Michelle Ward




NYU's Tisch School of the Arts - Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater

International Coach Academy - Certified Professional Coach

Have you ever struggled with that question, "What do I want to be when I grow up?" Maybe you have in the past, or maybe you are right now. When Michelle Ward asked herself that question, the former aspiring actress realized she wanted to help others find the answer to that question — as her very own career. So, 10 years after receiving her theater degree she became a certified professional coach and started When I Grow Up Coach LLC. But Michelle isn't like most career coaches. She's someone on our level, who speaks like us, is true to herself and wants to help each person she works with find — and land — the job of her or his dreams. She also enjoys dark chocolate, Judge Judy and her man.

Taking a baby step every day builds a strong foundation. Trust yourself.

How did you discover your current job?

I wish I could tell ya how I heard of life coaching, but, um, I can't. I really don't remember who first told me about it. All I know is that I heard of life coaches and immediately thought, "How awesome!" and "That's for hippies!" all at once. It took some real digging on my part to try and figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up before I realized that I could be passionate about being a life coach. That trumped that fear I had that people would think I didn't shave my armpits because I was a life coach. When I started taking classes and thinking about what I wanted my niche to be and who I wanted to work with, I lit up even more: I can help creative types like myself figure out what they want be when they grow up -- just like I needed to do in my mid-20s when I realized I no longer wanted to pursue acting as my career. I now help others figure out the career they think they can't have, as well as actually discover what that could be.

What is your typical day like? What types of things do you do in your job?

Well, on an average week I have about a dozen coaching sessions, one call with my collaborator-in-crime, two to four consultation calls and a Skype call or in-person meeting with a friend/colleague. All of that is kind of spread out, so each day looks different based on what I have on the books. In addition to that, I make sure at least three blog posts go up each week, write a newsletter at least monthly, contribute to guest posts and interviews like this, stay active (and valuable!) on Twitter and Facebook, do lots of follow-up work for my clients ... and then I usually work on one or two non-client projects at a time. I've written a book proposal (and am working on another), run workshops, speak and wrote a rhyming (!!!) career change workbook -- all that good stuff. What doesn't change is that I never start coaching before 10 a.m. (and am usually at my computer working closer to 9 a.m. each day), and I never finish later than 8 p.m., but sometimes I start later or end earlier depending on what I'm responsible for that day.

What is the most rewarding part of your job? The most challenging?

Well, you reminded me that the most rewarding part is that I'm the boss. I can instantly decide what my next project is, or that I want to stop working Sunday nights (which I did recently), or that I want to put a blue streak in my hair (which I'm considering) -- and I can do it. That blows my mind after working corporate jobs for so long. The most challenging is definitely stopping myself from overworking and burning out. Man, it's tough to walk away when you're the only one responsible for your salary and when you don't have a trillion dollars to hire everyone else to do everything for you. I do have a virtual assistant who is my savior, and as my business/salary grows, so will how often she works for me (insert evil laugh here).

What is the biggest personal sacrifice you have to make because of your job?

Oh, my social life has definitely taken a hit. Because I work until 8 p.m. or so at least two to four nights each week, I miss out on lots of fun stuff -- friends in shows, birthday parties, networking stuff, the works. I'm an uber-extrovert and thrive on the relationships I have, and so it's really tough for me to say "no" to stuff that I really want do. It's part of the reason I stopped working Sunday nights -- more gets planned then than you'd think!

What is one lesson you've learned in your job that sticks with you?

To own my uniquity (which is a word I made up, but that's part of my uniquity, so I use it). I actually learned that as an actor. It took me years of auditioning to have the lightbulb moment that the more I put myself out there as the funny, loud character actress (which I always got cast as) from the beginning -- starting with my headshots and bleeding into how I dressed and the material that I auditioned with -- the more appointments and callbacks and jobs I got. I knew I couldn't ignore that lesson when I started my coaching business, and I had to hold tight to that perspective while I heard feedback that I wasn't "professional" enough for people to take me seriously. I honestly trusted that "my people" were gonna pick up what I put down, so I kept to my casual writing tone, the word "amazeballs" and my quirkiness. Hallelujah and amen -- it worked!

What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?

Putting themselves first. I'm a recovering people pleaser and would always put everyone's needs and wants and feelings before my own. It was a long road to realizing that -- dare I say it -- I'm the one I need to take care of the most. My first life coach reminded me that when you're hearing the safety spiel on a plane, they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on before you help anyone else. The image of being passed out in the aisle because I helped someone else before I helped myself has stuck with me, and makes it easier for me to put myself at the top of my priority list (if not always first). And I'm not even a mother myself! For those that are, I think this is tenfold.

Who are your role models?

So many bloggers kept me sane when I spent 40+ hours each week in my cube (for 2 years and 7 months) while getting certified and building my business. Seeing/reading/meeting women like Jessica Swift, Danielle LaPorte, Carolyn Rubenstein, Jessica Constable, Naomi Dunford, Keri Smith, Kelly Rae Roberts ... they've all contributed in a major way in leaving Corporate America and being where I am now.

What are some of the rules you live by?

Claim your uniquity. Surround yourself with supportive, positive people. Learn to say "no." Celebrate often. Find -- and pursue -- your passion. You're the only boss of you. Don't waste the pretty. Taking a baby step every day builds a strong foundation. Trust yourself.

What advice do you have for girls who want to be in your industry?

Make sure you want to be an entrepreneur as much as you want be a life coach, because you can't do one without the other.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

In a similar place, just on a larger scale. Definitely with at least one full-time employee, definitely as a published author and experienced speaker, definitely still coaching (maybe less frequently and in various formats), definitely with a house (I'm in an apartment now) and my husband (he's not allowed to go anywhere without me).

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I think you covered it. I love these questions! Oh, maybe to hop on over to my site for lots of resources and helpful posts and blah blah blah. And don't hesitate to utilize my Contact Me form. I'd love to hear from you!