461: Successfully Quitting Your PhD to Find Career Happiness

What happens when the career plan you’ve alway had falls apart? Anna details the highs and lows of dropping out of her PhD program and becoming an executive director in less than a year.



Anna VanRemoortel, Executive Director of Roslindale Village Main Street

Anna graduated from Duke University with a Master’s in Sociology. She is currently the executive director of a Boston nonprofit that focuses on community and economic development.

on this episode

Dropping out of your PhD program is not a career death sentence. 

Anna VanRemoortel realized early on in her PhD program that she was not on a career path that would ultimately make her happy. Her identity was heavily tied to her academic job, so when she realized she was no longer excited about her work and questioned her career’s direction, she was left feeling like she was lacking in all areas of her life.

She is now (happily!) the executive director of a nonprofit organization that is focused on making a difference in its local Boston community. Learn how Anna doubled down on her strengths, found value in her transferable skills, gained confidence and made the most of networking opportunities.

What you’ll learn

  • Why you’re never really “starting over,” even when it feels like it
  • How to identify when it’s time to change your career direction 
  • The importance of differentiating your skills from your strengths
  • How to dig deep and figure out what will make you happy & fill your cup
  • Ways to make the most of casual networking opportunities 

Success Stories

The transition was so much easier than the last and so much more gratifying because of all that I learned with HTYC

Michal Balass, Social Science Research Analyst, United States/Canada

I think the clarity and accountability I got from my coach was super important in this process. Sometimes people don't have the discipline, not because they're not diligent or hard working. It's because they're afraid.  It's because they're scared. You know, they also don't know what to do. I think with the accountability from my coaches, especially like, my coach can just lay down, okay, now, after this call, you need to do 123. So that was specific, right. And that was an even like, you need to do this by this time of this week. So I got to do it. You know, it's very clear. I think the clarity and accountability I got from my coach was super important in this process. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there even if you feel under qualified or not the right fit because you might sit down and they might say I know you applied for this but what do you think about this and it could be something you totally love.”

Sylvia Guo, Research Director, United States/Canada

Scott took the time to really hear my problem, to understand, and offer solutions to help me transition to where I am and where I’d like to be. That is why I decided to sign up for Happen to Your Career. I used to work in the legal industry and now I work in the nonprofit industry for a nonprofit that helps people change their lives!

Cesar Ponce de Leon, Online Campus Manager, United States/Canada

If you're looking for a change, if you're somebody who is feeling unsatisfied in your work, and you're not necessarily necessarily sure why that is yet, I feel like, that's a great way to kind of figure that out, just because of how the program is structured. I don't think that I would have necessarily gotten to where I am now without the program, especially when it came to the resume and the interviewing portion, because I feel like those are the hardest two areas for someone who's trying to switch into something that's completely different. Having that coaching and that information, and, you know, all those resources available to me to prep me for to be able to present myself in a way where, you know, I'm talking to the hiring managers, and they're like, hey, well, you know, she doesn't have, you know, experience in this, but, you know, being able to explain why I'm still a valuable person and why, you know, my other skills are still good fits for, you know, the job that I was applying for, I don't think I would have had that tools and that skill set and, you know, the roadmaps and the guidance that I would have, that I had with being part of the program. So I'm super, super grateful.

Alyson Thompson, Client Success Specialist, United States/Canada

Anna VanRemoortel 00:01

The things that I was, you know, good at, I didn't want to continue. And so I felt like I was almost starting from nothing.

Introduction 00:13

This is the Happen To Your Career podcast, with Scott Anthony Barlow. We help you stop doing work that doesn't fit you, figure out what does and make it happen. We help you define the work that's unapologetically you, and then go get it. If you're ready to make a change, keep listening. Here's Scott. Here's Scott. Here's Scott.

Scott Anthony Barlow 00:37

When I was a kid, I was often asked the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" You probably been asked this too. And back then, I thought this was a pretty harmless question. So I was always ready for it. Architect, obviously, is what I wanted to be, at least for a while, until studio recording, and then the next thing and then the next thing. And again, I just thought it was a harmless question. But many years later, I started to realize that it wasn't. I've come to realize how useless this question is, and how all it really does is teach us from a really extremely young age that we have to pick the exact career we want, instead of figuring out what our strengths are, and what's really going to make us feel more fulfilled, and gathering experiences and mastery and all the other things that actually helps with fulfillment, happiness, enjoyment. And often the result of this very normalized mindset of the "what do you want to be when you grow up?", the perfect thing is that when we actually begin to study for, or practice that one career that we've always dreamed of, if it doesn't work out, we're left feeling like we failed.

Anna VanRemoortel 01:44

Where do you get your energy? Like, what tasks do you most look forward to? And if it's having a meeting with someone, like, that says a lot. If it's reading, like, that also says a lot. And I think focusing on tasks versus big concepts that was a mindset shift that helped me during the career change process that led me to a career that I actually enjoy.

Scott Anthony Barlow 02:04

That's Anna VanRemoortel. Anna was a PhD student at Duke University, when she first came to HTYC. She worked really hard to set herself up for success. But when she actually started the PhD program, she quickly realized "This isn't what I want to do for the rest of my life." And after having that realization, and later on working with a coach, and really diving into her strengths, and what she actually wanted, Anna decided to go out on a limb and accept an internship at a nonprofit that she was super excited about. This led to a whirlwind of events. And thanks to a lot of intentional hard work from Anna, she ended up as an executive director of a nonprofit organization just a short 10 months later. Take a listen, as she tells what led up to her transition over this last year.

Scott Anthony Barlow 02:53

For a little bit of context here, you entered into one role with your organization. And just really recently, even in the space where, like, we could get the scheduled, getting your promotion, tell me a little bit about that. What took place that allowed you to be able to take advantage of that opportunity and having it lined out? Because it sounded like it's even better opportunity for you and your strengths and what you want.

Anna VanRemoortel 03:20

Absolutely, yeah. So to give, like, people listening a little bit of context of what the past few years looked like. So, like, at the end of spring 2021, I was in the PhD program, I decided to leave, I left my PhD with my masters, I was able to, kind of... it took me so long to decide to leave the PhD that I ended up getting a master's. So that's kind of funny. I moved home and I ended up being unemployed for a little bit, living with my family, which was my worst nightmare at the time. I thought, like, that was, like, what failure looks like. And which was not, it was really great actually. And then I did a lot of volunteer work, which really helped set me up for this kind of job. So I reached out to a small organization, my hometown that was all about, like, supporting small businesses. And I just did some volunteer work with them. Then I applied for an entry level job at an organization in Boston that has the program's a public park. And I really admired them for years, and I ended up not getting that entry level job and, instead, I got an internship, which was still really great because I, kind of, viewed it as still, like, the experiment phase that, like, as part of the career change process with you guys. And that just allowed me to build some experience that wasn't academic and get my foot in the door with Boston nonprofits in general. And then I also was so lucky that during that experience, I had a supervisor that was just so amazing. And she helped me as I was applying for new jobs, and she was, kind of, another career coach. So that was super great. And then I threw all of this, I was really focusing on Main Street organizations. So Main Streets are it's kind of this umbrella term to describe organizations that focus on a commercial district and supporting local businesses and revitalizing that area. And I was really interested in that. And so Boston has 20 of them. And I started just reaching out to people on LinkedIn that were directors of these Main Streets. And I actually got to talk to a bunch of them, they're all super open to having me ask questions. And one of them was actually alum, an alum of my undergrad University. And so we actually met up for coffee. And I just, like, asked her about her job and everything, and we really connected. And she was like, "Oh, by the way, like, we're gonna be hiring a program manager in a little bit. The job description isn't posted yet, but just let you know, this might be an opportunity." I'm like, "Oh, that's amazing." And so from that kind of casual conversation, which I wasn't even asking for a job, that she led me to a job to apply for. So I applied through them. And then during the process, I got into the manager position in November. But during that whole transition, the current IDI left, it wasn't like a super great fit. So she moved on to do some other work. And so we were actually without an executive director for a little bit. One of our board members stepped in as interim ED, and I worked with her. And we actually started hiring for an ED. We put the job description out, I was part of the interview process. And we interviewed a few candidates. And we just didn't feel like it was a great fit. And actually one of the other managers in the organization, he was like, "What about Anna? Like, what if Anna just steps into the role?" And I was like, "I would be interested in that I, kind of, imagined doing that, and maybe like two or three years, but I'd be up for the challenge if there was like, offered to me, and if I had, like, support from the board. And so throughout all of that, the board decided to offer me the job, and this was like early March. And so then, about a month ago, I stepped into the IDI role. And so now I am the executive director of the organization. And it was definitely a lot of growth and transition. And I'm still, like, growing, getting used to this role, but it's so exciting now. Like I love doing this kind of work. I love managing the organization and just thinking about where I wanted to go in the future, because it has such a rich history of, like, impact in this community. And so it's been so great to now be in the position where I can help lead it into the next year.

Scott Anthony Barlow 07:32

What led up to the point where you were wanting to make a change?

Anna VanRemoortel 07:37

Yeah. So I was at Duke University in their Sociology PhD program. And so for many years, pretty much throughout my late teens and early 20s, I really want to be a sociology professor. I love studying pro social behavior, like what motivated people to take on certain actions and to intentionally do good things, intentionally build community. And I really liked researching that. I loved researching in my undergrad. And I had this goal in mind that I wanted to, like, be like my professors in undergrad, and go for that PhD. And so I spent the second half of my undergrad and a year between undergrad and grad school, like, really working towards this goal. I secured funding, I worked for professors with research assistant positions. And then I spent pretty much that year leading up to grad school applying for different programs and finding the best fit for me. And when I got there, I pretty quickly realized that it wasn't for me.

Scott Anthony Barlow 08:35

Okay, tell me about that. What took place that caused you to realize? It sounds like there were some specific events. What happened?

Anna VanRemoortel 08:45

Yeah, I think one big piece is it was really my first time researching full time. So like before when I was doing research, I had all these other things going on, too, that, like, really kept me engaged in my community, that were pretty social activities. And this was the first time I was doing research, like, full time, like, 40-hour work week, of course, it was like, way more than 40 hours, as you could probably expect. And so that was like, the first time it, kind of, just became my everything. And I realized that the issues I really cared about, and I was researching, I didn't really feel that connected to. It kind of felt like the research process made me take a step back. And I felt pretty removed from it. And I think part of it is like, you kind of have to do that as a researcher to produce good research and to be objective. But I just felt like I wasn't, like, connecting with issues in the way I wanted to be connecting with them.

Scott Anthony Barlow 09:39

That's fascinating, actually, because what you're saying is that, hey, I initially went in and thought I would be more connected with the issues but research, by definition, in many ways, you sort of have to take a removed more objective stance. Maybe not perfectly, but it was taking you further away from the ways that you wanted to be connected as opposed to closer. So that's really fascinating.

Anna VanRemoortel 10:06

Yeah. And I think I learned a lot about, like, myself through this process because before I'd always kind of identified as an introvert. And so the idea of reading and researching my whole life, and that kind of sounded good. But I didn't factor the fact that, like, I have been doing a lot of other social positions throughout my life as I've been doing researching before I took it on for a full time job. And so my life became pretty isolating with research. And it was... I felt like I just couldn't really connect with people. And I wasn't getting, like, the energy I wanted to, like, from my research experience, like, I was missing that personal connection.

Scott Anthony Barlow 10:44

Let me ask you about the introvert piece. Do you still identify as more of an introvert or lean more towards introversion? Or how do you think about yourself now, after that set of experiences?

Anna VanRemoortel 11:00

Yeah, I don't think I'm an introvert anymore. I think I thought it was about, like, being shy, but I think I've, like, realized that it's really about more where I get energy. And I realized, like, throughout my life, like, stuff like this, this is what I get my energy from. It's like meeting with people. When I was doing research, when I was interviewing people in a qualitative method, like, that's where I was getting my energy from. It wasn't really the work alone, like, combing through data and, like, writing up a literature review that felt very draining for me after a while.

Scott Anthony Barlow 11:33

It wasn't about the research, it was about the interactions, it sounds like.

Anna VanRemoortel 11:37

Yeah. And that was kind of the big thing that I learned throughout this whole process. Like I'm pretty young, I'm 26. And so I think I was still very, like, influenced by my college career program where, you know, at that age, like, people are like, "Oh, what are you interested in? Like, what do you want to do?" And your answer is kinda like, "Oh, like, I majored in sociology and economics.?" And my career path is kind of defined by these topics I was interested in, not actual tasks. So I kind of wish that someone asked like, the 20 year old version of me like, "Okay, like, put aside what you're interested in, like, what's your favorite part of the day? Where do you get your energy? Like, what tasks do you most look forward to? And if it's having a meeting with someone, like, that says a lot. If it's reading, like, that also says a lot." And I think focusing on tasks versus big concepts, that was a mindset shift that helped me during the career change process that led me to a career that I actually enjoy.

Scott Anthony Barlow 12:34

So then it sounded like you were in the PhD program, recognizing that it wasn't necessarily where do you want it to be. What caused you to make the final decision that, "hey, I need to do something about this, I cannot continue to be here in this place, in this way."

Anna VanRemoortel 12:53

It was a long process, and honestly, like, so I started my PhD, the fall of 2019. And a few months later, I found your podcast, because I was just, like, I knew I wasn't happy. I didn't know if I wanted to leave the program, like, I was thinking, "Oh, maybe I just need a new advisor, or I need to be at a different university, maybe I need to think about the methodology I'm using and find something that's more exciting." But there was like this little voice in the back of my head saying, like, "maybe you can quit." But that was just such a scary thought for me. I've been pretty much, like, building up to this for many years, and I thought that leaving it would just be failure. And I didn't really see a lot of other people around me doing something like this, like, I saw my peers being, like, really enthusiastic about their work. And so it just felt, like, really wrong of me to not be excited about it and want to leave. And so I actually started listening to your podcast in 2019. I listened to it for maybe like, a year and a half or two years before I actually reached out to you guys. And that was just like, a way of normalizing leaving career, like, I needed to hear experiences of people who left their career, and it was fine. Like, I needed to hear what it's like on the other side in order to just get out of my head and be able to talk about it out loud.

Scott Anthony Barlow 14:11

Why do you think after going through that type of experience, I'm just curious about your opinion on this, because I've been forming my own hypothesis for years and years and years and years. But why do you think it is so, whatever the opposite of normalized would be, the unnormalized in our society, that you could leave the PhD program, and that would be okay, or socially acceptable, or whatever word you'd throw in there, but why do you think is so much the opposite way or we feel it so much the opposite way?

Anna VanRemoortel 14:46

It's so interesting, because I knew in my mind, like, objectively, people who get PhDs, like, statistically don't end up in tenure track positions, like, that's a very small percentage of people that, like, get that position that everyone's working towards. But I think this idea of, I think I've just been, like, socialized to always want to pursue, like, one thing in my career. And another big part was like, I was told I had, like, potential, and I was like, people praise me like, "Oh, you're at Duke. Like, that's awesome. You're gonna get your PhD from Duke. Like, that's a great thing to have on your resume." And so I was really scared to let go of that, even though I knew the success rate of what I was going for was incredibly low. I was just worried of, like, wasting my potential, or like not living up to what people said I could live up to. So...

Scott Anthony Barlow 15:36

Your interest in.

Anna VanRemoortel 15:37

Yeah. And also, like, I knew the structure. Like, I had been a student pretty much my entire life. And so being a professional student, I just... I knew how to play the role of the student very well. And so the idea of stepping off that track felt like I was stepping into an abyss. And I didn't really know where I would go next.

Scott Anthony Barlow 15:58

I don't remember exactly how you put it. But you and I got to chat before we started working together after you've been listening to the podcast for quite a period of time, which by the way, this is super fun to now get to chat with you before the podcast, after you had been a listener for... yeah, so you and I had talked and I remember you saying something about that, like, that stepping off the abyss. Or you said, I don't even really know what I'm stepping into. And that wasn't exactly how you put it. But, what about that made it scary or uncomfortable or whatever, at the time? And then tell me a little bit about what you ended up doing in order to move through that? Because I think it can be scary.

Anna VanRemoortel 16:44

Yeah, I think one big piece was that I just had my identity so tied up with academia, and I had like my resume and my skills, so tied up in academia. And so when I looked at my skills, I thought they could only apply in an academic context. Like, I looked at my experience, I was like, oh, I have experience writing literature reviews, and like gathering data and writing research reports and proposals. And I kind of thought that that my resume that I built, I had to build off of that to find a new job. And it was frustrating, because none of those things that I was skilled in, like, I wanted to continue, like, I don't want to write literature reviews anymore, I don't want to do that kind of research work. So the things that I was, you know, good at, I didn't want to continue. And so I felt like I was almost starting from nothing, which now I realized wasn't true. And that was what was really helpful working with Alistair, like, we started off from a very broad, like, strengths based kind of approach where we did StrengthsFinder. And I just was able to separate myself from the academic skills and focus more on my broad strengths that I had been developing from, yes, academia, but everything else I've done, like, hobbies and volunteer opportunities. And once I was able to focus on that, and think about my strengths, versus my actual resume experience, that was what allowed me to kind of shift and think about new opportunities that I could be good at. Before I was like, only looking at research positions, I was like, "Oh, I have experienced the research, I should be looking at research positions, but I didn't want to be doing research." And so shifting to that strengths based approach, that's what allowed me to look at new opportunities.

Scott Anthony Barlow 18:29

That's such a great point. And a little bit of context for everyone else listening because one of the, I found one of the biggest confusions around strengths is often we have a tendency to think about strengths as skills. Because skills are, as you pointed out, like, that's what we see, and that's what we're experiencing, and that's what we're doing. Like, you're writing the papers, and you are like doing all the things, and then we can visibly see those, like if we think about it sort of as an iceberg a little bit, like those are the tip of the iceberg. However, strengths are not skills, they are the things that are lying under the surface that make you predisposed to be better at some things versus another. So the reason I wanted to point that out, though, is you made such a great point about the things that you were good at were not the things you wanted to spend your time doing. And I think that's such a confusing thing, because people are like, "these are my strengths." No, they're not. They're actually just the skills and skills are good, but that doesn't mean you have to spend the rest of your life doing it just because you happen to have the skill. So when you had that realization, how did that impact what you thought you might be looking for from there on out?

Anna VanRemoortel 19:45

I think when I realized that I was able to look at my past experience that and, like, the things I've done that I wasn't necessarily paid to do. So I took my volunteer experience more seriously. I took even like the things I did when I was a college student, like I looked back at those experiences, and I thought, like, what was my favorite thing I did when I was a college student. And I remember like working in ResLife, and I just loved connecting with people and building community and having those like in person interactions, and that I was not getting that in grad school. And so I think the shift from skills and, like, a very resume focus, like, this program is not about fixing your resume and cover letter, which is, if I signed up for those kinds of career change programs, like, I would not be where I am today, like, I needed a shift to strengths, and to take my unpaid experience. And just like my general interests, and like how I presented myself with my friends and family, I needed to take that experience more seriously.

Scott Anthony Barlow 20:46

Well, I think that... you mentioned identity just a minute ago. So go back to something that you had said, and that was a struggle for you to let go how you were thinking about yourself and what was wrapped up in your identity. The thing that people don't realize about identity, most of us don't realize that your experiences regardless of whether they are volunteer, they're paid, they're at one type of role, they're at another type of role, they're out of a PhD program, whatever they are, like, those are, it's much healthier to look at my identity and the combination of my experiences, as opposed to I do this thing, or only look at certain type of experiences, because we really get wrapped up in that. But it's much healthier to say "okay, nobody can take away all of my collective set of experiences, whatever they are. And that can be a portion of my identity." And that is so much more of an effective approach, I'll say, but also a healthier approach too, like, there's a lot of great evidence around that at this point.

Anna VanRemoortel 21:47

Yeah, I think that was so important when I was changing careers. Because if my identity was tied to my academic job, and I felt like I was just not excited about it, I didn't feel like I was doing good work, because I wasn't excited about it. So if I tied my identity too closely with that, I just, I was not feeling good about who I was as a person or who I was as a professional. And so I really needed to just separate that and kind of see myself beyond an academic role, and then rebuild that confidence because I definitely lost a lot of confidence in grad school because I tie my identity so close to that. And it's tough with career change because when you're leaving one career, and you're like, untying your identity from that you can feel really lost. And I spent some months unemployed. And so like, what am I going to tie my identity to now about experiences that I actually enjoyed in my past and not my current job? Or my employment status?

Scott Anthony Barlow 22:43

Yeah, absolutely. It makes me think of a totally different question. And I'm now very curious, as you got into the actual transition, what would you say were the hardest parts for you?

Anna VanRemoortel 22:57

Yeah. I think the hardest part was everything that led up, maybe, like, the first and second session with Alistair, like, I was very wishy washy. I even, like, met with him and I was like, "I think I'm gonna leave." I'm kind of like, still, like testing the waters. And he was like, "make a decision by the next session." And I was thinking, like, "Oh, my God. I can't do that. I can't make a decision like this. This is too big." I thought I needed more time to gather more data, ask for more advice. But honestly, I didn't.

Anna VanRemoortel 23:30

Yeah. Oh, my God. So I think the challenge was like, moving from a very passive role to a more active one, where I was actually taking a change and making something happen for myself, because I was so good at consuming career content. I mean, I listened to you guys for like a year and a half before I did anything, and I read books on career change. If there's a book on leaving academia, I already own all of them. So I was very good at just consuming that content. And I think that kind of speaks from my experience being a grad student, too. So the most challenging part was in the first few sessions, where Alistair was like, "All right, like this is kind of like the end of the passive part and the beginning of a more active role." So I made a decision to leave the program. And then I started telling my friends and family, like, I'm making a career change. And once I was like, out of my head, and it was like, out in the world, like, oh, I put this out there, like, everyone knows about it now, it was so much easier to just like, be honest with people. I felt like I was just hiding it for so long. And I was like, ashamed of wanting to leave a PhD. And I mean, like, it makes sense. Like some people said, like, "No, don't leave. You're going to regret this." I had professors tell me that I would regret it. But then I also had people tell me, like, "No, you're not going to regret this." I had other people who had completed their PhD say, "I regret staying, you should leave now." So it was really hard to step away from all the advice I was getting and to just focus on myself and actually just taking a step.

Scott Anthony Barlow 23:30

You research, right?

Scott Anthony Barlow 25:09

I think that's something we haven't really talked a lot about on the podcast, particularly the idea of once you have made that decision, and once you start interacting with other people in an active way, that it feels different, in some ways. So many wonderful ways, I would say, maybe there's some less wonderful ways, but it certainly it's harder to go and live what you actually want. However, you know, I very much felt where you described that I sort of felt, like, when I was in, it's been quite a period of time ago, but you know, when I was in a role where I stayed about 18 months, it felt like I was living a double life. I felt like I was, like, not being honest with everyone else, like my wife and my boss, and like my friends and everything else. I felt like I was like, having to hide this really terrible thing almost.

Anna VanRemoortel 26:07

Yeah. And I remember like, even before I met up with Alistair for those first few sessions, I was still doing, like, networking calls, like, I would often like, reach out to people that I thought were doing interesting work. But I would always approach those conversations, like, "I'm a grad student, and I'm interested in your work." And they were kind of confused, like, "But, like, my work is not what you would be doing in six years, like with a PhD. Like, why are you interested in my job?"

Scott Anthony Barlow 26:35

Why are you here?

Anna VanRemoortel 26:36

Yeah, and like, I felt, like, awkward and kind of ashamed. And I felt like I couldn't tell them the truth. And then once I was... I finally just like, kind of put it out in the world, then I could approach those conversations. And I was like, "Hi. I'm a grad student. And I'm thinking about leaving my program, and I'm interested in the work you do." And then we're able to have an honest conversation. And it was just, I got so much more out of those conversations, because I was honest with them about where I was at in this whole process and I didn't feel like I was hiding anything.

Scott Anthony Barlow 27:04

That's really interesting. It shows up, too, in the real world, it shows up in interactions. And actually, before you and I had hit the record button, you said something to me about, like, yeah, even my, like, family and friends have told me I seem happier. And then I had told you that, yeah, like when we, like, you literally sound different, you literally sound happier. And your sounds different compared to when you and I chatted, you know, all those months ago. So, that's just evidence of what you're saying. I think, like, if you can be more of yourself, and not have to feel like you're hiding something, or however that shows up for different people, then it changes those interactions.

Anna VanRemoortel 27:47

Yeah. And I think like that kind of authenticity frame was present throughout all of the modules that I went through with Happen To Your Career, like, I remember, even like with the, like, networking, like the testing your career, those kind of conversations, I felt like I could just approach it with more authenticity, and even like interviewing, I felt like, I just had better practice like non hyping things throughout this whole career change process. I was able to go into an interview, and just be more authentic and connect with people and be like, "These are the strengths that, like, I know I have. This is what I know your organization needs." And it just felt like more of a collaboration, like, let's work together. Like, let's see if this is a good fit. And I wasn't like, "Oh, like just give me anything like, I'll take any job. Like, I'd be happy with anything." I was just much more open about where I was, what I needed from a job and like what they can offer. And if it was a good fit, great. If it wasn't, I was happy to learn that then instead of actually taking any job that they would give me.

Scott Anthony Barlow 28:50

How did you adapt that into as you started doing interviews, as you started having other interactions, functionally, how did you adapt that type of mindset or approach where you're willing to share more and have more authentic conversations? Was there anything that you did in order to make that easier for yourself?

Anna VanRemoortel 29:11

I think a few things. I think the first step was just rebuilding confidence. And thinking of myself as a professional that was, like, worthy of people's time. And honestly, like a lot of this happened before I went through coaching. Like grad school, it was like a tough time, like, my mental health wasn't great. And so I worked with a therapist for like two and a half years. And that was really essential because I just needed to process a lot of things and figure out, like, who I was outside of the student role, because most of my life I've kind of been a student, which has been very low on the totem pole of any organization. And so I felt like I had kind of learned this behavior of acting like a student and coming into these conversations like, "oh, well, I'll take whatever you can offer me thanks for even talking to me." And I had to really separate that and regain some confidence again. And then with you guys, like the scripts really helped a lot like I remember, even when I was, like, negotiating my salary for the first job I had with my current organization, I was watching the videos that you've recorded about, like how to have these conversations. And I had never seen them framed that way. Like I always thought I'd be going into like an interview or like a salary negotiation with this weird power dynamic. Like I was asking them for something and just hoping that they would give me anything, but the way your organization frames and all the modules and like, even the email templates, it's just framed as like a collaboration, where I have more confidence, which makes me look like a more attractive candidate, too. And then yeah, and like, even when I was negotiating my salary for my manager role a few months ago, like, I understand that nonprofits have limited budgets, like, I understand that they couldn't offer me like, you know, a million dollars, and so I was like, aha, I was like, "I understand that the budget is limited. But let's work together and see if we can make this an attractive offer by being a bit more creative with, like, vacation days and professional development, like what are some other tools that we can use to make this a great opportunity for both of us." And so that mindset shift, both from like, regaining confidence, and then also using those scripts, that is what has just, it's really changed the way I approach conversations today, too.

Scott Anthony Barlow 31:32

I've heard that feedback quite a bit where like, I was just having a conversation with another person who's been on the podcast in the past, Laura Morrison, and she had said something similar in that, hey, like, this actually, literally changed how I... like the approach that I was using to be more authentic, and just try and work together and collaboratively and in a partnership to figure out how to create wonderful opportunities, like, I'm now found that over the last four years, I'm using that literally in my job every day, with that same type of approach and mentality and some of the skill sets that she built during her change. And that was really interesting to hear it in that way. But it sounds like that was a little bit the case for you, too, or has been the case.

Anna VanRemoortel 32:17

Yeah, absolutely.

Scott Anthony Barlow 32:19

You've done such a great job with this through doing things that many people in the rest of the world might not do, and are difficult. And it's created a different set of results for you, which is so wonderful. So I really appreciate you taking the time and coming and sharing your story and experiences. And I'm so excited that this transition led to even something better within a few short months too. So cool to see.

Anna VanRemoortel 32:48

Yeah, it's been a wild ride. And I'm so grateful to you and like your team and Alistair, it's just, it was so great to go through this process with a team. Grad school can be isolating, leaving a career in starting something new can be really isolating. And I put all of that in the context of a pandemic, like this program, like, career change that, like this is what I needed during this time. This is what allowed me to actually want something better, like, if I hadn't reached out to you guys, I think I would still be, like, getting my PhD.

Scott Anthony Barlow 33:18

PhD land. Yes.

Anna VanRemoortel 33:20

Yeah. Which, like, isn't bad. I mean, like, all my friends who are in the program, like they're having a good time, like, that's great, very happy for them. It's a great program. But yeah, it just wasn't a good fit for me. And I'm really happy I did something about it.

Scott Anthony Barlow 33:39

Many of the stories that you've heard on the podcast are from listeners that have decided they wanted to take action, and taking the first step of having a conversation with our team to try and figure out how we can help. And if you want to implement what you have heard, and you want to completely change your life and your career, then let's figure out how we can help. So here's what I would suggest, just open your phone right now and open your email app. And I'm going to give you my personal email address, scott@happentoyourcareer.com just email me and put 'Conversation' in the subject line. And then when you do that, I'll introduce you to the right person on our team. And you can have a conversation with us, we'll try and understand your goals and what you want to accomplish in your career no matter where you're at. And we can figure out the very best way that we can help you and your situation. So open up right now and send me an email with 'Conversation' in the subject line; scott@happentoyourcareer.com.

Scott Anthony Barlow 34:43

Hey, I hope you loved this episode. Thanks so much for listening. And if this has been helpful, then please share this podcast with your friends, with your family, with your co-workers that badly need it. Here's a sneak peek into what we have coming up in store for you next week.

Speaker 3 35:01

I had been in a role for about 10 years and we had done amazing things. I had built a team, we had grown the business, so much success, so much fun, but I was at that point where it was more about maintaining and incremental growth. And I was ready, I was hungry for that next thing to challenge me.

Scott Anthony Barlow 35:19

When my youngest son Grayson was born, I remember a shift that took place for me internally, and it went something like this. In my head, it sounded like, "Okay, I now have three small kids at home, and I am at work or commuting like 60, sometimes many more hours a week. And when I'm not there, I'm stressing about work. So something's gotta give, something's got to change." Now, this is similar to what happens for a lot of people. And maybe it's bringing a new child into the world. Maybe it's your favorite coworker find a new job. Something happens externally, where you decide it's time for a priority change, a priority shift. And making that decision alone can seem life changing, but it can also be kind of terrifying. It can seem like, "Okay, I want to leave. I want something new, but has my entire career, all my degrees, my experience, all the time it took to get here, has that been for nothing?

Scott Anthony Barlow 36:27

All that and plenty more next week right here on Happen To Your Career. Make sure that you don't miss it. And if you haven't already, click Subscribe on your podcast player so that you can download this podcast in your sleep, and you get it automatically, even the bonus episodes every single week, sometimes multiple times a week. Until next week. Adios. I'm out.

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