Has there ever been a time in your life when you felt overwhelmed and stuck? You’re not sure how to move forward because…
a) things are so busy that you don’t really have time to plan your next move,
b) you don’t know where to start in planning out your next steps.
For me, this is exactly how I felt at the end of 2014/early 2015 right before I was due to have my baby, I was planning to launch my first startup, and I was still working at my full-time job.
Feeling stuck can happen at different times in our lives, and I’ve seen it happen very often throughout people’s careers.
The first time I felt really stuck was when I was 23 years-old working in media planning, one year after I had graduated from Syracuse University. I had this strong feeling I wanted to create, but I didn’t know how to manifest that into an actual job. So I kept searching and searching…I spent another five years working in media planning and one year working in publishing before I took the plunge and went back to business school. It took me longer than I had wanted, because I wasn’t sure how to move forward.
This time around – at the age of 31, I sought out personalized support, and it’s how my transformative experience with coaching began.
I applied to The Coaching Fellowship, an organization that provides pro-bono executive coaching to women leaders, and thankfully, I was accepted. I was paired with Aurelie Vincent. Aurelie runs her own business and travels frequently from Paris to New York City to San Francisco. We worked together for eight weeks to tackle different issues that I was facing.
This coaching experience had an incredible impact on my career and my life. Because I personally saw the benefits of coaching, April, Laura and I are now working to make coaching more affordable and accessible to young, professional women.
When I was 23, I did seek out a coach…but I didn’t know where to go and who was worth the time, commitment and money. We’re solving this problem by vetting an amazing and devoted network of career coaches.
Below is how working with a coach helped me get unstuck and move forward in my career. The work that I did continues to help me as I still run BOULD and work at my full-time job.
Get Focused. Stay Accountable.
My head was spinning…every single day. There was so much I wanted to do for my company– from building partnerships to blogging to hosting live events and online workshops to building an advisory board. Where do I start? How do I prioritize?
My coach worked with me to make a list of priorities and her words rang loud in my head when I veered off course with my business plans:
“You need to focus. What will get you to your goal first?”
This advice can apply to everything we do, whether we want to start a side business or change jobs.
Out of all the things I wanted to do, she made me pick the top three. Then, she worked with me to break out each activity into steps that I was able to tackle. For example, I made a list of needs for the advisory board, a list of potential members, and deadlines on reaching out to people. During the next sessions, she would keep me accountable and check to see how I was making progress, and if I wasn’t, she would dig at what was holding me back.
I’m sure we all experience that push and pull feeling. For example, you may want to send out 5 job applications this week and attend that amazing networking event, but you have to work late, or you’re not feeling so well this week. OR, it’s your BFF’s birthday and happy hour on Thursday is a MUST. Come Friday, you’ve written half a cover letter and lost $25 on a missed networking event.
The result? Feelings of guilt, shame and frustration because you aren’t moving fast enough.
Get Centered. Stay Positive.
My business is extremely important to me. I’ll work as hard as I have to, to see BOULD succeed. But, my family always comes first. Throughout the entire process of launching a business, it’s been critical for me to be there for my family, no matter how busy things get.
My coach drew out what is most important to me on our first call. She also helped me see what I needed to do to recharge my batteries when I felt tired or overwhelmed. Long walks with my husband, reading, meditating and quality time with my family help me get centered. During my coaching sessions, my coach would check in to make sure I was making time for these things. I remember during one call she knew that I had spent a lot of time feeling guilty if I was taking time off and relaxing. She’d then help me see the benefits this had for my business and life overall.
In addition to staying centered and making time for the things I love the most, I worked with my coach to build a more positive mindset.
Creating a positive mindset is a constant work in progress for me. I’m a worrier, which is not fun. But, I’ve realized that without a positive outlook, I can’t succeed at anything…not as a mom, a wife, an entrepreneur or a friend.
When getting on the first few calls with Aurelie, I’d be tense and worried (hello racing mind) with all the things I needed to do that day and week. Aurelie would help me shift from a mindset filled with worry to one where everything and anything is possible.
How would she do this? I can’t say exactly, I just know that after my calls with her I felt lighter and ready to tackle the work ahead of me. Was I more successful as a result? Hell yeah! Who can do creative work feeling stressed and negative?
Negotiating is one of my favorite things to do! I have a lot of experience here garnered through my career (see my 5 Negotiation Tips to Increase Your Salary in 2015), but nevertheless, there are some negotiations that even I dread.
When I went on maternity leave, the thought of going back to work, running a startup and being a great mom to (my super adorable) baby, seemed…impossible. I wanted to ask to work from home one to two days a week to cut down on my commute and make a little more room in my life for all of the things I wanted to do. Not only could I not approach this conversation with my boss, but I felt completely stuck on how to even start planning for this ask.
My coach walked me through a plan of action. She set me up to make this ask weeks before I even went on maternity leave by giving me tools to show my boss that I can be just as effective working from home. She recommended a new project management tool, which I could share with my boss, and she helped me frame the ask as well.
(Unfortunately, I did not get a work-from-home option when I returned to work. But, at least I asked rather than sitting and wondering what if…And getting that support for the ask made it way more manageable. My new motto…”Asking for Sh** Rules!”)
Lead With Confidence & Stay Humble
“You are a CEO!” – Aurelie’s words still ring loud in my ears. As I was approaching partnerships and seeking out vendors for BOULD, I started to see where I needed help improving my leadership skills.
Leadership is so critical – whether you’re a new manager and managing one person, or you’ve had years of management experience leading a team of 40. I think this is a constant skill we should constantly work to improve.
First, we can only accomplish so much alone. We need team members behind us to achieve our goals. And second, strong leadership skills lead to greater confidence. You can see your goals realized by collaborating with others and guiding them in the process.
I feel I can always learn to be a better leader no matter how much I accelerate in my career. Working with someone who can guide me in leading with confidence is invaluable. And things change…I may be feeling confident today, but something may happen to throw me off track. Sometimes getting back to our center is easiest through a little career coaching.