I’m often asked by people how I got where I am. It wasn’t a set of consciously marked coordinates that led me to set up my coaching practice ‘be.’ Rather, it was a sequence of choices based on opportunities that I pounced on, tripped over, or was frightened of but embraced.
I wrote in my year six yearbook that I wanted to work in advertising. As a kid, I was captivated by jingles, loved playing with words in interesting ways and figuring out people’s kinks. I completed a communications degree specialising in marketing, I figured it was a safe bet.
I worked as a teenager, I loved the freedom that earning money provided. Since then, I’ve worked in a range of roles – retail through uni, a weekend promo girl in my 20s to save money to move overseas (I was even the Nesquik bunny!), a range of full time and freelance Agency-side roles (both independent and global, small and large) and Client side in marketing.
I started my coaching practice in 2011 to consult, write, present and facilitate people through transformation, to elevate from where they are to where they want to be. My sweet spot is ‘calibrating’ people, teams and cultures towards high performance that lasts.
I never had that burning desire to work for myself and don’t resonate with the typical ‘entrepreneur’ archetype. I’m an experimenter, I’m driven by what energises me and empathy for others. I can identify how my history has led me here; My Dad only ever worked for himself, my Mum invested in her own growth – a love of learning I share, I’m intrigued by people’s stories and how they navigate life, I love change and feel restless if I’ve been in one place for too long.
My choices are driven by my values – including how I now work. I didn’t have the vocabulary or adaptability to recognise this until I did my coach training. I knew I wanted a ‘people role’ and I was told ‘that is HR’, a path that didn’t seduce me. Back then roles in people and culture didn’t exist, there were no wellbeing strategies, concepts like mindfulness and purpose hadn’t reached business vernacular, and people didn’t have the courage to integrate spiritual connection into their work – we kept it in the closet.
Thankfully, I had bosses that believed in me and gave me the palette to explore. My boss at Coke gave me time off to study and the founders at The Monkeys let me stretch my role to look after ‘people’. I stayed committed to delivery of my work and driven towards their success, but focused what is now called the ‘side-hustle’. This exchange and invaluable support set up my future. The two years I studied full time I rarely had a weekend off, worked 12+ hour days and curtailed my social life, yet the trade-off paid off.
If I were to articulate six shifts that fuelled my career transition to working for myself:
1. Don’t diss your foundation; often people throw away all their hard work and qualifications in pursuit of the shiny and new. Your skills and capabilities will prove invaluable, as will all life experiences.
2. Know your values; make decisions based on them. Spend the time to articulate them and check yourself. If you deviate off course, compromised values are usually why you’re feeling crap. Here is my free exercise to define your values.
3. Invest in your growth; invest your time, energy and resources. There is a plethora of (including free) podcasts, articles, courses you can do on everything. Never stop learning.
4. Ask for support; you don’t have to do it alone. You will be surprised who comes out as supporters. Build your own ‘board of trustees’ that you know will be honest, helpful and give you a boost when you need it, select them wisely. In return, be generous by supporting others.
5. Understand commercial; it is great to work for purpose but you need to be financially viable. You will take a pay cut, rely on savings, be thriftier, take long stints without getting paid, or ask a partner to support you. Lack of finances is the main reason people give up. Be clear on what you need to generate. Value your expertise, and don’t give it away.
6. Back yourself; it’s a freaking rollercoaster. Feelings you never thought you’d be able to label get surfaced. You’ll be rejected, bomb out and need a tonne of resilience to bounce your way through one day, let alone a year. The wins are great, so enjoy the highs when they arrive. Know what boosts your energy and what drains it – and inject boosts into every day.
We’ll explore far broader tips for navigating a career transition in two further blogs, one for before embarking on a transition and one for after you’ve decided to take the plunge. All the ideas have come from me working with others through the coaching process, and my own transition.