanted to.
I was torn
I was torn, I loved my traditional corporate career and the allure of becoming a COO.
But, I wanted to maintain the balance and freedom I had created while living in Hawaii.
I wanted to explore my options, and really nail down a direction that would marry my
- business skills and ambition,
- love of the corporate world (well, most of it 😉),
- financial targets and
- my personal goals (balance, autonomy and the ability to be the mom I want to be).
So, I hired a coach
So, I hired my first coach.
I didn't even know coaching was a thing at the time (beyond executive coaches).
But, someone referred this coach to me and I thought, I'm going to see if this will help.
Over the course of our 12 months working together, she helped me:
- Gain clarity around what I truly wanted to do
- Recognize and accept what I didn't want to do
- Uncover where I was avoiding big goals because of fear
- Decide which opportunities to pursue, and which to let go of
- Understand how my brain was making decisions out of scarcity and fear (instead of belief that I can truly accomplish whatever I want)
- See how I was letting expectations of society and other people drive my decisions vs. following my own intuition and passions
- Rebuild my self-identity, which had been solely wrapped around the EVP title, and needed to shift so that I could see my intrinsic self-worth
- Drive massive action toward my goals through accountability
How did she do this?
Wow, as I look back, that's a huge set of accomplishments in a year. I basically redefined myself with my coach's help.
We iterated through this process. It wasn't a straight line.
There were weeks of massive break-throughs and other weeks of tears and doubt.
But, at the end of that year, I had
(1) a clear direction - I knew that I wanted to expand my consulting business to add on career coaching. I knew that I wanted to help other professionals achieve their goals, like my coach helped me to start accomplishing mine.
(2) an overarching belief that I could make it happen - I had experienced the ups and downs of starting a business, and morphing it to fit the client's needs and my goals. I had experienced the peaks of success and valleys of despair and doubt. But, I had built trust with myself that I could persevere through it all.
(3) systems and tools to maintain my progress. In that year, I had built up my own systems and tools to make sure I was progressing toward my goals on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. I am constantly tweaking and adjusting them but the foundation is all there thanks to the work with my coach.
And, finally, I think about what would have happened if I hadn't hired a coach
Sometimes I think about where I might be without the coach.
I honestly think that
- I would be working in a full-time corporate job, back on that path to becoming a COO. And, while there's nothing wrong with that, I found through coaching that my COO goal wasn't driven by purpose, it was driven by the need to be validated by my peers
- I would be lying to myself about what makes me truly happen and fulfills me. Instead, I would let other people's expectations set my direction.
- I would be sacrificing my personal goals and big dreams in favor of what I felt was safer, more clear, and more realistic. These are all lies, of course, but it was a much more familiar, comfortable course than the course I ultimately chose to follow.
- I would be living in survival mode.
So, for me, working with a career coach was life-changing
My first coach helped me in so many ways:
- She helped me pursue my own truth, even when it felt like I would never find it.
- She was patient as I stumbled.
- She was kind when I needed some grace.
- She gave me tough-love when I needed a kick in the ass.
- I am eternally grateful that my coach believed in me before I did.
And now having a coach as part of my life is a non-negotiable.
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