This week marks 10 years since I left full time employment in the corporate world for good.
I really can’t believe it’s been 10 years.
Going back to March 2011….
My now-hubby and I, were headed off for our destination wedding in Thailand, followed by our honeymoon in Italy. Ahh remember those long gone days of travel?
I’d been offered a sabbatical by my employer and whilst I knew (and said) I wasn’t coming back to my real estate strategy role, I was still gratefully exploring alternative options within the Investment Bank.
Even though so many good things were happening in my life (getting married, being able to travel for 3 weeks and be truly disconnected - bye bye blackberry (gah remember those?!) and still having the safety of being on sabbatical) I was riddled with anxiety, stress and uncertainty.
Constant thoughts riddled my mind….
- How do I decide what to do next?
- What if I get this wrong?
- What will people think?
- Am I throwing everything I’ve worked so hard for, away?
So many of us crave meaning and purpose but question if it’s actually possible in the midst of real life practicalities like paying a mortgage, rent, bills and children to look after.
I’ve made so many mistakes along my 10 journey to figuring out my path and purpose and equally made some amazing decisions that I’m really proud of.
This week I want to share with you the 10 things I wish I knew when I was leaving corporate all those years ago.
Well, as Steve Jobs says:
“You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”
If you’re questioning if you’re on the right path and if what you’re doing (aka your career) is really it, I want to share with you the dots I’ve connected looking backwards since 2011.
Let’s dive in!
10 Things I Wish I Knew Leaving Corporate For Good
Making the decision to leave the corporate world behind wasn’t easy.
On the outside, my career was awesome. I was working in my dream role. I worked in Real Estate Strategy at an Investment Bank which meant I had the ability to:
- Learn about different markets in Asia
- Present to senior leadership
- Pull together projects
- Be supported in my role
- Develop my skills in the area of real estate a field I’d always been super curious about
On the inside however, I was a hot mess.
- A people pleaser driven by my fear of not being smart or good enough.
- A workaholic who used my work/career to prove to myself that I could achieve hard things and be successful and independent.
- A yes woman who didn’t want to let anyone down because I thought I had to do more than everyone else in order to keep up.
- A disembodied woman who lived solely in my head, ignoring my body’s nudges that I was burning out and doing too much.
Looking back over my journey since leaving the corporate world behind I’m so glad that I had the courage to figure out my path and my purpose. I’ve learned a lot along the way and I’m excited to share more with you here.
Side note: If you want to read more about the triggering moment where I knew I was on the wrong path, you can check out my previous blog post on the 3 Career Mistakes My Career Crisis Taught Me over at: https://siobhanbarnes.com/the-3-lessons-my-career-crisis-taught-me/
Otherwise, let’s dive into the 10 things I wish I knew when I left the corporate world behind for good.
Thing #1: The way to more meaning and purpose in your work doesn’t have to mean starting a business
When I was in my corporate job I thought that quitting the 9-5 was the answer and the only path to freedom.
I used to dream of joining a yoga class in the middle of the day, setting my own hours, swapping my crisply ironed work shirts for lululemons….
“Well what business do I want to start?”
I reignited a childhood dream and decided to follow in the footsteps of my childhood hero Anita Roddick, Founder of the Body Shop.
Yep, I’m serious.
As a 10 year old, I thought I wanted to grow and be just like her.
Making delicious beauty products from raw materials purchased from communities in 3rd world countries (who needed the income and could also benefit from this way of doing business).
I thought this would satisfy my interest in healthy products, the environment, creativity and ethical business.
But the truth is, switching out the vehicle for your career (corporate, entrepreneurship, artist, freelancer etc) isn’t the answer….
Not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur. There are a multitude of ways of figuring out what your soul aligned career is.
I wish I knew….
- That finding more meaning and purpose is an inside job
- It’s more important to figure out your natural soul talents and intuition to figure out your next steps
- That not everyone is cut out for entrepreneurship
- The best place to start is to connect to what matters to you individually
To help you with this
I created a Soul Archetype Quiz to remember who you are, really. Beyond your experience, work title and what you do.
The truth is, there’s no one in the world quite like you. You have a unique soul archetype that you’re here to express in the world.
Find out what your archetype is, so that you can build on your strengths, be more of who you really are and do more of what you’re here to do.
Thing #2: Be specific on whose advice, guidance and support you receive to figure out your career next steps
When you’re sure you’re in the wrong spot, it can be so tempting to look for a solution. A guru. An expert. Someone who knows better than you and can tell you what you “should” do.
About 3 years into my career, I wasn’t sure if I was really on the right path.
And so I seeked out support and worked with a traditional career coach.
He ran through my Harrison Assessment with me to interpret my strengths and potential career paths that suited my personality.
You know what my top options were?
Whilst I was grateful that these were specific options. They were so freaking different and not interesting to me. And only left me feeling more confused.
This well meaning career coach only made me realise that I had a lot of digging to do so I just stuck with my job and got on with the task at hand: working hard and working my way up the ladder.
I wish I knew….
- There are many different supports out there around career and purpose
- That getting support beyond just the mental realm of strategy and analysis is important
- People will have their own agenda, philosophies and rules for what to do based on what they value and deem important: be conscious of where someone’s advice is really coming from
Thing #3: Feeling unhappy, unfulfilled, or unsure about your career path is normal
Honestly I felt like a weirdo for feeling unhappy with my career.
I was very lucky to have great jobs at great companies and I felt bad that I didn't feel more connected or satisfied with my path.
When I dug into the career and life purpose coaching world I realised that most people actually feel this way.
According to a Gallup Study on Employee Engagement (that I’ve been tracking since officially starting my business in 2014)...
Only 35-39% of employees are engaged in what they do.
Engaged meaning: those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.
I wish I knew….
- I was in good company feeling the way that I did
- That there was nothing wrong or inherently bad within me -- this feeling was actually my intuition talking to me and telling me that something had to change
- There are season for life, some you are alive, connected and passionate and other times are for introspection, reflection and a time for change
- No one can define the season for you, you have to be savvy enough to discern where you’re at and whether you’re really meant to “stick it out” and persevere or make a change
Thing #4: You are not defined by your role, title or corporate persona
When I left to get married and go on honeymoon I felt anxious and full of self doubt because I wasn’t sure who I was anymore.
If I wasn’t Siobhan O’Brien working at Goldman Sachs, then who was I?
Deep down I questioned my value and worth as a person….
I kept thinking:
- Who am I without this role and title?
- Do I matter anymore?
- Am I irrelevant?
- How do I go about introducing myself now? (Gosh this one seems so silly to share but it was true for me at the time)
The truth is I had my sense of self worth wrapped up in my identity as a corporate woman that I didn’t realise that my self-worth didn’t really come from there. It came from me as a human being.
The truth is we all intrinsically are worthy.
I wish I knew….
- I wasn’t alone in equating my corporate identity with my self worth
- That most of our fears come back to worrying if we are inherently “enough” -- including those who are at the top of their game -- think olympic athletes, models, directors, leaders etc. (Credit to my teacher Marisa Peer who shared this in her Rapid Transformational Therapy program that I completed in 2017)
- That truly healing and upgrading from this BS belief of not being “enough” is critical. In fact it’s integral to claiming what career path feels right and true for us
- Unless we step into our inherent enoughness and “worth” then the decisions we make are being made from a place of lack and we subconsciously make choices that we think that we “should” instead of what is truly “aligned” for us as individuals
Thing #5: There are deeper seated forces at play that you’re intuitively picking up and that explain why you’re not happy
The more I journeyed into my coaching path and supported clients with their own career challenges, I realised that many women are unhappy in their work because of a deeper seated force that most of us don’t see.
This deeper seated force plays out across different cultures and different countries in nuanced and subtle ways...but nevertheless the premise is similar….
I call this force: The Perfect Woman Imperative
This imperative says that we have to:
- Act perfectly
- Show up at work perfectly
- Parent perfectly
- Balance our health and bodies perfectly
- Look perfect
- Be, do, have all the right things in the right amounts - never too much or too little.
Look at any women’s glossy magazine and you can see the impossible bind that we’re all aspiring to as women (aka perfection):
- Nail the effortlessly cool look of the season
- Get rid of frizzy hair for good
- Land that promotion
- Find the perfect little black dress for your body type
- Turn things up in the bedroom
- I can go on...
I write more about in my post The Real Reason You’re Not Satisfied with Life + Work which you read about over here: https://siobhanbarnes.com/the-real-reason-youre-not-satisfied-with-life-and-work-what-to-do-about-it/
The deeper challenges that make up the Perfect Woman Imperative are:
- Productivity culture which has us work harder and numb out our true feelings
- Patriarchy which has us striving and proving that we’re enough and on par to our male counterparts
- Disembodiment which has us disconnected from our bodies focused on what we can achieve and conquer rather than be and feel
I wish I knew….
- That this imperative even existed and that I was putting too much pressure on myself to do all the things and be all the things which was just an impossible standard to try and reach
- That reclaiming who I really am and what matters to me as an individual is THE most important work, not just strategy
- That my body is my friend and has all the guidance I need
- To question what I think and believe as gospel and challenge who it serves to think that way
- That slowing down was the best way to speed up my journey and get the clarity more quickly
Thing #6: Self doubt and imposter syndrome comes from trying to be perfect and do the right thing. It’s so much easier when you are yourself and trust in your innate abilities.
In my corporate career, I spent an extraordinary amount of time and energy worrying about whether:
- I was doing things the right way
- Presenting in the right way
- Tackling a problem the right way
- Networking strategically and in a smart way
The belief underpinning this doubt, worry and incessant thought loop was: I wasn’t smart or experienced enough to do the job.
Trying to be perfect and do things the right way robbed me of my own wisdom and intuition and ability to trust that I was handling my work in the “right” way.
Ultimately it’s not about being perfect or doing things the right way.
The journey to saying goodbye to self doubt and imposter syndrome is to come back home to who you REALLY are.
I wish I knew….
- Your career is not something to be isolated from the rest of your life. It’s interconnected to who you are as a sovereign person
- Taking the time to come back to your strengths, gifts, talents and desires as a sovereign person is a foundational step to deciding which way to go and also a good north star for navigating your own soul aligned career
- We are all enough!
Thing #7: You can earn money doing what you love
Oh this one is a biggie! Starting out in my career always had the idea that you either do what you love OR you make money.
The two felt mutually exclusive.
But this could not be further from the truth. Since embarking on my journey I can see how you can absolutely earn money doing what you love and that it’s not only for a select chosen few.
I wish I knew….
- That it’s possible to make money and do what you love
- Following your heart first and getting your mind on board second is the way forward to figure out your Soul Aligned Career
- Not everything has to make money, some things can be for a career, other things can simply be a hobby
- That beliefs about money are real and limit what is and isn’t possible for us as individuals
Thing #8: Studying and getting a diploma, degree or further education isn’t the right first step to making a career transition
When I transitioned into my initial business idea of starting an organic skincare business I thought the best place to start was education.
And honestly it was a very costly lesson which is why I’m so passionate about sharing it with you here now.
I mean that’s what we’re taught right?
Now obviously there are some things we have to study in order to be able to perform the role.
- If you want to be a doctor, you’ve got to study medicine
- If you want to teach at a primary school, you’ve got to study early years education
- If you want to be an accountant, you’ve got to study accountancy
But our default go-to path of: Education First, Experience Second; isn’t always wise.
After having made the mistake with my cosmetic science diploma and organic skincare business idea...
I decided that my newfound idea (coaching) was my new direction. Instead of studying though I wanted to test it out first BEFORE investing in pricey coaching training programs.
So I found 3 practice clients and coached them simply by following my intuition and essentially winging it.
Note: Before I did this, I was 100% transparent that I wasn’t a coach yet and why I was doing this and I also didn’t charge.
I wanted to get tangible experience of what it was like to “do” this before spending money. I was pregnant at the time with a 1 year old in two and after wrapping my calls at 9pm I was buzzing with energy and excitement. Having the experience of joy and elation after “doing” the coaching - I knew I was on the right track.
I then went into coaching knowing I was on the right path and my coaching training was money well spent.
I wish I knew….
- The first step to a new career direction isn’t about studying and getting further education (I’ve heard many people enroll in expensive MBA programs because they think it’s the answer….)
- The real first step is to do the deeper enquiry work on what makes you uniquely you and redefining what matters most in your career
- Then testing out your idea upfront to make sure it’s wise
- This is what I teach in my signature program Your Soul Aligned Career and why I’m so passionate about incorporating soul searching and sensible strategy. You can check it out over at: http://yoursoulalignedcareer.com/
Thing #9: Deep dive soul work on who you really are, what you value and what motivates you is foundational for ANY career path that you choose
Building on what I just shared above, we have been taught a set way to success.
We define it by the money we earn, the level of seniority we hold, the assets we have…..
Whilst being able to support ourselves financially is important...it’s not the be all and end all metric for success.
We’ve got to look at not just what we do, but how we “be”.
- How do you feel in your day to day?
- Are you connected to a greater sense of meaning and purpose?
- Do you feel like you’re getting your needs met?
- Are you making decisions in your life and career that align to you as a person so that you can sleep peacefully at night?
I wish I knew….
- Self enquiry work isn’t indulgent or a waste of time, it’s necessary to getting clear on the game I want to play and the goals I want to achieve
- That everyone is here for a reason and it’s not just what we “do” it’s how we are, the energy we bring to the room
- That it’s so much easier to be ourselves than try and perform a role
Thing #10: A key way back to your path and purpose is re-sensitising and trusting your body and intuition
As I mentioned before, I was a disembodied woman in my corporate career.
I squashed down feelings of tiredness, anxiety and stress and did whatever I could to soldier on.
I felt like I needed my body to perform so that I could achieve instead of honouring my body and her limits.
I didn’t realise that learning to come back to the body isn’t just wise, it’s essential to have the energy to show up to work, be guided on the right next step and to access the truth of how I’m feeling.
All those feelings are just guideposts back to where I’m “meant” to be.
We experience everything in life through our bodies.
Cultivating a relationship with our bodies and truly feeling hte full spectrum of everything is a skill and being able to FEEL is essential to truly feeling fulfilled and on=purpose.
I wish I knew….
- My body is my friend and ally not something to war with
- My intuition resides in my body
- That the body holds so many answers to the questions I’m asking
- I’m capable of feeling pleasure, joy and fulfillment as well as meeting my pain, dark and shameful
- My body is my home
There you have it, 10 things I wish I knew when I left corporate for good.
Here’s a quick recap:
- The way to more meaning and purpose in your work doesn’t have to mean starting a business
- Be specific on whose advice, guidance and support you receive to figure out your career next steps
- Feeling unhappy, unfulfilled or unsure about your career path is normal
- You are not defined by your role, title or corporate persona
- There are deeper seated forces at play that you’re intuitively picking up and that explain why you’re not happy
- Self doubt and imposter syndrome comes from trying to be perfect and do the right thing. It’s so much easier when you are yourself and trust in your innate abilities.
- You can earn money doing what you love
- Studying and getting a diploma, degree or further education isn’t the right first step to making a career transition
- Deep dive soul work on who you really are, what you value and what motivates you is foundational for ANY career path that you choose
- A key way back to your path and purpose is re-sensitising and trusting your body and intuition
Before you go I’d love to know:
- Which of the above is landing for you the most?
- What is it specifically that you’re going to remember as you go forward?
Leave a comment and let me know. I’d love to hear more!
Do you want a Soul Aligned Career?
If you’re desiring to step into Your Soul Aligned Career by implementing the lessons above and what to find your way come and check out my signature program where I guide you on each step of the journey.
The program is designed to help you get crystal clarity on your unique talents and package them into a soul aligned career “next step” that lights you up from within….without sacrificing stability (or doing anything hasty like quitting too soon).
You can read all the details over at: http://yoursoulalignedcareer.com/
P.S. If you have a friend or colleague who is stressed, unhappy or frustrated in her career and could use this post, please feel free to copy and paste this article to forward along. I’m passionate about women no longer suffering in careers they don’t love...and remembering why they’re here!
P.P.S. If you want support to map out your Soul Aligned Career, make sure you check out my signature program. Your Soul Aligned Career is the program to help you get crystal clarity on your unique talents and package them into a soul aligned career “next step” that lights you up from within….without sacrificing stability (or doing anything hasty like quitting too soon).