my career shift

I grew up with a father who hated pretty much every minute of his working life.

Resources were very scarce for my dad when he was a child. He worked extremely hard to make something of his life, and when he found himself a job that paid well and had stability, he was not going to do anything to risk losing it.

While the rest of my family understood where he was coming from, it was hard to deal with his irritability and unhappiness and it really made things at home difficult. I remember my sister and I vowing to never stay in jobs that made us miserable; that it would never be worth the money. In the early part of my professional career, I did a good job of trying jobs out for a year and if they weren't a good fit for me, I would move on. I learned how to repackage my skills and experience for a different line of work, and as a result, I was able to try out many different types of roles across a number of different industries. Once I found my groove in marketing at an exciting internet startup, I felt like I had finally found my happy place, and had it all figured out.

Then the unexpected happened.

I suddenly got laid off one day, and it rocked my world. I applied to hundreds of jobs in the six months that I was out of work, and landed only a handful of interviews. Half of the people I knew were also unemployed and competition was fierce. I had my MBA (and the loans to show for it!) and couldn't even find an unpaid internship, and my confidence was really shattered.

A former colleague put me in touch with the sales manager of a local TV station, and I met him for an informational interview. He didn't have any job openings at the time, but he allowed me to come in and spend a day in the office, job shadowing his sales people. I was glad for the opportunity to network, but couldn't envision myself in such a role. A few months later I got the call that they had an opening, and who was I to turn down a job? I had tons of graduate school loans and my rent to pay. So I took the job, telling myself that I would only stay there until I found something better.

Not for a single day did it feel like the right fit for me, but once I got the hang of it, I found the work to be pretty easy, it paid well and I liked many of my colleagues.

Maybe you can guess what happened next...I stayed at that company, in various different sales roles, for over 9 years, and in the industry for 12! I hung on until I just couldn't do it anymore. By that point I was totally exhausted from climbing the corporate ladder, I had a ton of stress from the long hours I was working and pressure I was under to make my numbers, I had two young children at home that I rarely saw, my relationship with my husband wasn't great, and I had a very unhealthy lifestyle which included lots of wine, late night dinners and little to no exercise.

I remember being on the train home one day and thinking, "I can't believe this is how my life ended up. Is this really it?" and feeling a tremendous sense of disappointment in myself and despair.

I was considered very successful on paper- I was a VP, running a pretty large sales team, responsible for millions of dollars- which sounds great, but I never got to see my kids and I didn't feel that the work was meaningful, so I felt like a complete personal failure. The thought of quitting occurred to me, but it felt like I was giving up, and it seemed very irresponsible to me. I knew I needed a change, but I had no idea what to do or how to do it. So I made the life-changing decision to hire a coach.

I couldn't envision doing anything else. I had lost the confidence and skill I once had to re-invent myself for a new opportunity and felt totally stuck. My coach didn't have a magical cure for my problems, but she assured me that anything I gave attention to would grow. I hadn't done any work on my career in years, and for that reason, nothing had changed. I had gotten promotions and grown in responsibility, but I hadn't figured out what I really wanted to do with my life. It took time and a lot of soul-searching to figure out my next career move, and I made some mistakes along the way (like starting a jewelry-importing business only to realize that it wasn't what I was looking for), but I was making forward progress and knew that if I kept working on it, I would eventually figure it out. Which I did.

One day it occurred to me that my whole life had led to this point, and that I was especially prepared to help other people who were also stuck, to find the courage to change their unhappy work situation.

I spent my entire childhood feeling the negative consequences of an unhappy career choice, and I was very sensitive to the fact that it really can affect your family. I had stayed in a career that was a good fit only for financial reasons, and just like my father, I had brought my unhappiness home to my kids and I was terrified of them continuing that cycle. I had failed numerous times and I was ready to get back up again.

Looking to find a meaningful career that would give me more flexibility and time with my kids, I took the bold step to enroll in a personal coaching certification class. The following year, I left my corporate job to dedicate my life to helping others find meaning and purpose in their lives, both personally and professionally. It's been over five years now since I left corporate America to lead a life more aligned with what I value most, which includes spending more time with my family, less stress, more focus on my health and relationships, and work that I find rewarding and purposeful.

The corporate world is not structured to make it easy for dual income parents to "have it all."

At some point in many people's lives, usually after having kids, they realize that something has to give. In my case I walked away from my old career completely, but it wasn't a career I ever felt was the right fit anyway, so it made my decision a little bit easier. I know how difficult it is to work so hard to be successful and to leave a known career trajectory for something more risky. But life is about living and making bold choices, and if you're not happy, it will catch up to you at some point. If you are sensing that point in your near future, or are already there, I'd love to talk and see if I can help.

Tracey GutierrezMy Story