An astrology-loving friend of mine tells me that the Age of Aquarius (cue the Fifth Dimension!) is a real, astronomical thing, an approximately 2100 year period where the spring equinox occurs in the part of the sky known as Aquarius. We’re currently on the cusp of it, and it’s supposed to be a time when humanity starts to reject top-down structures and institutional control, in favor of grass roots, collaborative, power-to-the-people mentalities. Just stash that in the back of your mind for a minute, because you don’t have to be especially “woo-woo” to appreciate the metaphor.
I trained for the hierarchy! I did my undergraduate degree in Human Resources, optimistic that I was setting myself up for a rewarding career in which I got to earn a living while helping people. Freshly armed with my degree and some trait-level tenacity, I climbed the corporate ladder just fine, got my master’s degree in Human Resources and ascended to upper management. For years, I pushed down the tiny inner voice that kept telling me this is not what you signed up for, as I handled terminations, downsizing, and lawsuits.
By conventional metrics, I was successful. I made a good living. The C-suite nearly always thought I was fabulous. If I outgrew my role at one company, there was always another waiting to welcome me.
But I wasn’t helping people. I was oiling the gears of the corporate machine, largely by mastering the art of firing people “with kindness.” So I took what I’d learned about the corporate world over all those years, and started a solo business as a career coach.
My friend would call that an “Aquarian” move. I just call it lifesaving.
Starting my own business was daunting in some ways. I think most people experience some combination of impostor syndrome, fear of destabilization, and overwhelm at the thought of all the things we don’t yet know about managing a business. I’m no different.
What might be a little different about me—and it took time for me to get there—is that I did learn to listen to my instincts, and to arm myself with appropriate support. I got a business coach to help me sort out the nuts and bolts of—well, a coaching business. Honestly, my limbo period was tiny—like one month. There was an almost shocking instant response—which reinforced what my time in the corporate world had made me believe: a lot of people aren’t doing the work they’re meant to do. And they know it. They don’t change things because they don’t quite know how to—or they try and despite their best efforts, they go unnoticed.
With my experiences being on the other side of the table in corporate HR, I had some strong insights into why qualified candidates got ignored by recruiters. From my own long stint doing something that wasn’t right for me, I had done a lot of thinking about how to help someone take what they’ve learned in their career and repurpose it into something more… purposeful. With a little skill-building in the nuts-and-bolts aspects of running my own business, and some trial and error, I found my place, and was able to look forward to Monday mornings for the first time in forever.
Career coaching isn’t for everyone—nothing is for everyone, and thank goodness for that! But it gives me the “do well while doing good” factor my corporate life lacked, with the huge added benefit of being accountable only to myself and my clients. It turns out I thrive in spaces where thinking independently is rewarded far more often than it’s dismissed or viewed as “dangerous.” (And yes, your darkest suspicions on that front are probably correct: as much as a corporate employer might claim to value “disruptive,” “innovative” or “maverick” energy, when it comes down to it, they usually expect people to conform.) And far from replacing stability and order with overwhelm and poverty, it transformed my financial life for the better and gave me the chance to scale my business as needed and without a lot of fuss. I’m healthier psychologically and economically, and I honestly love what I do.
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