I Reinvented Myself Professionally. This Is What I Learned.
I frequently get asked how I made a career change from corporate life to executive coaching. In this article, I am sharing my most significant learnings from the process:
More than three years passed from the moment I stepped into my first coaching training to the moment I quit my job. Finding a new passion takes time. Initially, you follow a curiosity. Then you get experience. Afterward, you build competence. And finally, a new passion emerges. Also, it takes time to set things up for a smooth transition. You may need savings, skills or network.
Hit pause to speed up your re-invention
A lot of us try manically to climb the corporate ladder. You cannot move your ladder against a different wall while you are still trying to climb it. Taking a break will help you accelerate your reinvention. Try whatever is possible for you; a holiday, a sabbatical or even meditation can help.
Before my transition, I had my two maternity leaves which I took in full. These two years away from my desk gave me perspective. When I was not caring for my babies, I experimented with coaching, stand up comedy, yoga, blogging and more. I studied a coaching masters degree. I would not be able to do these things without the career breaks.
Counterintuitively, my day job benefited as well. When I came back, I hit the ground running. I also brought new skills and perspectives.
Give back to your day job
A lot of my coaching skills were built within my company. I was open about my new passion. I volunteered to be an internal coach. I organized coaching workshops for my colleagues. I helped my clients with coaching. When I left, everyone was supportive of my new journey.
Declare your intention to the world
I included coaching to my LinkedIn profile from the beginning of my training. I needed to complete a certain amount of coaching hours for my accreditation. I wanted to give my clients re-assurance I was legit.
Later, I used the Executive Coach label on all my social media and signatures. It was not the most comfortable thing in the world, mainly because I wanted to be sensitive to my day job. Luckily, I found out that having an external coaching practice was allowed by my employer.
At some point, more and more people started reaching out and asking to work with me as a coach. This gave me the confidence to make the jump. The clients found me through LinkedIn or my articles. This would not have happened had I not told the world that I was also an executive coach.
Find your new tribe
When I decided I wanted to pursue coaching I made a conscious decision to build my network in this new industry. I started with my tutors and classmates in my coaching studies. I found the list of the top executive coaches in the world and followed them in social media. I also read their books. I started going to the coaching associations’ events.
The most impactful thing I did was to move for six months to a tropical island during my second maternity leave. There, I experienced a new quality of life. I also immersed myself in an entirely new social circle mainly comprised of entrepreneurs. This inspired me to work for myself.
They say you become the average of the five people you most hang out with. If you want to re-invent yourself, you need to be very deliberate about your environment.
Utilize your cocoon
The most inspiring re-invention story happens every day in nature. A caterpillar is being transformed into a butterfly. Once the caterpillar goes into its cocoon, it digests itself and becomes liquid. Only this way it can reform as a butterfly. The cocoon is holding everything together during this vulnerable time.
As a coach, I often act as the cocoon for my clients. I create a safe space for them to be vulnerable and shed off parts that used to be their identity.
You will need to utilize your cocoon during your reinvention. A handful of people you can be vulnerable with. A cocoon is usually not the same as your tribe which is your network of like-minded individuals. In my journey of reinvention, I was cocooned by my coach, my husband, and a few friends.
Beware of exhaustion
At some point, I was working on my day job, my coaching business and my coaching masters at the same time. I was also caring for two young kids.
In theory, it worked. I did get my coaching accreditation. When I quit, I had already a few clients, a website, a portfolio of published articles and a network in the industry. But, I felt exhausted. If I were to do it again, I would not try to do everything at the same time…
At some point in your transition, you may be wearing both the old hat and the new. You will feel you are being pulled in all sorts of different directions. Make sure to nurture yourself at this time and give yourself a break.
Burn your ships when you are ready
It felt scary to leave my corporate job. But when I did, opportunities I could not have imagined opened up for my coaching business. Sending a signal to the world about your commitment to your new venture makes a huge difference.
Reinvention can be one of the most rewarding things you will ever do. But, it does not happen overnight. You will need all the support you can get. Give yourself time off if you can. Surround yourself with supportive people. Tell the world about it. And at some point let the old go. Good luck!