Brianne: You entered the workforce, like many of us, intent on climbing the corporate ladder. You’ve since left the corporate world to become an entrepreneur, launching HerExchange and Spark. Can you tell me about that moment when 9-to-5 just didn’t feel right anymore?
Stephanie: It never quite fit. From day one. I didn’t have a sense of direction and what my alternative to the career I was in would be. It wasn’t until I had clear professional direction, an understanding of my of strengths, abilities and passion, along with financial security, that I was ready to take the entrepreneurial leap and start my own business.
B: How far into your career were you when you had this realization?
S: About seven years. They were difficult years, because I was in a career that “didn’t fit,” but looking back, they were critical. Without that journey, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Hindsight is a beautiful thing! I want everyone to hear and know that where you are today is NOT where you have to stay for life. Your career is not a life sentence. You have options. Loving your career is possible.
B: Speaking of a career feeling like a life sentence, how did you feel every day when you went to work for those seven years? What was that moment where you said, “I can’t do this anymore,” like? How did it happen?
S: I dreaded Mondays and prayed for Fridays. My greatest frustration was feeling “stuck.” I knew very clearly that I wasn’t professionally happy and it seeped into other areas of my life, but I didn’t know what else to do. I know so many women that feel that way right now; today.
There was a day in 2009 that was the last straw. I came out of a difficult meeting with my boss, sprinted to my office, closed the door and shades and cried. I cried like a baby! That was a turning point. The best motivator for me to get clear on what was right for me.
I got busy that same day on discovering my path. My spark!
B: How did you begin? And how do you recommend someone takes that first step if they want to break out of what feels like their career rut?
S: Step 1: Find your spark, or the fulfilling career path you’re meant to be on. This doesn’t always mean an industry change. Often women are in the right industry, but in the wrong position or with the wrong company. So, whether it’s a full 180 or a small shift, it’s finding the path that aligns with your whole life.
Step 2: Ignite your network. In today’s economy more than ever, it’s definitely about who you know. Start from scratch — or learn to work the network you have — to get your foot in the door.
Step 3: Revamp your resume. Write the resume that gets you noticed.
Step 4: Perfect your interview. Your dream employer is definitely going to be calling, so be ready to interview with confidence and polish to get the offer.
Step 5: Negotiate like a pro. Having a dream career is even better when you’re paid what you deserve!
B: So, with this idea of knowing you wanted to leave, what advice would you have for a woman who’s on the fence? Maybe she likes her job well enough, but something about it doesn’t feel right.
S: Take stock of your whole life. Step back and spend time understanding what doesn’t feel right. Is it your career? Is it that other areas of your life are being neglected and that’s seeping into your professional satisfaction? Once you’re clear on if it is your career that needs some adjusting, step back and decide what tweaks need to be made.
It’s very possible to stay in your current career and make tweaks. If you’re unhappy with your work/life balance, then analyze where you can make adjustments, how you can make it work without affecting the bottom line of the business and then present your full plan to your supervisor. This is key. Employers are not interested in discussing how you feel. Employers are bottom line-oriented. If you can create an actionable plan that doesn’t affect their bottom line, but meets your needs — meaning greater employee satisfaction and longer employee retention for your employer — then it’s far more likely you’ll get what you want.
Small changes can greatly impact your professional joy!
B: So, say you do know you want to leave, but you can’t necessarily afford to without a lead. What steps can you take while still employed to get to the next chapter in your career?
S: Save the stress and conduct your career search from a place of power; power meaning you are still employed and not panicked about money and willing to jump at the first offer! People will spend 5 million minutes working over the course of their career. Make them count. Start fresh today.