As a young girl, I would always cringe when this question was asked of me. The problem was I never really knew if I wanted to grow up or not! Of course, I had no choice in the matter of growing up. It was going to happen. But I did have a choice in what I wanted to be. Throughout my career, I’ve set my sights on one career dream after another—sometimes materializing them seemingly out of sheer intention, and usually with a bit of synchronistic luck. If you think you’ve wandered in your career path, take heart! You are not alone. At various times in my life I thought I wanted to be a nun, a sports coach, a teacher, a journalist, a psychologist, and numerous other professions. After wandering through these adventures I realized that . . .
I’ve Always Wanted to Run My Own Business
We successfully completed a major computer conversion that took two years of long hours and huge learning. I started to get very excited about “What’s next?” until our five-year strategic plan was stopped short by an upcoming reorganization. After three months of being in a holding pattern, and with no date as to when this would change, I was more than bored. I started helping a friend of mine in a business she was just starting. After work hours, I helped her put together some organizational structure and financial guidelines. After about three months we started talking about becoming partners in the business. I didn’t know when my IT project was ever going to start up again, so, true to my “any way the wind blows” strategy, I decided that I’d always wanted to run my own business and began working with her.
WBF (We Be Fine!)
We partnered up, and I owned 49% of my very own business! It was a wonderful marriage of skills. I brought in my knowledge of operations, finance and IT, and she was a master at sales and marketing. The plan was that the two of us were going to run the business for five years, create a wildly successful business model, sell it, and become philanthropists.
Well, part of that happened. We worked wonderfully together and grew WBF (we always called it We Be Fine!) into a million dollar business in three years. And then it all went bad. I’m not even sure to this day what happened, but the business and the partnership turned sour. I left the dream behind. The business closed nine months later. The worst part about it was that all of the horrible things you hear about happening when friends go into business together happened to us. I am still sad about it to this day.
Smart Enough to Be a Consultant
Devastated by losing my dream, I took another six-month hiatus before deciding that the next step in my wandering career was to be a consultant. I was sitting outside at lunch one day and gazed down the waterway (I live on an island in a planned community) when I looked up and saw the building about half a mile away from where I live. I set my sights on working there. Since it was so close to home I could avoid all the rush hour commuting, which, quite frankly, makes me cry. About the same time, a friend put me in contact with a consulting group that was searching for someone with my expertise in successfully running large IT projects. You guessed it. Within two weeks, I was working in that building—a dream job of working on web development (young technology at the time) as a consultant with no overtime and no people reporting to me. Yay! It was fun and the learning opportunities were never-ending. Until the bust, of course, when it was no longer fun and it all ended rather suddenly.
This Time for Sure … I Know What I Don’t Want to Do!
Technology was changing at the speed of a Lamborghini (which is really fast), and I just didn’t have the desire to chase after it any longer. Lots of workplace politics went down that gave me a deep understanding of how that game is played, and I left the company knowing I was played out. And if you can’t play, you can’t be effective.
When I left, I knew I was finished with corporate America. I’d totally had it. The idea of even looking for a job in that arena made me physically nauseous. So I had to stop thinking about it and look for another playground.
Poof! You’re a Coach! (What’s a Coach?)
At this point, a career consultant advised me, “Pat, you don’t have to look for work in the same area you’ve been in. Be open to work that may never have existed before.” Hmmm, good point! When I was in college, running IT organizations wasn’t even an option, because that field didn’t yet exist. I kept hearing about this field called coaching, and it piqued my interest. It had the elements of cheerleading, building leaders, speaking and writing. Synchronicity struck again. Within 72 hours of finishing that workshop, I signed up to take a coaching fundamentals course. At the time, this was a relatively new field. I took one course and fell in love with this profession, and went on to get my certification in two coaching programs as well as a credential from the International Coach Federation (ICF). I spent my first few years in my own coaching business primarily coaching women in transition who were starting or wanting to grow their own businesses. My initial focus was to get really good at coaching individuals, one on one, to help them find their purpose and their grounding. I wanted to work with individuals and leaders who wanted to play bigger games in their work, community, and even the world. After a few years, I felt the best use of my time was to return to the corporate world as a coach. This individual coaching experience, along with my business background in a variety of functional areas would be a great combination for coaching those inside of organizations in the competencies they most wanted to develop to succeed.
I changed my marketing to orient it more to companies than to individuals. During this time, I received an email that described what I was looking for to a T. The problem was it involved working for a 110-year-old utility company. I knew utility companies were not my style, but the job looked interesting. I kept the email, but went back to evolving my marketing approach. After a few of my friends sent me the very same email, advising me to take a look, I thought I should investigate it further. I figured that if it was a match I could convince them to hire me as a contractor.
Well, they wanted to hire me, but I was not very good at convincing them to make me a contractor—I joined the company less than one month after I sent in my resume. This was certainly a possibility I’d never imagined when I was in college! I was now a Leadership Coach at California’s biggest utility company.
Corporate America Didn’t Want Me Back for Long
What an amazing, though brief, ride this gig was. I was hired with almost 20 other coaches to support the leaders of the organization in strengthening their leadership competencies. The company was experiencing a very large and radical business transformation and the intention was to help my clients become better at leading their teams confidently through this transformation.
Perhaps you can imagine the impact I felt when my very first client left the company within two months of our work together. She and I both knew that she was not destined to stay with this company. It was not a match and she was miserable. No one should be miserable day after day in their work. She just needed a bit of coaching to support her decision. We worked together to find a position that more suited and valued her strengths.
For me, it was one of the best work situations I’ve ever experienced. I was able to work with many emerging and seasoned leaders and guide them along their leadership path, and helped people find work they were truly happy doing. They learned to master their strengths and manage their weaknesses.
I worked with some of the most professional, competent and heart-based coaches I had ever known. In addition to utilizing my business expertise and coaching training, I was able to open my heart and truly love the people I worked with, both my associates and my clients. It was nearly perfect.
And then … it happened. Our senior executive champion left the company and a new individual was hired. After a few months in the job, this person redistributed our budget, and our department was eliminated. I was laid off faster than you can say Jiminy Cricket.
Life After Corporate Life
Today, as I write this, I am back in my own business, inVisionaria, coaching people in career transitions and leadership competencies. It didn’t take me long to fill my life with rewarding and satisfying activities. I work with people to help them find what they love to do in life and how they want to show up as leaders. I support and guide them on the road to making it real.
I’m also working with a group of colleagues to bring to life a new model of coaching. And I am working with another group of women to form a non-profit called Catalyst Youth Leadership. We are committed to creating powerful and affirming experiences of personal leadership for youth that will positively affect the course of their lives and the lives of those they touch. I am also completing a book called Women Who Play Bigger Games, or something like that. We’ll see what the final title is when the time is right.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” I now know that I will never answer that question—mostly because I now know I never want to grow up.