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Three Lessons I've Learned as a Former Executive Turned Career Coach

As a communications executive, I've managed large teams in several industries. I've worked all over the country and hired over 50 employees. Less than a year into my career, I was promoted to take my manager's position as communications director and was tasked with hiring my replacement. As you can imagine, this was quite a daunting ask because I knew my teammate would be my same age or older.

As I progressed in my career and built teams in government, advertising and public affairs agencies, I realized that I spent a lot of time teaching my employees about the basics of professionalism. I remember saying things like "why didn't anyone teach them how to talk to HR?" and "I wish we could focus on the results of my team's work and not be distracted by these other issues." I tried to take what I learned along the way and pass it onto the people I managed.

The most surprising factor was that most of my employees were much older than me, so with time I realized that most of us don't learn some of the basic skills that you need to not only survive as a professional, but thrive. Looking back on my career, I can see how everything lined up for me to be a "manager for hire" or "reverse recruiter" as my clients have called me, so that I could help others who feel lost in their career.

I started my Career Coaching side hustle sort of on accident. When I launched Livlyhood, I was the Director of a Public Relations at an advertising agency and my clients included Microsoft, Extra Space Storage, Subway, and Bill Gates backed Kymeta. I led a growing team and when I launched my blog as an attempt to find more passion in my work I started getting a lot of questions about resumes, job interviews, HR issues, problems with managers, concerns about the wage gap, negations etc. from my community.

When I decided to take my Career Coaching side hustle full time, I was Vice President of Client Relations at a political advertising and public affairs firm. I was finding so much more joy helping people outside of my company find jobs, and to be honest loved that I was helping a lot of the former employees I didn't hire realize that they could find a better fit somewhere else. I took the risk, quit my job and worked for a client for a few months while I figured out exactly what my coaching business would look like full time.

And then 2020 started. Over the last year I've coached over 100 people as they've navigated changes in their careers. While a lot has changed about how we do our jobs (hello, Zoom!) some things will always be true about professionalism.

I hope this advice helps you avoid learning the hard way like I so often did! Below I've outlined three lessons I've learned in my career I wanted to pass along.

You and only you can determine your career path

I will never forget when I asked my first boss "don't you notice how hard I'm working?" during a particularly rough week, and he said "Britt, I have a lot of stuff to worry about, I'm not keeping score of how hard you're working." I learned that day that even though he was a very supportive manager, he wasn't concerned about my longterm career path. He didn't have time to be. I knew right then and there I needed to start keeping better track of my success.

One of the main reasons I decided to create Career Confidence Courses (launching this May!) is that too few of my employees tracked their own success. They expected me to do it as their manager and while I made a big effort to make it a priority, there were projects I wasn't as involved in and meetings I couldn't attend.

At the end of the day, you have to advocate for yourself. Even in a supportive company where you have a culture of collaborative support, you have to own your career. No one will ever be as invested in your future as you are, so you need to figure out how to build yourself up, stand up for yourself and point out your results to those you were work with.

You are never, ever stuck

I'm sure you've been faced with challenges in your career and been paralyzed by them. It can be so tough to know what to do when you work at a toxic company, have a difficult boss or don't feel like you're progressing. As I've worked with clients this past year my belief that if you don't make decisions about your career they will be made for you has only been solidified. It can be tempting to believe you're stuck in a job you hate, but that's a lie!

I've had many coaching clients tell me that they wish they'd made a decision to move on from their job sooner. They'd convinced themselves that there was nothing better out there when it simply wasn't true. I often spend a lot of my time coaching telling my clients that they've convinced themselves that something is a fact about job searching or their industries. If you feel trapped, that's a lie. You will have to make concessions (there is no such thing as a dream job!) but if you think you don't have options it's only because you're limiting yourself. Shift your paradigm and figure out exactly what you want out of your next position and then start looking for it to see if companies have opportunities that align. If you need help getting started, my discovery process can help.

Your career path is a roller coaster, not a ladder

The old school thinking that your career progression is linear is so limiting. I don't have a single client who has a straightforward and logical career path. Life events, moves, health issues, disappointing jobs (haven't we all taken a job and been shocked by what we signed up for?) all impact that progression. If I went back in time and told myself I was going to be Career Coaching at this point in my life I wouldn't believe it. But as I reflect back, everything was falling into place to make this happen.

Make sure you take the time to look back and celebrate how far you've come in your career. Reflect back on the highs and lows, and know that more are coming, and that's ok. That's life.

Thank you for supporting Livlyhood along the way. I can't believe how beautiful and clean this website is now because the first version looked like a MySpace page! As I move on to this new chapter, I'm excited to make my guidance more widely available and affordable. I want my legacy to be helping others make great money and find joy in their jobs. The more we each share our own career experiences, the more that we'll all learn and grow.

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