Severe storms, high winds, and heavy rains expected — TOP 4 confessions & reflections from my first year as a self-employed career coach.
2020 — Go.All.In! This was my mantra as I entered my first year of self-employment as a full-time career coach. Up until this point, career coaching was a calm side gig alongside a demanding full-time HR career of 15+ years in corporate America. In December 2019 that all changed as I chose to leap into self-employment as a career coach — which was the right decision for me. Although, I did not choose to run smack into a worldwide pandemic, economic turmoil, civil uprising, an unprecedented election, and challenge after challenge…
Talk about trial by fire! Maneuvering my first year of self-employment through the ins and outs of global chaos in #2020 was not in the plans. But I made it safely to shore AND managed to learn a thing or two about successfully navigating an unpredictable landscape. In this blog post, I’m sharing a glimpse into my top FOUR reflections + lessons learned that kept me afloat and on course throughout the treacherous forecast.
Lesson #1 Focus on what you can control.
“We cannot control the wind, but we can direct the sails.” — Thomas S. Monson, American Religious Leader
I recall the exact moment that pulled the wind out of my sails and nearly sunk my ship. It was March 2020; I listened to the radio and heard that universities across the nation were closing. Specifically, U of Penn informed students not to return after spring break due to the potential vast spread of COVID-19 across campus. The sheer logistics of a decision like that made my head spin. And then, a few days later, the mayhem went into overdrive. I listened to too many conversations about layoffs, lockdowns, and loss. This #realitycheck shoved me into a near panic. What did I just do?? I left my secure, familiar, corporate HR job, and now the world is shutting down? Complete fear began to take over.
As I found myself in a mode of what-if and worry, I quickly reminded myself that I cannot control the economy or the stock market or the weather for that matter. BTW, it snowed in May! Focusing on things I have no control over spirals into unproductive thoughts and only compounds the situation, leaving me or any of us exhausted from wasted emotions and misspent energy.
And then a major realization happened — now more than ever, career coaches were being called to serve their purpose. With layoffs at a record high and businesses forced to close their doors, too many highly qualified people were left swimming upstream without direction.
Consequently, I turned down the daily news and turned up the focus on each one of my clients. I poured extra energy into helping them through their unique career situations. Whether they were rethinking their career, branching out with a big change, in need of an updated strategy for a personalized job search, or a simple dash of energy to spark change. I felt lucky to be in a place to guide even more people safely through the storm.
Lesson #2 Boundaries.
“Should an emergency occur, fit your own oxygen mask first before attempting to help others.” — airline flight safety
Boundaries take on an entirely new meaning when you’re self-employed… especially during 10+ months of simultaneous grief + chaos.
One of the commitments I made to myself as I ditched the 9 to 5 gig and transitioned into self-employment was NOT to fall back into a place of pure exhaustion. When you work for yourself, it’s easy to be ON 24×7. And when you LOVE your work #careertalk, that can feel completely comfortable. At the same time — after learning the hard way — I know that balance + boundaries are a healthy approach to any career. To read more about my tribute to life after burnout, click here.
Making the space to think, to learn, to absorb is critical. When the universe came to a screeching halt in the spring, I started a practice of blocking my calendar for time to think. Literally, time blocks labeled TTT — Time To Think. This space allowed me to do a little extra dreaming and scheming about new ways to plot the route for clients and stay on top of the ever-changing job market and economic forecast.
Along with daily TTT, I also blocked off two days a month. A Thursday and Friday for unscheduled time — two beautifully spontaneous days. That did not mean I didn’t work, it meant I had space — unscheduled + no strings attached time — to do what needed to be done without scheduled obligations. Not to mention, disrupting the routine was a fabulous way to generate energy + creativity. Turns out, making the space to catch my breath was a critical component to trekking through 2020, successfully.
Lesson #3 Find the flowers.
“No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed to an uncharted land or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.” — Helen Keller
Michelle Gielan is a positive psychology researcher and in her article titled, “Optimists are Better at Finding Jobs” she states, “Optimistic thinking empowers us during uncertain times, prompting us to take positive action steps.” She goes on to tell us that optimism is a choice — and with practice and effort, it can be learned. Our brains are automatically wired to protect us, especially from severe storms. Complaining about the tough times is easy. It takes courage to be enthusiastic and it takes the time to express appreciation, give compliments, and call out triumphs, big and small.
One of the practices that helped me through this year was initiating daily rituals. “Ritual” might sound like a strong word, even construed by some as being religious. Although in its simplest form ritual is defined as“a ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.” Originally, I decided to spend a couple of minutes each morning replacing negative thoughts with gratitude — I loved that it only took a minute to begin the day on the right foot. And then at one point over the summer, I noticed I was having a tough time winding down in the evenings. So I shifted my gratitude practice to the evenings — thinking through allll the goodness from the day and recognizing how much I had to be thankful for. Morning gratitude was replaced with a couple of minutes of intention setting — thinking through my schedule and setting a positive intention for each interaction.
These daily rituals — opening and closing ceremonies if you will — have proven to restore momentum and help me ‘find the flowers’ within each day in spite of the often-threatening skies.
Lesson #4 Listen to the nudge.
“Trusting our intuition often saves us from disaster” — Anne Wilson Schaef, a clinical psychologist and author
Truth be told, I felt a nudge to do this work for yearssss. And through those years I found every reason imaginable to NOT make the leap to self-employment… until I ran out of reasons. Turns out, the nudge was right! I LOVE packing my days with #careertalk and cannot recall another time when I felt this fulfilled, even among the turbulent waves of 2020. If there’s one thing I learned this year, it’s that I should have listened to the nudge sooner!
So ask yourself…
- Do you feel a consistent nudge to do something different?
- Is there a secret dream in the back of your mind that you can’t stop thinking about?
- Or maybe it’s a constant whisper that causes you to pause and rethink your current career path?
- Why not allow your mind to open up, get curious, tune in, and explore? Why not today!
In the wise words of the NBA’s great Michael Jordan, “If you can’t stop thinking about it, don’t stop working for it.”
There’s no doubt 2020 was a year for the history books. A wild and wooly ride to say the least. In retrospect, I’m feeling especially grateful for going all in, and in doing so, having extra space, energy, and the opportunity to steer even more career-minded, heart-based professionals through the stormy seas of a dizzying year. Here’s to capitalizing on all the lessons learned and cruising forward with intention.
“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” — Louisa May Alcott, American novelist
Speaking of cruising forward, if you’d like to continue to follow along with more insider stories, quick tips, and #careertalk, I invite you to connect with me on Instagram @flourish.careers We’ll set sail together!