I think if people were more self-reflective rather than outward-focused, they would realize some important truths about themselves and the world around them. When people take time to self-reflect, look inward, meditate, and cultivate mindfulness, they often begin to experience gratitude for what they already have. They realize happiness doesn’t come from what society deems as important, like outward displays of “success,” and instead true joy comes from being people of worthiness. These are not new ideas, but I think they are important, and if I could ask one thing of everyone, it would be to be more self-reflective and mindful.
I had the pleasure of interviewing April Klimkiewicz, Founder of Bliss Evolution Career Coaching, co-founder of the Her Step Forward Podcast, and Hatha yoga instructor. Coaching since 2004, she is passionate about helping people get to a place where they trust themselves to make informed career decisions, offering expert advice for complicated situations. April has worked with thousands of people around their personal career development at MIT, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, UH-D, NSU, and Bliss Evolution. April holds a master’s degree in the field of Counseling Psychology from Boston College and loves traveling the world and celebrating successes with her clients!
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
You’re welcome. Thank you so much for interviewing me! I’m happy to share my story.
Back in 2004, I was admitted into Boston College’s Educational Psychology Counseling program. Soon afterwards, I received an email from MIT’s Careers Office that they were hiring Career Counseling interns. I remember initially thinking I’d prefer individual counseling over career counseling, but I thought I’d apply anyway because it would be good experience. I was hired, and after the position ended, I was hired to work for another MIT internship program for a second year. While I gained experience career counseling and coaching firsthand, I also learned the theory and practice behind personal counseling through my master’s program at Boston College. This background has been super helpful in my career.
After graduating from BC and leaving MIT, I moved back to South Florida to take a position in Human Resources with Starwood Hotels and Resorts to learn what it would be like on the hiring side of the table. Soon after, I moved to Houston for a Career Counseling position, and I split the next eight years between there and a position overseeing the Career Advising wing of the Career Development Office at NSU once I moved back to South Florida again. After many years there, I realized I was doing far less career coaching and far more people and project management, and I wasn’t finding the same meaning in my work that had drawn me to the work in the first place. I wanted to find a way to get back to what I loved about my career: helping individuals change their lives for the better. And that’s how the idea for Bliss Evolution was born. Now, I see individual clients virtually all over the country and world to help them navigate career issues, and I also get to teach private yoga lessons and a yoga class here in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I am so happy that I get to engage in all the fun parts of my job while helping people learn how to overcome barriers to live their best lives.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
One of the most interesting stories is the timing of starting Bliss Evolution. I thought I’d have to take longer to plan and start Bliss Evolution on the side, but I called a friend and colleague to learn more about what it would take to start a business. It just so happened that she’d written a book, and she had more people contacting her than she could take on as clients. I was in the right place at the right time when I reached out to her, and as a result, she sent me client referrals. I was able to quit my full-time job and make my business my full-time job. While I have worked hard over the course of my life, I also know that it’s important to take a great opportunity when you see it. I’m glad I had the ability to take a risk because I’ve been doing this work ever since, and that situation gave me just the platform I needed to take a big jump into the career and life I love.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The most cringe-worthy mistakes I made when I was first starting out in the field of Career Development were during the interview process with MIT. Later, I would understand the ins and outs of interviews, but at this time, interviews caused me a lot of anxiety, and I didn’t know how to prepare properly. The first round interview was by phone, and it was a dreaded panel interview. I took the call at work and didn’t even to think to take notes on names and position titles as the panelists were introducing themselves. There were a lot of complicated first and last names that were new to me, and I tried to keep my cool knowing there were so many people listening to me and judging my answers, but I was nervous. When the interview was over, I wanted to follow up with a thank you note, but I had no idea who was on the panel or who to send it to. I made it through to the second round, and when I was asked to talk about a conflict, I talked about a personal one rather than a professional one. I am more embarrassed now for my then-self because I didn’t even realize that this wasn’t the right thing to do. Once I got the job at MIT (thank goodness they saw past my mistakes!), I learned exactly what I’d done wrong, and I’ve been able to prevent people from making the same mistakes ever since!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
My drive in helping people is what makes my company stand out. My calling is to help people better their lives through engaging in the world in a different way than they expected they could. For example, lots of people want to change careers, but they don’t even know where to begin. I walk them through the process of self-reflection, discovering what work is out there and will fit them, and then navigating the process of a job search, which they may not have done in a long time. There is so much information out there that it’s overwhelming and confusing for people looking to make career changes. People are more likely to take action when they have someone in their corner working directly with them because they know they will be taking the proper actions to result in the positive outcomes they seek.
It is important to me to make sure my advice for an individual is aligned with who they are so they feel competent and able to take positive action. This is how I would contribute to the world even if my work was something entirely different. As it is, I curate and create free information for anyone who visits my website or follows me on social media because I think everyone should have access to information, tools, and resources to make better decisions and improve their lives.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am working on two super exciting new projects! The first is a podcast called Her Step Forward, and we are releasing our first episode this month! The podcast will focus on women’s stories of decisions made and actions taken to live their best lives, either through work or a personal route. My friend Amanda McCluney works in the tech industry, and we’ve shared a lot about our experiences over the years. We decided to start a podcast because we imagine other women out there would be interested in hearing people we admire talk about the experience of being a woman in work and life. We are so excited to launch! The podcast will serve as inspiration for people who are trying to figure out how to take the next big step in their lives. You can find us on instagram @herstepforward, and listen to us anywhere you listen to podcasts.
The second project I’m really excited about is a book I’m writing with a friend who works in and holds a PhD in the field of Conflict Analysis and Resolution. Both working in helping professions, we realize how difficult self-care is for this population and how easy it is to give and give and give until you are completely depleted. The book we’re writing is a how-to book aimed at helping people who find themselves in similar situations navigate them in a way that simultaneously helps others and helps themselves. We’re in the first draft stages now, and we’re so passionate about the project.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
This is exactly what we’ll be exploring in the podcast! We’ll be interviewing women to learn their best advice for thriving.
My personal advice is about knowing when to take a calculated risk. So many times, people I work with and meet with are the ones standing in their own way. They fear; therefore they think it must be a bad idea. All risks are scary, but there is a difference between a reckless risk and a calculated risk. Knowing the difference and knowing when to take risks that make sense for you and your future are so important. It’s the difference between doing nothing, doing something with terrible consequences, and creating the life you were meant to live.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Large teams can be broken up into smaller teams, with each team focusing on a different project. It’s much easier to manage people who are managing part of a project than to manage the entire thing by yourself. If you’re a hard worker and feel, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself,” you will find yourself working harder, not smarter.
Instead, make sure to hire good key people that you trust delegating the work to. Teach them how to lead and guide them in project management. Strike a balance between staying in the know and giving them autonomy, and your work will become easier.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I remember having a conversation with a friend and former colleague at MIT, Marilyn Wilson, when I was thinking about what profession to pursue when I graduated the master’s program at Boston College. I remember being so worried about choosing the right path and trying to weigh a few different options for potential careers out with her. I remember the sound advice she gave me, and it was this: they are all good options. None of the things we discussed were the wrong choice; instead, there were a number of right choices to choose from. This advice profoundly affected the way I look at the world of work. For some people, there is one right path, one right choice, but for others, there are many potential avenues to a happy career and life. When we start overthinking and stalling ourselves from taking action because we’re not sure what the “right” thing is to do, my advice is always this: do something, try something. Then you’ll have more information to make an informed decision. Thank you, Marilyn!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I take a grassroots approach with bringing goodness to the world. The quote “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared,” attributed to the Buddha, resonates with me.
Personally, I believe in paying it forward, lighting all the candles of others I can along the way, and creating a brighter and more joyful world with each action or decision — small or big. If I treat someone with kindness and compassion, they will feel better about themselves, and that positivity will find its way to someone else they come into contact with once they’ve left my company. For that reason, I strive to treat all people I come into contact with, whether we work together or not, with unconditional positive regard. I believe that people are doing the best they can with the information they have at the time, so rather than judging someone for decisions they make or how they navigate the world, I take an approach where I try to understand where they are coming from and why they are making that decision. Then we can discuss potential other options for moving toward the goal in their heart, while simultaneously, hopefully, opening them up to treat others with kindness and compassion along their journey.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
Take heart, and take a calculated risk. I mentioned this earlier when I talked about knowing when to leave my job and start Bliss Evolution. So many people get stuck in inaction because they’re scared to rock the boat, or they feel tied to their job with golden handcuffs. This is the idea that they can’t make the same amount of money doing what they love, so they will continue engaging in work that doesn’t suit them in exchange for the monetary payoff, all while dreading every moment of their life at work. It takes a lot of bravery to know when to stay versus when to move on to the next great thing. Sometimes the right thing to do is bide your time until the right situation presents itself, and other times, the right thing to do is to gather your courage and take a calculated risk.
Call on your support system. It’s so important to share your experience with other people who are experiencing the same thing as you at the same time you are, as well as with people who have been there and have navigated the situation in a useful way in the past. Peers and mentors are invaluable when you need advice or a trusted mentor to commiserate with . Every month, I have a phone call with two friends and colleagues who also own their own career coaching businesses. We get to swap ideas and help each other come up with solutions. Their support is so helpful and encouraging, and I’m thankful we can rely on each other.
It’s not me against you; it’s us against the problem. In my work, the goal isn’t to gain power or win. Instead, it’s about facing a problem as a team and finding a way forward together. For example, when it comes to negotiating salary, if you take a “me versus them” approach, it’s possible that you will leave the negotiation table with a working relationship that is worse than it was before. If, instead, you take an “us against the problem” approach, you’re much more likely to come up with solutions and compromises that make sense for everyone.
Clear communication is key. Often, we assume we know what the other person is intending or thinking when they communicate, and we ourselves present with information we assume someone else will understand, even if it is unclear. Take the guesswork out of your relationships, and be abundantly clear. Read up on effective communication. This will set you and those you communicate with up for success.
Pay it forward. Help someone a few steps behind you on the journey. We all have someone who took a little extra time to help us achieve our goals. Maybe it was a teacher, a mentor at work, or a parent who guided you in the right direction. For me, almost 20 years ago, my very first yoga instructor, Pam, suggested I should get certified and teach yoga. I never would have pursued it on my own, but she planted the seed that it could be something I might be good at. I never forgot her encouragement nor the extra time she took with me. Years later, I got certified to teach yoga and when I was teaching classes of my own, I had a gifted student that I encouraged to consider teaching yoga. I took some extra time with her to help her deepen her practice just as Pam had done with me. She is now a certified yoga instructor, and I’m sure she will pay it forward as well.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I think if people were more self-reflective rather than outward-focused, they would realize some important truths about themselves and the world around them. When people take time to self-reflect, look inward, meditate, and cultivate mindfulness, they often begin to experience gratitude for what they already have. They realize happiness doesn’t come from what society deems as important, like outward displays of “success,” and instead true joy comes from being people of worthiness. These are not new ideas, but I think they are important, and if I could ask one thing of everyone, it would be to be more self-reflective and mindful. This is precisely why I am working on the self-help for helpers book I described earlier.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote is by Wendell Berry, a modern day philosopher, and it goes like this: “On foot, you will find that the earth is still satisfyingly large, and full of beguiling nooks and crannies.” To me, this is all about changing perspective and the mind-shift that happens when we look at the world with new eyes.
The world often seems so busy, we’re constantly connected with technology, and instant gratification is the norm. As a culture, we expect immediate responses to texts and immediate results for the work we put in. This quote is a reminder to me to step outside of my own head and incessant thinking and look at the world from a new angle. That’s when I’m the most creative!
The quote also speaks to finding joy in nature, and I find I’m able to center myself easily when surrounded by the natural world. I grew up in South Florida and have fond memories of being near the water. I go to the beach a lot in the evenings, especially after a long day, to look out over the ocean and reflect. My surroundings are different every time depending on the light, the clouds, and the season, and I’m reminded that there is always a new and different way to look at the world around me and the world inside of me.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
I love Brené Brown. I recommend one of her early books, The Gifts of Imperfection, to so many people because I find her authenticity through her work and writing is one of the best examples to follow. It’s also backed by years of research on vulnerability and love. In my personal striving to always be the best person I can be in every situation, I look to Brené Brown and her work when I need positive inspiration.