Ever feel like you're stuck in a hamster wheel with your career? It's time to break free! I'm John Neral, your guide, sharing my personal journey of leaving a traditional job to build my own coaching practice. It's a story of growth, challenge, and transformation. As we look back, we can learn a lot about the power of passion and the courage it takes to find a job you truly love.
But embarking on a new career path is not just about making a decision; it requires careful strategizing. Drawing from my own experience, we delve into the importance of a well-crafted exit strategy, from organizing your professional responsibilities to fostering a positive reputation. We also look at the power of presence in our careers - how our actions and attitudes can shape our professional journey. I'll share practical tips on networking, public speaking, and personal branding, all aimed at taking control of your career GPS. Remember, it's your journey - let's make every step count!
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Six years ago, I boarded a plane that would take me from Chicago to Washington DC, where I would get my car, drive to the office and quit my job. Getting to that decision wasn't easy Honestly, it was about a year in the making. But when I left that office and drove home, I exhaled loudly and confidently that I was going to do something bigger than I'd ever done in my career. Had it not been for that experience, you and I would have never met. So if you're considering leaving your job and wondering what your next step might be, join me on this stroll down memory lane where I'll share with you what I did well and what I would do differently if I could do it all over again, as I was building my mid-career GPS so I could find that job I'd love. Let's get started. Hello, my friends, this is episode 205 of the Mid-Career GPS podcast. I'm your host, john Nerill. I help mid-career professionals who feel stuck, undervalued and underutilized show up to find a job they love, or love the job they have, using my proven four-step formula. Now, if you're new to the podcast, you may not be familiar with my story, and if you've been with me from the beginning or a while, there's going to be some parts of this story you have not heard before. So I had a 25-year career in education. I started off as a middle school mathematics teacher in Northern New Jersey. In 2010, I made a huge career pivot and moved to Washington DC where I took a job for the District of Columbia public schools, managing 21 instructional coaches across 13 middle schools. After 14 months and a reorg, I left that job and went to go work for the state superintendent in Washington DC. I always have to say this even though DC is not a state, it was structured educationally like it was a state. So I went there and I worked on the assessment team where I oversaw the math and science assessments for our nation's capital. And after 14 months there, I went to go work at an educational nonprofit which worked with state departments of education to write their large-scale summative assessments for kids K through 11. And I was there for five years. I did some content work, I did some client work, but my primary role there was as a training and staffing director for an 85-member team and it was that job where I left after spending an entire week with our team in Chicago that I absolutely adored and loved going out there to work and spend time with them. Chicago is, hands down, one of my favorite cities. I have not been back in a while and I am putting that on the calendar for 2024 to get back there. And I left that job and quit it because that was an opportunity for me to open my coaching practice full-time. Now, if you have been a part of any kind of nonprofit corporate organization, things happen in government as well, but I find not as frequently or as much. We went through a couple of reorganizations. Admittedly, during the second one, I didn't land well. Now, by that I mean this I was regarded well, I had a good reputation, but I was doing work that wasn't the primary driver that was bringing in a lot of money into the organization. So, while I knew I was valuable and there was value to the work I was doing, the bottom line was I just wasn't in a role that was exceptionally visible. And so when we reorg the second time, I got moved to solely focus on onboarding and it was something I had been doing. But admittedly, I wasn't real crazy about it because what I wanted to do was bring an internal coaching program into the organization. Now, what I have learned and what I've known in that time was that that wasn't a primary focus for executive leadership. We were in a growth phase it wasn't something, as I understand it, where they wanted attention, and so what they wanted was they wanted someone to focus more on the training and onboarding that ultimately led to greater retention. So great work, love that part of it on many levels. But when I say to you that I felt undervalued and underutilized, like I do in the podcast introduction, I felt that I felt like I had so much more to give and I couldn't do it there. And I remember, about six weeks prior to my departure, that I had walked into a conversation with my vice president, to whom I reported to, and I asked her very directly if I was right in believing that my career path there was horizontal I wasn't at risk of getting fired at that moment, but that if I really wanted to do the work I wanted to do, it wasn't going to be there. And I remember she looked at me and she said to me you know, john, you're very smart and we had a really good moment at that point, because I think I said something like you know, it's not just a pretty face, there's some brains behind it and when we laughed about that as well. But it was validation. It was validation that what was keeping me up at night and what I was worrying about was true, and so I always appreciate that conversation because I got the information I needed to know where my decisions needed to be made. I could absolutely have stayed, I could have done the work or I could have stepped out and during that time I had been working on my coaching certification. It was about a year-long program for me to get it and I had gotten it and I was starting to do some coaching part-time, after work and I found myself going to work realizing I was being pulled. I wanted to do more coaching and I couldn't do it in my nine to five the way that I wanted to. That was going to make the biggest impact. So, after getting everything in line business-wise, to step out of that organization, I gave four weeks notice. Now I will share with you that when I gave the four weeks notice, it was with a caveat which simply said look, if you want me gone, now I understand. And my VP, who was absolutely wonderful, she said no, we got to do some transition planning and stuff and I had been putting some of that together, which I'll tell you about in a moment, but it was nice to be able to take that month to just wind down. So this is a difficult time of year for a lot of people, aside from the holidays and the stress and how people look at the holidays as either a joyful or a sad time, depending on your circumstances. We know there are people out there that are being laid off or let go, or they know the writing's on the wall, and that can be particularly difficult. So I just want to pause here for a minute and acknowledge that if you are in that kind of situation, I want you to know I feel for you and I'm here for you and I've got something for you. So if you're trying to get yourself organized about all the things you think you need to do for your job search, I've got a free resource on my website at johnnarrowcom. It is called the mid-career jobseekers checklist. It's a fillable PDF that you can go through of all the things you can be doing to help start building your mid-career GPS and get things in order. So you have a resource that I know works. It'll organize your thoughts and you can get it on my website at johnnarrowcom. You can also check the show notes or the featured section on my LinkedIn for that. So it's my gift to you. Please check that out. And also, if you're thinking you might be making a jump in 2024 somewhere, get the guide and by all means use it and let it help you. So I shared previously about taking that time to start building an exit strategy. Here's the thing we don't always hear people talk about If you're thinking you're going to leave your job, more than likely you've already started to build an exit strategy. There's the exit strategy for you to get out and there's the exit strategy for you to start transitioning your work. One of the things I was doing was making sure that on our share drives and our intranet that I was uploading and putting things there with procedures and information and slide decks. I recently heard from a colleague of mine that they had dug out a training that I had done on giving and receiving feedback and use that as the anchor to put a new training together around feedback. It warmed my heart in some ways to know that my work is still being used there in some way. But you build that exit strategy very quietly. More than likely you're talking to your spouse, your partner at home, some close and trusted friends. For me, I was having a lot of conversations with my coach at the time about how I was going to navigate this. I was part of a mastermind. We were talking about it in there as well. But one of the other things that I wanted to get clarity around was my reputation and my brand, because I knew those were things I was going to take with me into my business. Now, when I talk about going into my business, that was a very intentional decision because that was the next move I wanted to make. But if I was moving into another job be it nonprofit, government, corporate education, whatever it may have been I would have been doing the same thing, right. The thing of it is that in making that transition and building that exit strategy, I was thinking how could I make this as smooth and easy as possible so that when I'm gone, everything's in order? That's what caregiving, big-hearted, centric professionals and leaders do. We try to fix things, we take care of things, we want to make sure everything's in order, and you can imagine that, even though I knew I was leaving, I was still spending a lot of time trying to make sure everything was in order, and I did that. For this reason, when I left, I left with a lot of gratitude. That doesn't mean I left a perfect organization with incredibly phenomenal leaders and every single colleague that I enjoyed working with Because from my lens that was not the case but for how I wanted to show up, it was important for me to leave with gratitude because I was going to close that door to open another one, and it was so important for me when I thought about and committed to the mission and vision purpose of my business, which was I had an opportunity to help more people outside of that organization than I could inside of it. So I took that gratitude as a driver for what I was going to do. Was I angry or upset or disappointed on some level that things didn't work out the way that I thought five years prior when I joined the company? Absolutely, you go through that grieving process and that bitterness, anger, disappointment, but you find a way to work through it and that was important for me to go ahead and do and one of the things I gifted myself in that process. So I left on December 1st. I launched my coaching practice. On January 3rd, I gave myself an entire month off and we were in a financial situation where we could do that. But I was also being like, look, let's save up some money going to go ahead and do this. So here's what happened in that month. I left my job on a Friday. On Sunday, I boarded a plane with my best friend from college, who I still talk to and email every day and see her a couple times a week. She had a work trip out in San Francisco. She's like do you want to tag along? So I did and I got to spend some time in Northern California and walking around. We would meet up for dinners in the evening. We saw some of her family Great time I come home, I'm home for a couple of days and then I went off to a resort for five days, four days, just to go and do nothing, walk around, pamper myself, sleep, take it easy and I'm not one that usually travels alone like that. But that was so important for me to do because I felt like I needed time to just start peeling back those layers of everything I had been through in the process and get myself ready for launching my business on January 3rd. Well, january 3rd came and I've never looked back. Next year will be my seventh year of business and I look back on the people I've had an opportunity to coach. The people whom I've met and had conversations with that never hired me as a coach, but we're still connected because they're like John. I remember that conversation and I want to connect you to so-and-so and they've become great referral partners. I never thought when I launched my business I would launch not one, but two podcasts. So I had a podcast in 2020 called Show Up 2020. And I ended that podcast in December so I could launch this one. And now, with over 200 episodes and all the guests that I've had an opportunity to speak with, that to have an opportunity to come into your life every single week and share information to help you build your mid-career journey is something that was so foreign to me. I never would have thought of that. I didn't think of it when I left my job six years ago. So what would I do differently? And this is a question where I always come back to it this time of year because it grounds me in thinking about business development and planning for what's going to be next. So there are a few things I would have done differently. The first thing is I would have made more content, and by that I mean I would have blogged a little more. I would have absolutely posted more frequently on LinkedIn and even more specifically especially now, the way the algorithm on LinkedIn rewards you for it I would have engaged with more people on LinkedIn. I would have taken time to build my network more quickly and intentionally, because, in my mind, what I was thinking was I'm going to leave the job and then I give myself permission to do everything I need to do for my business. Well, sure, there were times at nights and on the weekends, but look, we all know this, when you're working a full week and you're working in a place where a 40 hour work week is a treat, you don't really have a whole lot of time at the end of the day, especially if you've got kids and family members and commitments and responsibilities. So for me, in my mind, it was I needed that clear break. I remember running some metrics on where I was spending my time and I was like, well, I can probably devote about 25% of my energy to building my business, but if I quit my job, I can do it 100%, and then some. So, taking time to be a little more active on LinkedIn this is one of those things that I hear from you. I hear from people I work with and I talk to. They're like oh, I'm afraid somebody's going to find out or I'm afraid somebody's going to know. I'm looking and I don't want to optimize my profile all that much. Look, if you're looking to play differently on LinkedIn, optimizing your profile is something you need to be doing anyway. If you don't have testimonials and recommendations on your LinkedIn, you need to be giving them in order to get them, but you absolutely should be having recommendations on your LinkedIn. If you don't have an about section that clearly and accurately describes the work you do, who you are, and a little factor tidbit about yourself, you are missing a tremendous opportunity. And if someone's going to fault you for that and they're going to say, oh my gosh, you're updating your LinkedIn profile, are you going to leave? You've probably scared them a little bit. I'm not saying you should scare them like that in that way, but if that's a byproduct of you advocating for your professional brand, I'm going to tell you I don't think that's such a bad thing in my opinion. So those are some of the things I would have done to help me increase my visibility. But here's one other thing when I look back, I often wonder if I tried to make it work too long but at the same time I was allowed to exit on my own terms and timeline. Sometimes we stay in jobs a little bit longer than we planned because we know we like the people we work with, there's some amount of safety. That's there. We know we're getting a paycheck, we know how to do the work and change is difficult. So staying there a little bit longer than maybe I should have or thought about okay. But I will always be grateful for my leadership, for allowing me to do my job. That was adding value, but also for me to exit on my own terms. That I will always be thankful for. But at the end of the day, everything's worked out. Ultimately, I really wouldn't necessarily do that much differently than what I did. And so coming to you now and having this opportunity on this platform and to work with the people I get to do, and looking at 2024 as an opportunity to do more trainings and workshops and public speaking and digital courses and things like that that are all going to be part of what John Narrell is putting out there time and time again. I do that because of this very reason. I left my last job, because I had an opportunity to help more people outside of it than I could inside of it, and I don't show up and play full out to honor that goal, that personal and business mission that I have to help more people than I've ever done in my life. I'm not honoring that decision to leave that job and start my business. So this podcast is one way that I get to do that, and so, as you're thinking about wrapping up 2023 and getting into 2024, I want you to be able to answer this question what do you need? Notice, I didn't ask you what do you want? What do you need? What do you need to figure out your next professional step? What do you need to improve a certain area of your career? What do you need to be a better leader than you already are? I want you to think about what it is that you need. I can help you with that in any way. I am all for it and I am here to help you do that. If you're ready for coaching, I want you to go to my website. There is a spot on my website to book an introductory call. It's a 15-minute call. We're going to talk about if coaching is the right fit for you, why coaching may be helpful for you, and if we think it is, we're going to have another call. Right, but I want to take some time to get to know you. So if that's of interest, go to my website at johnnarrellcom. You can see the spot to go ahead and book that call. And additionally, don't forget to download the mid-career jobseekers checklist. That is my free gift for you. That is there and available to help you get organized. But wherever you're at in your career, if you are thinking about making the leap, know that it's possible. You do not have to launch your own business like I did, but you may jump to an organization you've dreamed about working for. You may know somebody that you have always wanted to work for and now may be the opportunity to do it. If you are working in a toxic situation and you can't wait to get out, I hope you are taking care of yourself and doing what you need to do to protect yourself at work and, at the same time, put things in place for you to strategically and successfully move out of that organization and into a job that is a much better fit and an organization that's going to respect you. As I always say to you, my friends, remember this you will build your mid-career GPS one mile or one step at a time, and how you show up matters. Make it a great rest of your day. Thank you for listening to the Mid-Career GPS podcast. Make sure to follow on your favorite listening platform and, if you have a moment, I'd love to hear your comments on Apple Podcast. Visit JohnNarrowcom for more information about how I can help you build your mid-career GPS or how I can help you and your organization with your next workshop or public speaking event. Don't forget to connect with me on LinkedIn and follow me on social at JohnNarrowCoaching. I look forward to being back with you next week. Until then, take care and remember how we show up matters.