Take a step back, and think about your last 3 days at work. Try to answer this question:
How have you spent the majority of your time?
Maybe you’ve been frustrated with your co-workers. Or maybe, you’re stressed out that your calendar is filled with pointless meetings. Or maybe, you just feel stuck. Bored. Tired. You could be spending a large part of your precious hours at work scrolling through Linkedin (or dare I say, Facebook), wondering: “What am I still doing here?”
As career coaches, we’ve heard it all. There’s not one specific reason why people decide to work with a career coach. If you’ve been listening to our podcast, you’ve probably heard many of our client’s stories about how and why they finally decided to make that leap.
But, what happens afterwards? In the past, we’ve shared many stories about our client’s career trajectories–from the moment they entered the working world until they landed that dream job. Like, this week’s podcast episode with Margaret Fredrickson, one of our Career Change Bootcamp stars. Margaret thought she just wanted to get out of a work environment that didn’t quite suit her…but what ended up actually happening was completely different.
Margaret’s story prompted us to ask ourselves a bigger question here at HTYC: What actually happens behind the scenes when you finally decide to invest in yourself, and work with a career coach? What might change from when you make that decision after a late-night binge listen to the HTYC podcast, or deep Google search about job hunting to getting that dream job?
So, on today’s blog post I am going to share exactly what actually happens when you decide to work with a career coach. And, trust me–it’s not what you might think.
The term “quick fix” will be removed from your vocabulary
Let me guess–you’re thinking about working with a career coach because you want (need) a new job…now. Pronto. You would rather lie in bed forever than go into work.
I know, trust me. I’ve been in your position, too. But, working with a career coach won’t get you a new job tomorrow. Actually, it might take longer to find your dream career by working with a coach than if you were doing it on your own.
That isn’t because career coaches have no clue what we’re doing (it is our job!). It’s because coaches will ask you the difficult questions. They will help you uncover tensions you didn’t know were lurking and goals that you would have never imagined.
Take Margaret from this week’s podcast for example. When she met Evangelia, her Career Coach, she was ready for a new job…yesterday. The new job didn’t need to be perfect–just a stepping stone, or so she thought. Margaret was seeking a quick fix.
But, during her first (and second, and third) conversation with Evangelia, Margaret realized that she needed to slow down, so that she could get to a place where she could discover what she actually wanted, not just an escape. And, after that realization, she said that ““[she] let out a deep breath and said now, let’s do the deeper work.”
Get ready to be humbled (and at first, it sucks)
It’s difficult to admit that you’re not exactly where you want to be in your career–or even your life. It’s weird to say out loud that you are capable of doing more…of being better. It’s uncomfortable to be vulnerable.
But, those are the exact conversations that you’ll have with your career coach. And, in the beginning–it makes you feel apprehensive.
Margaret realized after those first few sessions with Evangelia that she had no clue what she wanted to be when she grew up (and that was over a decade into her career!). That was a scary thing for her to admit. She felt like a fraud–like everyone would think she was crazy.
This part of coaching is called the Messy Middle. It’s the part that makes you feel confused, and potentially feel really humble. Because, even though ou you’re an intelligent human, and this isn’t your first rodeo in the career space–you have blind spots that you didn’t know you had. Coaches show you all of them.
Like the Messy Middle of anything though–it’s part of the discovery process that helps you grow. But get ready to be humbled because trust me–after seeing this process take place plenty of times, there will be more than a few things that you don’t know you don’t know.
You’re going to tell your coach things you never thought you’d say to another human being
Your coach is your confident. Your new best friend. Your personal mirror.
So, during your coaching experience you may find yourself telling your coach things that you never thought you’d say to another human being–let alone someone who was a complete stranger until recently!
Remember: although your coach is helping to show you blind spots that you never knew you had, they are also the least judgemental person you will ever meet. Your coach will be empathetic but also logical. They will make sense of all the pieces of information that you throw at them to help you dig deep–and understand what you dream career (and life!) could look like.
You actually become a different person (and stop eating all those donuts!)
Career coaching does not only impact your career (surprise!). Think about it: how much time do you spend at your job? How much time do you get to spend with your family, and other people you care about? What about personal hobbies like reading or working out?
For most of us, our jobs are our lives–at least in terms of time anyway. So, when we’re stuck in a bad career, it often has an impact on every other aspect of our life.
When I asked Margaret what changes she went through from before and after her coaching, her insights were spot on:
“I would imagine from her perspective when we first met my body language was probably different, I looked different. I’ve lost 15 pounds eating chocolate and cake. I’m so much happier, I look better and feel better. I had gotten too deep and stayed too long. It was hard to see above the fence. She helped me through that.”
It wasn’t just her career that changed…but her entire life. The same exact thing happened for me–once I left a job that wasn’t a good fit for me, I lost over 50 pounds and felt like a new person.
As coaches, we can’t promise the late-night fridge raids will stop with a new career, but there’s definitely a correlation!
All in all, working with a Career coach is freakin’ hard.
I’m not going to sugar coat it, and I don’t think you’d expect me to. Working with a Career Coach will push you in ways you didn’t know were possible, so that you can get what you want–and deserve–out of life.
Even though we make it way easier than going at this process alone, making drastic change in your life isn’t easy. But, who said it wouldn’t be worth it?!
Transcript from Episode
Scott Barlow: Welcome back to the Happen to Your Career podcast. I am absolutely ecstatic to do something brand new we haven’t done before. I have with me two people I’m excited to talk to anytime but let alone together on the podcast. The first person is someone who has allowed us to participate in her journey through the ups and downs. The second person is our very own Evangelia LeClaire who got to play the role helping Margaret. Margaret welcome to the Happen to Your Career podcast.
Margaret Fredrickson: Thank you Scott. I’m so glad to be here.
Scott Barlow: Absolutely and also excited to bring on Evangelia or as we call her Elena on to the show too.
Evangelia LeClaire: I’m so excited to be here and connect with you both at the same time.
Scott Barlow: For a little backstory Margaret tell people what you are doing now because you made a phenomenal transition we will talk about and we will talk about what it was like from your perspective and Evangelia’s as well. What do you do now?
Margaret Fredrickson: I’m a fundraiser consultant and work for a midsize firm out of New York and I do a little bit of everything helping nonprofits raise money and I love it.
Scott Barlow: It is super cool. I’ve got to hear about it from both of you. As weird as it sounds I didn’t get to meet you when I came to New York but I have heard tons about it. For people that aren’t sure what that means what do you do on a day to day basis?
Margaret Fredrickson: This is why I love the job. I do a little bit of everything and that was what I was looking for. It always changes which gives me energy and brings me joy. From day to day, it varies. I have a handful of clients I work with at a time. Sometimes I interview their donors and their passions and communicate that to the nonprofit. Other times I delve into their numbers and let them know numbers. I've been having a good week because I’m in an interesting project looking at rejection and how fundraisers deal with that and how people do and analyzing the connections to the brain and how rejection affects the brain. It's the same pathway as physical pain. We are working on brain hacks for fundraisers so I’m also going to delve more into writing. Look for the blog post.
Scott Barlow: That is something I get excited about too. I was just writing something you will see in our emails about that exact same thing so we may need a second conversation after this. But you haven’t always been doing this in this industry so where does your career start?
Margaret Fredrickson: Oh goodness, when I think of my career I’m a creative thinker and don’t think in a linear way. When you ask me that question I think of myself as a child. As a kid my goal was wanting to live a day in every type of persons shoe. I want to see what it's like to be a different person everyday of my life.
Scott Barlow: Really where did that come from?
Margaret Fredrickson: I think it's empathy. I’m very empathetic and sensitive. I care about people and am interested in other cultures. I grew up in Oklahoma. Any foreigner I met I wanted to know everything about them. I think its my personality and nature. Very curious about people. I live in the world of people. My whole life that is the theme. I studied anthropology as an undergrad. I went away to college, traveled, lived in China for a few years. I’ve been lucky to travel abroad and study. Came back and lived in Seattle and got involved in NGO’s went to the Evans public policy school. I then had a pivot. I’ve had these different lives and would like to have a normal american life right now. I Thought New York would be the perfect place which is not an American place at all. It worked out well. I met my husband here. I chose fundraising. There are two sides to me. I am very crazy and in my thoughts and unconventional, open minded, at the same time I take a lot of comfort in security. I decided I love nonprofits, I believe in this and it feels good I want to be international and I want to make money and it align with values. That is why I chose fundraising and development and you get to talk to people. That has been a whole other journey in this field. Sometimes it's love, hate and sometimes wonderful. There is a whole journey in this fundraising world.
Scott Barlow: When you first got into fundraising, I understand you said initially it might be a fit but what surprised you that you didn’t anticipate?
Margaret Fredrickson: Oh honey. I’m surprised by everything because I assume nothing in life. I find life surprising on all levels. I didn’t know what to expect but what has surprised me, the learning curve never ends and I love that. I love this field, it never gets old. I think money having the conversation with oneself and someone else is a million times harder than I thought it would be.
Scott Barlow: In what way?
Margaret Fredrickson: It brings up a lot of your own stuff and ideas, emotions about money. And it brings up the same issues in the giver. There are so many dynamics. A power dynamic. The wealthy versus the fundraiser usually of a different age and social status. It’s one of the most triggering fields ever. If you can get through it you will come out one of the most evolved persons on the planet. I see everyone as equal. I’m not intimidated by wealthy people because they are just like us. That has been interesting. There have been ups and downs. I’ve been so fulfilled by the work. It's so engaging, interesting, you have to be a jack of all trades. You have to learn about the program and there is so much passion and the donor. It's engaging to me because I like to do everything on the other side I have found the field to be at sometimes boring and bureaucratic and old fashioned and slow to change with the times. I didn’t realize it but I have been struggling with that for a long time that I didn’t fit in. That isn’t fundraising’s fault but I’ve always felt that way. We choose these situations purposefully. I chose this field that was triggering for me but wonderful as well. Over the last six months with both of your help I’ve been able to stay in the field but do it my way. I feel so much better. I tell people, friends and colleagues looking to make a change, that I haven’t made a huge career shift.
Scott Barlow: From a conventional level, but I think you have changed drastically in a lot of other ways though. I’m curious Evangelia when you started working with Margaret what were some of the initial challenges she was working through and needed the most help with.
Evangelia LeClaire: A lot of it’s what I’m hearing in this call. Where can I find the right environment that will accept me for who I am as a person, my values, what I bring with my creativity, my quirks, cleverness? That was what we worked for and what came up when it came time for you to interview.
Scott Barlow: It did and I want to dig deep into that because our audience can a learn a lot from it but first I want to ask you as you’ve been in fundraising and had good and bad experiences, I remember the first time we interacted you said at some point you realized the current role you were in wasn’t a fit and had felt that for awhile. Where did you first start to realize that it wasn't aligned?
Margaret Fredrickson: I’ve had a chance to think about that and to be honest I think I realized it the first week I was there. I thought and would analyze why don’t I like it here and it doesn’t feel right – the money is great and it has prestige. I can make it work but at the end of the day I learned I could think about all of it and analyze it or just pay attention to my gut. From the second week my gut would say this is interesting let me just walk out the door. About at a year and a half I would walk in and just want to turn around and walk out. There wasn’t really anything wrong with it. The people were great. The place was deserving. Now that I've had distance it was a wonderful experience and I learned so much and don't regret it but at the end of the day it just wasn't for me.
Scott Barlow: That is so interesting I think because so many people in similar situations have done a lot of different things and have and can do a lot of different things but get into these situations where something is misaligned. It can be a great job and great opportunity with great people. I’m thinking of someone else we talked to Olivia who worked at LinkedIn with incredibly smart people but it still wasn’t right. Great opportunity but not for her. I’m hearing that from you too. It wasn’t aligned for you.
Margaret Fredrickson: I don’t regret it because I learned so much but I would have regretted staying much longer. I think the universe and serendipity does align. The person in that role now is perfect for it. She was a former colleague from the UK that moved to the U.S. It all worked out. It was an uncomfortable time for me that required a lot of courage. Evangelia, I can’t thank her enough she was so helpful. She helped me get the courage. I would imagine from her perspective when we first met my body language was probably different, I looked different. I’ve lost 15 pounds eating chocolate and cake. I’m so much happier, I look better and feel better. I had gotten too deep and stayed too long. It was hard to see above the fence. She helped me through that.
Scott Barlow: That is interesting. I’m always fascinated about the things we don’t understand science and research wise that have the deep reaching impact like looking and feeling better. I’m curious Evangelia when you started working together what were your major focuses?
Evangelia LeClaire: There was a focus on getting her out of the gate quickly and figuring out the timeline for her and what actions we could take to align her with the next opportunity. Margaret came as a fast action client. Out of the gate I’m ready to go. We gotta make this happen let’s get to it and everytime we met there was something different. There wasn’t that linear focus, not a surprise. What happened is we went from action to getting aligned. Margaret is great because she is coachable and open to sharing how she is feeling and is in tune with how she is feeling and the stories and sharing that may be uncovering the things behind the emotions, past and present and future perceptions. That was an easier conversation to have with her. It's part of her nature to express herself. Where we were was going from fast action to wait let’s talk about who Margaret is.
Scott Barlow: Interesting was that with both of your prompting or what caused that transition?
Evangelia LeClaire: Margaret do you want to answer this?
Scott Barlow: Yes please, I’m on the edge of my seat, if I weren’t standing.
Margaret Fredrickson: From my perspective I needed someone in triage mode with me. Evangelia was the best. She was ready to meet me in that mode. For the first three months it was triage how can I get out of here and get a job I like, it doesn't have to perfect, a next step. It’s an emergency situation I need to exit because it felt terrible. After that I let out a deep breath and said now what, let’s do the deeper work. I needed surface level work and then after that was done the real work began and still continues. It never ends.
Scott Barlow: I don’t think it ever ends for anyone. It gets fine tuned and different levels of depth. I’m curious what was that like of you? What were some of you focuses and what was challenging?
Margaret Fredrickson: I’ve been thinking a lot about that and there is a theme that I found throughout our work, I’m finding it throughout life. It is a life hack, vulnerability. I have been thinking about this. Where am I now, vulnerability is one of our values. I’ve never worked anywhere where we’ve talked about it so openly. Me being able to be vulnerable with Evangelia willingly. I didn't feel judged and even if I did it doesn't matter we have to be vulnerable with people. I don’t believe change is possible without vulnerability.
Scott Barlow: I would say on the scale of non-judgy people Evangelia is toward the top. When you are talking about vulnerability what did that look like? This is pretty cushy stuff, mushy and nonlinear, not laid out and often two steps forward and one step back when going through it. What did it look like for you and what do you mean by vulnerability in the process?
Margaret Fredrickson: In a concrete way as I’m thinking back to our conversations I first felt vulnerable telling someone I wasn’t happy where I was. It was a great disappointment for me. She was so not judgmental. She is a coach and there to be supportive but being vulnerable is uncomfortable. I’m 40 years old and don’t know what I want to do. That is another thing I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I still feel vulnerable saying that. And feeling nervous before an interview. I know everyone feels nervous but I would express to her, we had one call where I felt vulnerable and they are going to hate me and think I’m kooky and crazy. I'm not a buttoned up fundraiser type that they want. I took acting classes they are going to find out and think I’m crazy. Elena might think I’m crazy too.
Scott Barlow: That makes sense and for you the vulnerability piece was putting yourself out there in the way you really are not being the traditional type of fundraiser in a traditional industry and exposing yourself was the difficult piece. Evangelia from your perspective what did you think about that and how did you help her prep?
Evangelia LeClaire: A few things come up. When you shared with me you were taking creative classes that was one of the actions you took to help you accept and express yourself and get out of you are comfort zone. I had to shine a light on that for you that it was part of your process of owning who you are. We recommend that to be able to embrace your strengths. Shining a light on that's how I led the conversations for you to acknowledge your strengths and gifts and beauty you carry as you are. Your quirks and strengths, expertise and awe. I remember the interview conversation, three or four months ago, and you were going into the interview, what you shared are the stories that were coming up. What do they think of me? Getting back into the mindset of embracing who you are and taking the quirks that enable you to connect and engage with others. It was embracing, and you embracing who and all you are. Acknowledging and accepting that you not showing up was a disservice to yourself and the prospective employer. It won’t be a good fit if you don’t show up fully aligned and accepting who you are confidently. We had to get to that mindset for you to show up in the interview. You said I don't need to practice the interview questions. I’m not worried about that it’s all this other stuff. Mindset was really important.
Scott Barlow: I find it so interesting talking about the other psychological pieces that we get so worried as human beings about putting yourself out there because of that worry of rejection and in many cases that fear has the same type of stimulus as if we were being chased down the Serengeti by a lion which is absurd but it doesn't feel that much different. The irony is that when you did the hard things and put yourself out there how you really are, people connect with that differently than if you were playing a part. I’m curious going into that what helped you make the final courageous decision especially when you are being chased by a lion, what made you make the final decision to be who you are? What prompted to actually doing it?
Margaret Fredrickson: I think I would have gone in and been myself no matter what because I had made that decision and knew it was the right way. There is this wise Margaret and the one running from the lion. The wise one knew this was the way, if they don’t like you it's not a good fit it's not personal, but the running from the lion Margaret was like oh my gosh what do I do. That conversation was almost an anecdote to that. This is me running I’m crazy but talking through and having her listen helped me through it. That prevented me from going in feeling nervous which would have changed the energy of the interview. It would have made it feel like nervous meeting which would not be a good interview. I felt calm, confident, and like myself. Our coaching call was a little anecdote for me. I recommend everyone do that.
Scott Barlow: Get an anecdote before you interview so you can control the energy in a different way.
Margaret Fredrickson: Get your anecdote. Mine is vulnerability.
Scott Barlow: It's like a Tums commercial. Here is the anecdote to your interview anxiety. Don’t put off bad energy. That cracks me up. I think there is a lot of truth because it does change the interaction. So many companies interview in a small amount of time, they aren’t dating for a year and a half, they need someone in the role yesterday and it's a small amount of time and people make judgments and we have a tendency to make judgments on how we feel and justify the rest. There is a ton of research to support that. You have done a phenomenal job going from this job you knew wasn't right and eventually making the transition when you have been ecstatic every time we’ve interacted. What was hardest about making the transition? What were elements that were hard for you?
Margaret Fredrickson: The first element was accepting I needed to make the transition. I was in a state of denial. I’m going to make this work. Accepting that I don't have to make this work. Its okay. You can move on margaret. It's alright. You aren’t less than anyone else because it doesn’t work for you but does for others. There was a lot of travel and time and facetime in the office. I learned that some of the lifestyle considerations of a job and how it fits in my personal life and my working style. They are much more important than I realized. I don’t want to go into an office unless there is a reason. I’m anti bureaucracy. I hate to do facetime just for politics. There is nothing wrong with that for some people but for me it repulses me. What attracted me to this new firm is they do this crazy in-depth personality analysis for everyone that joins. It was so fun because it was spot on to who I am. It was one out of ten for bureaucracy and process I was like a one. I can’t. I didn’t realize how important that was to me and how much more motivated I am when I feel free. I’m like a caged bird. I have to feel free or I want to walk out the door. I Hadn't realized how important that was. Now that I’m free I’m on fire and love what I’m doing. It’s uncomfortable in other ways and it stretches me.
Every week I feel like I’m doing something new that I’ve not done before and dreamt about like writing a blog post and putting together a presentation on psychological blocks. And next month I’m helping a nonprofit put together their entire campaign and coach them and meet with their donors and ask for money. There is great variety and super stretching. My husband has seen I’ve never worked so hard in my life, so many hours or so hard and it doesn’t feel like anything is being taken away from me. Before I was in England a lot, I missed my daughter and family. It didn’t feel like it was worth it and I wasn’t growing. Something was being taken away.
Scott Barlow: That is an eloquent way to say it. It is different for different people. We need certain things as human beings to feel happy on a regular basis for our work but other than that it is very different and personal. When you are aligned and it doesn’t feel like something is being taken away it enables you to be able to grow differently because it sets you up, yes you are maybe doing more challenging and more work but you escalate at a different rate which is more rewarding. Nice job by the way.
Margaret Fredrickson: I want to thank both of you because you got me onto the strengthsfinder. I feel like that is the gateway drug. I hadn’t done that. I’m always trying to get to know myself but hadn’t done it in that way and it was super helpful.
Scott Barlow: Absolutely. That is the real reason we have strengthsfinder on our website. It’s the gateway drug to all the rest of life fulfillment. I very much appreciate that. It's been super cool to get to status updates and to see it from afar. I’m only slightly jealous that Evangelia got to have a front row seat. Thank you for trusting us to help you out with this. I really appreciate it.
Margaret Fredrickson: Thank you, both of you. You guys are awesome and I don’t know if I would have had the courage to do it without your support. It would have happened but not so quickly. I listened to your podcast for about a year before we spoke that was a good way to get coaching as well. It was helpful.
Scott Barlow: And now you're on the podcast. Full scale journey as it turns out. Now after going through all of that and being in a role that fits better what advice would you give other people that are back where not aligned Margaret was about 6 months ago and just now thinking about making the change?
Margaret Fredrickson: Think about your network. Think about the people you know that are in roles that intrigue you and interest you. Hang out in the crowd you want to be in. Expand your zone. You want to have an open mind and not feel like you are limited.
Scott Barlow: I think that is very accurate. People come into this the way you did. I want to make this happen in three months let’s do this. And it may happen but if you only have that mentality and not looking at it with an open mind people miss stuff. They miss opportunities that could be great and aligned. If you are only centered on one thing in one way that is probably all you are going to find and it doesn’t mean it's right for you.
Margaret Fredrickson: As I think about this pivot and move and changes over the last 6 months I don’t think of it as a full life change where I’m at the end and final destination. I’ve talked to friends about it and challenge others to approach it this way. I was walking down a path and stopped and moved my feet just a little to the left and kept walking. I feel so much better but this isn’t the final destination. This is step two. I was in step one, I turned a little and am walking a different path. Sometimes it didn’t feel that different. I’m still in fundraising, do I like this? It's just a pivot. It can be overwhelming to change your entire career. Just pivot a little. Now I feel much more energy, more positive and feel that much more is possible.
Scott Barlow: Those are the encouraging signs to look for. It's so interesting almost all of us come into this trying to figure out what I’m going to do for the rest of my life I better make a good decision. That is counterproductive and takes away from the productivity and a lot of things that might work out well. That is great advice and I appreciate that. Evangelia anything you want to add about what you witnessed in her change or anything else available for HTYCers that are listening?
Evangelia LeClaire: One of the biggest things, character traits about Margaret is she is open to signs and exploring. Taking the playful approach. Playfulness, fun and adventure is one of your values. Going about this new journey that value would come up. Even in that example earlier of the acting class it helped her come back into herself. If we can look at what's next as playing in the sandbox and lens of what is possible and how is it an adventure and what are the signs I’m on the path to feeling great or aligned that will make this process feel so much better.
If you’re ready to create and live a life that is unapologetically you check out our Ultimate Guide to Using Your Strengths to Get Hired. Find your signature strengths to do what you love, do what you are good at, and bring value to your clients, customers, and/or organization. happentoyourcareer.com/strengthsguide