We spoke to Kristen Walker on 11.2.15 about everything from career, free time, and passions. Kristen is the co-founder of Clarity on Fire, a website and career coaching service that helps people discover the right job for them. Check out her story!
If you could only give millennials one piece of career advice what would it be and why?
I’m going to make it two pieces in one because I can’t just do one. First of all, it feels like a really heavy thing to figure out what your passion and purpose in life is. I’m kind of stealing this from Elizabeth Gilbert who I heard talk recently and who I think is so brilliant and I’ve been using it with a lot of my clients. She says instead of trying to figure out what I’m passionate about, what’s my one passion and purpose in life - that's really loaded and you’re not going to come up with an easy answer to that. Instead, don’t focus so much on following your passion, follow your curiosity, what you’re interested in, what your fascinated by, what you’re drawn to, and it will probably take you through many jobs. Maybe they’re in totally different fields but they will probably end up linking together and there is probably going to be a common denominator. I know that was true for me. There was always something underneath which for me was promoting self-awareness and consciousness and fulfilling passionate life through coaching, through writing, and through speaking. It took on a lot of different faces and it probably will for most people. But you start to see patterns once you follow your curiosity. But that’s a lot more accessible of a phrase than “follow your passion”. The other thing that I think that is really really important is instead of focusing so much on what is my passion or what I want to be doing, the thing you need to ask yourself is how do I want what I love to overlap with my career. Because I found that for a lot of people it shows up so differently.
What is your favorite part of your job?
The freedom. I can choose to not leave my house all day if I want to. Or I can go work with a friend for the day. I get to decide where I put anything on my calendar. And beyond that, I love the really really awesome people that I work with. Sometimes I’m astounded that my clients are paying me because of how much I enjoy it and that I get so much out of it too. They have know idea how many insights and how much energy I get out of just working with them. I’ve had several clients who have turned into friends. But seeing the transformations from start to finish, I can’t imagine anything more fulfilling.
What is the most challenging part?
I bet any entrepreneur would agree with me when I say that it’s not a stable paycheck or schedule. You are not only in charge of performing the service for your clients but you’re in charge of all of the business stuff too. It’s definitely a lot of things that I never thought I would have to know and its unpredictable. So some months we’ll maybe have a program launch and make quite a bit of money and then I don’t know how long its going to last. The first year it was really stressful, it stabilized out a bit but entrepreneurship in general is just unpredictable. I've had to learn to deal with a little more risk than I am usually comfortable with but it's worth it.
What was your education like?
My education has little to do with what my current business is. I went to school for English and Psychology because I’ve always just loved writing so I just figured I would do something with that one day and I’ve always been really fascinated by psychology. A few years out of college I realized I was bored out of my mind doing some boring proposal writing gig at a big corporation, not the kind of writing I envisioned myself doing at all. I got a totally separate certification in life and career coaching about three years ago and that is kind of the foundation of my business now. I still do a lot of writing because one of the ways my business partner and I market our business is through our blog, we blog twice a week. It kind of ended up all working out just not in the way I originally envisioned.
How did you start your career?
Like I said, after college I got a couple of different jobs in just the general copywriting, proposal writing world and I was bored out of my mind. I personally was not built to sit in a cubicle and stare at a computer for eight hours. That’s not my version of freedom and I started really questioning what am I doing, why am I here, what is the point of this. What is this going to look like in five years, ten years, and I kind of just panicked. I distinctly remember one day staring at my computer in the same cubicle and I was like oh my god, I could keep doing this forever if I don’t say something. So that’s when I really started to think okay, what else could I possibly do? And for a while I thought well I love writing, not the kind of writing that I’m doing in this job, but I love writing, and I’ve always been really drawn to psychology and self awareness.
I looked into therapy graduate programs. I applied to several and I remember getting my acceptance to the one I thought I wanted and I felt a pit in my stomach. I couldn’t really explain it I just knew that somehow that wasn’t right; I knew that I wasn’t supposed to do that. And it was around that time when I started hearing more about, learning more about, and exploring life coaching. Before I made my decision about grad school I hired a coach myself. Sort of to see what it was like but also I needed coaching, I didn’t know what to do. It was almost immediately clear that that was it. That’s what I thought therapy was going to do but in actuality it was much closer to what I wanted. So I started my coaching program about three years ago and I’ve been doing this business for about two years full time.
Do you have any coaching success stories that resonate or inspire you?
Oh my gosh, so many. I have had any combination of things you can probably imagine. One girl in particular was in a really boring desk job; she had a law degree, and completely hated it. She was also in a really unhealthy unstable relationship with her boyfriend at the time. She felt like everything was falling down around her and nothing was working so we coached her for a few months and at the end she had broken up with her boyfriend, quit her job, moved to a different city, enrolled in design school, met a new guy and is now engaged. Her life doesn’t even resemble what it looked like before.
You say that there is a process to finding your passion, how did you realize this?
The process kind of created itself. It’s really organic. It was more like my business partner and I were taking people inadvertently through this process so we kind of thought, why not make this more official? We kind of found more by trial and error than anything else, that there are four really key things that you need to keep in mind in order to figure out what you love, what’s most important to you, who you are at a deep level, and how that connects to the career that you want. So first we have to figure out what are your beliefs. Most people have a lot of beliefs that are restricting them from even pursuing or considering options. It could be about the world or about themselves but they limit themselves with their own beliefs. The next piece is what we call your desires. So this is when we figure out who are you, what do you value, what do you love, what energizes you. It could have to do with your career and it could just have to do with your life in general. The next phase is that now that we know who you are, we have to talk about the real world stuff like money. How are you going to either turn your passion into your career or find a career that you enjoy but really that supports your passion outside of work. How are we going to connect what you love to what you do in the world? And then the last stage is action. What are you going to do with all of this now, what’s the plan, where are you headed. So it makes sense, you can kind of see how all four components build on each other and you couldn’t miss a step because something would really be missing.
How do you think your life would be different if you had received your own advice when looking for your first job?
I feel like I had to have the level of contrast in the cubicle panic attack and the little moments in order to even pursue something like this and understand what people are going through and help them through that. If I had understood that from the gitgo I would have just had this amazing career without knowing what to look for and what not to look for early on. And I wouldn’t have had those years of misery in jobs that were totally not suited to my personality. So, I wouldn’t have had the contrast.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
Every day is a little different. I try to have between eight and twelve, hour long, coaching calls each week and I try to block them on Tuesday through Friday. I never have more than four calls in a day, I’ve learned that that’s my limit. I don’t work eight hours in a row ever without a break to go take a walk or read for a while. I’ve learned that I can probably work for two-hour chunks at a time and then I take a break. I think I probably work four to six hours a day, which is perfect for me. I’ve learned that I’m one of those people who require a lot of freedom and autonomy and if my schedule gets too packed I start to rebel.
What is something you do in your free time?
I totally just love reading a book with a mug of tea or binge watch Netflix shows. One of my favorite things is getting together with three of my coaching friends for the day and just hanging out and talking about life and sharing everything. I love to be outside and go for a walk in nature and do yoga and barre classes.
Apply Kristen's experiences and advice in both your professional and personal life. Take an inventory of what is and isn't working in your career and try to pinpoint the reason. Do you have enough free time? Are you utilizing a skill that you are particularly good at? Are you exploring your curiosity? Be honest with yourself, make the appropriate changes, and career happiness could be just around the corner.
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