How I Turned Panic into Promise

Lauren Laitin

Lauren Laitin is owner of Parachute Coaching which provides clients with the structure, tools, and support, empowering them to clarify their goals and devise the strategies to achieve them.

I was standing at my trendy new desk, staring at the exposed brick walls of my hip, downtown office and trying not to panic. I had recently left the fast track at a leading corporate law firm to be a partner at a boutique legal group and, as early as day one, I knew that something was not right.  On paper, everything was going according to plan – I was in a leadership position, had hopes of interesting work, and, for the first time in years, control over my schedule. But, for a variety of reasons, this new professional endeavor just wasn’t working.

As a woman who had always been confident in my choices, who moved forward with purpose and ambition, I was surprised that I was not happy in my new job. It was agonizing to think that I had made the wrong decision. Even scarier was the question I pondered every day while trying to dampen the anxiety:

“How soon can I leave without being a failure?  Can I have a ‘gap’ on my resume?” 

Without fully arriving at those answers, I told myself I would give it a little bit more time, but if my gut said go, I would.  In short, I gave myself permission to accept that this move wasn’t right for me. I told myself it was okay to throw away the current plan, to accept that it wasn’t working and try something new. Indeed, things didn’t change and, almost exactly six months after that first day, I parted ways with the small firm and embraced the uncertainty of my next steps.

Ironically, taking the leap that had been so daunting and agonizing felt so freeing, energizing and RIGHT. For the first time in months, I did not feel panic. I felt calm, in control, and even excited.  I turned to my laptop and typed “Parachute Coaching” on the screen.

When I was ready to leave big law, joining the boutique firm as partner seemed like it would be the perfect next step – or at least a great next step on my resume. By thinking in terms of a “solid” career trajectory first, I had tabled the idea that I had been contemplating for over five years – one that I had promised myself I would someday pursue … starting a professional coaching practice.

I was first introduced to coaching about five years prior when, shortly after returning to work from Lauren Laitinmaternity leave with my first daughter, I attended a firm-sponsored presentation about work/life balance led by a professional coach. I was eager to get some advice on how to manage all my competing responsibilities. I had always been efficient, productive, and motivated, but – with an infant in my life – returning to my demanding job made tasks that had previously been quite doable, daunting and overwhelming. My to-do list had never been so long. I was riveted as I listened to the coach talk about defining goals, following internal rather than external expectations, and focusing on personal values. There was something about the soft intensity coupled with the clear opportunity to help people that made me sure that some day I would be presenting to a group of professionals about work/life balance.

The only question was when.

For years I continued to daydream about who my clients would be, what we would talk about, and what changes they would make. Within days of leaving the small firm, I knew the time was now.

The name Parachute Coaching had come to me immediately. When asked to choose one word to describe myself many years earlier, I had chosen “parachute,” because it is open, colorful, and adventurous. Within weeks, I had launched a website, enrolled in a coach certification program, and signed my first client. Four months later, I had more than 15 clients and had rented professional office space downtown.

“Ironically, taking the leap that had been so daunting and agonizing felt so freeing, energizing and RIGHT. For the first time in months, I did not feel panic. I felt calm, in control, and even excited.”

Once I committed to a career change, I realized this had been the right path for me all along. I am passionate about supporting my clients as they achieve their goals, and in so doing, I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment from having achieved one of my own.

I made a conscious choice to focus on professional women because their advancement in the workforce has been top of mind for me for some time. Confidence is such an albatross for women in the workplace. By focusing on professional women, I can both make a difference in how individuals view themselves but also hopefully make a dent in the confidence epidemic overall.

Lauren LaitinI appreciate all the flexibility of having my own business. I work hard, but I finally have some time for myself.  I can go to the gym, which is something I haven’t done consistently since my first daughter was born. I don’t HAVE to plug in at night anymore, although I love what I’m doing so I often do, and growing a business can be a-round-the-clock activity. My husband will remind me on occasion that sometimes it’s ok to wait until tomorrow.

When my clients talk to me about the “fear of failure,” I remember my own feelings of insecurity and anxiety over making the “wrong choice” when leaving the small firm. Now I know that was the best thing that could have happened to me. Admitting to myself that I was not happy, realizing I had to do something about it, and moving on, was an empowering experience. And most importantly, it makes me much more empathetic and aware of my clients’ concerns about similar transitions … been there, done that.

Tips from Lauren Laitin
  • Focus on what YOU want to do, not what others think you should do.
  • Embrace fear – it can really be a gift; let it motivate you to put pen to paper on what the new opportunity or new business plan could actually deliver.
  • Ask for help. There are lots of resources out there; getting objective advice can be eye-opening, empowering, and fun!

Finding the Sweet Spot for Your Next Career

SNeilsen HeadshotHow can you be sure that the new direction you are considering for your career will work out well for you? Read on to learn a clear and simple method you can use to predict career success in your next act. (more…)

Mastering Your Story: Lessons from a Leadership Coach

Shayna Hammon

I will never forget my first day of first grade in small-town Michigan. I woke up excited to wear my brand new backpack and meet my teacher. Dad walked me to the bus and coached me on what to expect when I got to school. I was bursting with excitement, but my hopes for the year were dashed the moment the bus door closed behind me. As I stood at the top of the aisle scanning for a seat, every single child moved to the outer edge of his or her seat as if to say, “you can’t sit here.” The message was clear: I wasn’t welcome. It only got worse from there as my schoolmates lambasted me with unthinkable slurs. Some kids yelled them out, some simply whispered them under their breath, and not a single soul came to my rescue.    (more…)

How to Counteract your Brain Wiring During a Career Change

stressThere are two important parts to your brain that play a critical role in your ability to change careers. The first is your frontal lobe. This is the place of reason, options, possibility and belief in opportunity. The second is the amygdala, which is where fear and “fight or flight” reactions hang out.

When the brain is confronted with something it fears, your amygdala gets activated. The amygdala’s job is to keep you safe, and career changing is not safe to the brain. Since the brain senses something risky afoot, it will do anything to sabotage you. The amygdala might activate some of your old behavior patters or it might engage you in a way of thinking that counter act your desire for change. (more…)

Ten Ways to Make Your Passion Happen

KathyBrunnerAlthough some people may tell you it takes years to discover your passion, I think it really only takes enough time to develop the strategies to get you on your way. That does not necessarily mean several years getting a degree or half a lifetime learning wisdom.

Here are ten suggestions you can implement NOW towards making today the one that make your passion happen. (more…)

Is It Time For A Professional Make-Over When…

kathy6-300x2231Do you really know when it’s time for a professional make-over? It’s not when you notice too much grey, sagging skin or even a washed out appearance. I’m not talking about the kind of make-over that changes your physical appearance.

I’m talking about a professional make-over resulting in an over-haul of your career or professional life.

Too many people stay in stagnant or dead-end careers for so long, they don’t even believe it’s possible to change anything. Let’s look at some of the signs YOU are ready for a professional make-over. (more…)

Marcia Reynolds: Whose Life are You Living?

Reynolds lightThe day the doctors told my father he could no longer work was the day he accepted his death sentence. He was only 59. He had gone deaf due to a growing brain tumor. Yet the doctors said the tumor was operable. There was even a possibility that he could hear again, but they insisted he stop working. No matter how I tried to convince him that he still had a good life left to live, I failed to convince him. Two weeks later, he passed away.

The crazy thing is that I missed the lesson in my father’s passing. My father could not free himself from the identity of being a successful businessman. When he could no longer hold on to that identity, he quit living. All he knew about life was working hard and being the best. He packed his free time with tasks. When he had to give up his addiction to achievement, he gave up his will to survive.

I didn’t see how much I was like him. The obsession I inherited helped me to be successful and almost killed me too. I worked the night after his funeral, thinking that was what he would have wanted me to do. He wanted me to thrive through my achievements at work. I proceeded to be successful partly for myself and partly in honor of his dreams for me. (more…)

Lori Osterberg: 7 Ways Your Old World Is Telling You To Make Room For The New

Lori Osterberg 2014 (1)

Throughout time, history tells us that the only way to move forward is to persevere. Stay on the straight and narrow path with your eyes focused on the end result; that’s the only true way to find success.

Except of course when it isn’t.

In many cases, the path can be muddled over time. It takes a strong person to notice the path isn’t carved in stone; instead there are exit ramps along the way. If you fail to make the turn, your chances of true success may be limited for life.

Yet seeing the exit ramp and taking it are two different things. Making a big change can be a scary endeavor. How do you know when its time to let go and try something new? How do you know if your new ideas will succeed? So many questions; yet there may be simple ways your current situation is pushing you towards change. But only if you know what to watch for.

  1. You are excited about the “New You”.

    You’ve changed. You’ve grown. Yet people don’t recognize the new you. Instead, they expect what they’ve had in the past; the person you used to be. Even if you attempt to explain your new feelings, your new beliefs, they simply turn the other way and continue with life as usual. They refuse to recognize the new you, and would prefer if you forgot that person too. But you have other plans, because the “new you” is all you can think about.

  2. You love the person you are becoming.

    You used to love your job, the groups you’ve belonged to for years, the regular routines that were always a comfort in your life. Now even getting out of bed is pure drudgery. All of your new thoughts and ideas are exploding all around you, making you excited for what’s in front of you. But looking back at what you’ve had … you simply don’t know if you can survive one more day. It’s the new you that excites you most these days.

  3. Your new direction is more in alignment with who you are meant to be.

    You’re hurt by the littlest of things. Everything that impacts you takes on a life of its own. No matter how small the problem, it quickly escalates in your mind into a monumental setback. You’ve even considered calling in sick and skipping out on things you once enjoyed simply because you can’t bear repeating old things. And in some cases, those “old enjoyments” no longer align with your new views. If people don’t “get it”, it often makes things much worse in your mind than they are in reality; because you know that your new way of thinking is now aligned more than ever with who you are meant to be.

  4. You are truly ready to change your current situation.

    There is no longer attachment to what you do. You question everything. What used to make sense now simply makes you angry, hurt or upset. How could you have ever enjoyed this? You question your judgment over and over again, wondering how you ended up where you are today. You dream about changing your current situation on a continual basis; and deep down inside, you know its time.

  5. You catch yourself living in the past.

    Remember when times were good? You think fondly about days long ago. Yet more than likely, you remember being happy, not about what you did during each of those days. What gives us happiness and enjoyment is enjoying what we do. If you no longer find joy, even in something you used to months or years ago, it can change your perception. Living in the past brings up nostalgia, not reality. And no matter how hard we try, the past can never be experienced through excited eyes again. Instead, it’s time to find that same excitement you had during past great experiences, and project that excitement into your current direction.

  6. You continue to see signs towards your new direction.

    The law of attraction simply states that what you deliver out into the world comes back to you tenfold. What you think about becomes your reality. Where you put your energy is what is delivered to you. Those signs are clear; yet you may be ignoring or pushing them aside.

  7. Your new desires keep you awake at night.

    I know you. You wake up at 2 AM and quickly find a pen and paper to write your ideas down. Hour after hour clicks by while you breathe life into your thoughts, seeing them perfectly as they unfold before you, changing your life once and for all. Then 6 AM clicks and the drudgery begins. You channel your ideas to the back of your mind, until 2 AM rolls around once more. If only there was as way to turn it all around, and have your dreams become the best part of your day.

Do you see yourself in any of these situations? If so, its time to do something about it.

Change is scary. But the rewards can far outweigh the costs of putting change into your life. Yes, your life might be radically different than what it was before. Yes, the people and things in your life may adjust. But if you allow the real you to shine through, imagine the new happiness you’ll have from this day forward.

It makes it all worth it, right?

Lori Osterberg is a writer, photographer, serial entrepreneur and business coach. She has co-founded VisionOfSuccess.com with her husband, a site that is dedicated to helping women define their big ideas, pinpoint their exact target audience and develop a successful profit zone around her. Follow her at VisionOfSuccess.com.

Rebecca Dallek: Moving Past “Stuck”

This week, we feature two stories about women who were somewhat “stuck” in terms of the direction their careers should take. Karen Lehrer reinvented herself twice, moving from fashion to counseling psychology before she finally returned to her passion for design and painting. Erja Järvelä, our first non-US based story to be posted tomorrow, spent 16 years with Finnish mobile telecoms giant Nokia before finding her way to shamanism and a career as an energy healer and health coach.

The theme of being “stuck” has come up a few times in the stories we have profiled so we thought to reach out to Career and Leadership Coach Rebecca Dallek and ask her perspective on the subject. Here’s what she has to say:

Rebecca Dallek“Stuck” is the most common word I hear from my clients. Below I outline the top 10 reasons clients find themselves unmoving when a change is necessary.

  • The crack (I mean the pay) is good. A highly inflated salary can be very hard to leave behind.
  • It is better than it was before. Past jobs were really bad and this one is better than bad.
  • The market is bad so you figure you might as well just hunker down.
  • Inertia. When you work a full time job, it can be hard to motivate yourself to do anything beyond your day-to-day.
  • You don’t know what steps to take to change careers so you do nothing.
  • Changes sounds great but you don’t know what career you want next.
  • There are too many careers and you can’t choose so you don’t.
  • You figure the devil you know is probably better than the devil you don’t know.
  • Your friends complain about their jobs too so you figure it is normal to dislike your career.
  • FEAR is the number one reason people don’t make a career move. Fear can be paralyzing for all of us and keeps us immobilized for years or a lifetime.

If you answered with an “amen” or “that sounds like me” to any of the above, you may want to reevaluate. Remember, we’re working longer than ever before and staying stuck can last a very long time. See if you can prove your stuck statement wrong. Can you find a friend who loves their job or a career changer who walked away from the money and is happier, overall?

Understand that fear is a powerful foe. Break the change into small and manageable pieces. Start with research and information gathering. Eventually those baby steps might turn into a big change.

As far as I know, we only live once. A change is not going to fall out of the sky. You are the only one who will make the change happen. Take any action at all to move yourself forward. Thinking does not count as an action!

For further reading, I recommend Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath

Feel free to email me with questions or comments Rebecca@dallekcoaching.com

Rebecca Dallek: Some Advice on Making a Change

Rebecca Dallek

  • When you are focusing more on fixing your “weaknesses” to meet the needs of your job instead of working to your strengths, it  could be time for a change.
  • When you were a child, you were encouraged to be creative. Open up that space, go back and try to remember those gems.
  • Don’t feel bad that you waited so long to change. There is no time like the present.
  • Fear of failure is a self-inflicted hurdle. Stop making arbitrary rules for yourself!
  • Take the time to reflect, think about what you enjoy at work and at home.  Where do things feel easy and follow that trail.
  • Misery can be a great motivator, when you have a soul-crushing job, the balance has to tip
  • Having a hectic work–schedule can make it difficult to reflect. Be realistic and honest with respect to your resources.  At the same time, career change is work and you need to carve out time for it.
  • Be sure to understand your values and priorities and let these guide your decision-making.
  • Try to avoid the “shiny object syndrome” criteria for decision-making. Let’s face it, most of us will not open a B&B in the South of France. Instead look at the appeal of it and apply it to the career choices in front of you.
  • Talk to as many people as possible about your plans for change, get it out there that you are looking to change and turn the plans into a reality.
  • Don’t let inertia stop you, overcome your fears and move forward.
  • You don’t have to jump off the cliff … You are allowed to take baby steps to reduce the risk.
  • You might need to shift to good before you get to great.  As long as you stay on the road to great, you will get there.
  • Be willing to fail and have the grit to stand back up and try again.

Rebecca Dallek is a Career and Leadership Coach based in Washington D.C.