Non-Linear Career Journeys
So we live in an era now, cause all my career has gone haywire. I was supposed to work up the corporate ladder, I should really have a lot of gray hair, and a corner office, and a bunch of deal toys, and a secretary answering my phone. Somehow along the way I, my career went off on this non-linear path. And I think we also now live in a time, you know, blame it on start-ups, blame it on entrepreneurship, blame it on whatever, many of us want to make our own careers, and we have interests, we have ideas, we have things we're doing on the side, that we want at some point turn into something full-time. We wanna live a different lifestyle, you know, working remotely. One of the greatest challenges for me from not, I mean, I talked about the good stuff from being a lawyer, in terms of the discipline, and the focus, and the approach I take now to my own career network, and the biggest challenge for me, is my time used to be valuable, and valued based on billable hours. If I didn't put in an ...
18 hour day, it was not a productive day. And now I live in a world where, gosh, two hours a day of writing, and I've had a full, productive day, now what am I gonna do with myself? (laughs) And that's been one of the biggest ships for me. So I think more of us are living this sort of non-linear, we're not waiting for retirement at age to start our life. Our life, our career, our profession, what we wanna do, it's all gonna happen at the same time. So you may be thinking, "Well, Kelly, that's great, "that's goal setting, sort of a big picture, "long-term, road-mapping is great if you were a lawyer "working up through a law firm to partnership, "or you wanted a traditional career path." But, as I said, even non-linear careers, you saw that with my own career in when I wanted to change jobs. You need to have a direction. So whether you create a vision board, whether you create what my friend Nilofer Merchant has referred to as the "no fluorescent light bulb list." What do you want from your career? What's, you know, hey, these are the things when I go to an office, or a project, or take on a client, here's the things I want, here's the things I don't want. If you didn't want to go into an environment with fluorescent lights, rights? So whatever way you do it, you know, read Simon Sinek's "Why." What's here? I read his book, I took his course, what's my why to help other people be successful? Once I knew that, I'm like, "God, the career as a lawyer made sense." The career in law firm management made sense. The career doing this start up accelerator made sense, what I'm doing now made sense, because guess what? All those pieces are headed in the same direction. How could I help other people be successful? So whether it's a vision board, whether it's a clear map of you know where you wanna go, right? Figure out a way to figure out what your ultimate destination is, so that your activities, your relationships, the honing of your craft, can start to take you there. So you've gotta have that, so even if you think, "I'm gonna have a non-linear career," you don't get to turn off the course now, and the class now, and think, "I'm done, I don't need her." No, you do. You do, and you stay tuned. (audience laughs) Mm-mm-mm, anyway, one of the examples in the book, Devin Brooks, Devin is start-up founder, she started Blo Blow Dry Bar, so started a category, she exited, she had a very clear idea of what she wanted, of one of the things she wanted to do next, and she wanted to be able to take her experience with marketing, her experience scaling companies, and she wanted to get on the board of a very prominent organization in Canada, where she lives, Futurpreneur Canada, and she wanted to get on their corporate board. And I wanna say that was an ultimate destination, and another sort of, you know, kind of career milestone in her non-linear career that she wanted. And I was really gonna talk to you a lot about that, but guess what, it's in the book. She undertook, you know, you talk about yourself, and she undertook a lot of activities in terms of mentoring, building relationships, taking classes on what it means to be a good board member in corporate governance. She sat on the board of a not-for-profit in Vancouver relating to domestic violence and rape, as a victim of those situations herself, she knew she could bring personal experience, as well as her wealth of contacts to help that local not-for-profit. But she was also doing it to, "hey, I know what my further goal down the road is." She ultimately made it on to the board of Futurpreneur, because there was an opening, and there was an opening on the board that required her skillset. She was a known commodity, and she'd volunteered, and she'd mentored, and she'd helped the executive director, and she'd built relationships with other board members, so when they said, "we have a seat at the table now, "and we need someone with this skillset," hers was the name that immediately came to everybody's mind. But it was like a five year, five-and-a-half year journey. There was no ultimate guarantee, she knew what she was honing. So I was gonna go into Devin a lot, but I got a better example, and I'm excited about this one. So I'm gonna need the stool, and I'm gonna need to call my friend Maxie McCoy, who's sitting here in the front row, which brings me such joy. So, Maxie and I have known each other for a few years, and when she actually said she was taking the time to be here today, I'm like, "you've got a book "that's coming out in August." You're not lost, you're here, with me, it's amazing. And there's a whole lot of Maxie stories that I know, and there is so much, and when we were plotting the class, everything, I was like, this is so much better examples, so that we can actually sit here. It's so much more fun to have real examples, and all the rest of it, so...
But also, as I'm listening to you, I'm like, I've known you for six years. You have provided so much value in my life and, I think I coulda just taken the course. (laughter) That's how much good stuff, and we're only, I don't know, how many? 24 slides in?
I know, all the slides, that's the part that's the scariest for me.
No, this is awesome.
So, we know what you're doing now, but this was an idea that you had many years ago.
Okay, seven years ago, why, okay, let's talk about where you were seven years ago, and why you didn't just do the hail Mary seven years earlier, I'm gonna write a book.
Because I couldn't, but I didn't know that for sure. I mean, I've been a writer my whole life. The first book I ever wrote was The Magnificent Life of Maxie McCoy, in the fourth grade. (laughter) It was...
Is there any parallel to, like, you know, I wanna read that book.
I think I was gonna have four kids by 30, so no. No, no there's not. But I just, I had always been a writer, and I was in a job at the time when the idea for a book really came to me, I was working at a job that just wasn't, it wasn't it, right? We've all made those choices, when we're like, okay, not exactly it. And for me I wanted to go back to, what do I really care about? What energizes and inspires me? You know the first circle that you had up there, what's my goal? I literally, for the first time in my life was like, I don't know. So I looked back, and thinking about, what are the things that have always brought me a lot of energy and pride? And it had always been about writing women's stories. So I took a class, here in San Francisco, actually, at the San Francisco Writer's Grotto. It was cool, it was a non-fiction book proposal class, which, if you want a book, is your first step as we now know. Didn't know that at the time, and there was an agent out of New York who was facilitating it. And so, I was just, I was coming up with the concepts of the book, which was all about women in leadership, women in their careers, the importance of mentors and sponsors, and you know, kind of work-shopping with really other amazing lady writers. And I realized really quickly that I had nothing you needed to write a book, besides the desire. I had no platform, I had zero network or connections. I had no following, I had no credibility. Like, there was nothing that... You know, when the agent started going through, like, here are the pieces that get you a book deal, had none of them, and I was like, okay, okay, I have none of this. This is not happening right now.
But that didn't discourage you, you said fine, I still have this really great desire.
What do I need to do...
What do I need to do, right.
What do you need to do?
Right, so what ended up happening, is I knew, like, that never would have stopped me, I just knew I had a long way to go before anything would become a reality. And one of the women in the class, you know, in terms of when we think about everything that you're teaching us here, that class was such an important step, because I ended up meeting the women I didn't know that I would need. And one of them, Nancy, she came in with the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Business Section, and on it were two founders of a company called Lavo, Amanda Pisho and Caroline Goan, and she was like, "you need to meet these women, "I think they're building a start-up based on "all the principles you're talking about "in your book proposal. "You should probably write for them, "and start building your platform that way." And I look back on that moment as one of those, kind of seminal, life things that happened for me, because I ended up doing a random act of networking.
No, but you knew why you were doing it.
I knew why I was doing it.
So it wasn't random.
It wasn't random, you're right, you're right, but it was a little cold email-ish. Found a man in Caroline's emails on the internet, and offered to write for them, and write about these topics and women, young women, young professionals, millenials' careers. And similar to your story with 85 broads, I just jumped in. Like I was this, you know, the super product user, I was writing for them, I was giving them feedback, I mean, I knew immediately that yes, this is giving me so much fulfillment, it's helping to build everything I need to eventually do a book, and I care about these things, and oh, by the way, I badly want to work for these people because my life turned on. You know, I went from having no idea what I wanted, where what that direction and that goal was, to knowing all of it, in an instant, with figuring out what they were doing. I just never knew the things that I cared about could be a job. And after about four months, they were asking me, like, "Hey we've designed this role with you in mind, "can we build out the global communities?" And then that is where I met you six years ago, because you were my queen mentor on how I was building these communities, and you were helping to build me. And that was the rocket ship that made this a reality, it just, it was it, yeah.
Well, you think about, let's go back to Nancy for a second, think about, you know, who you share a goal with. And go back to where I talked about in the first segment of this class, who's your narrow network?
Who can you share desires with? And it may not be someone that you've known for years, but you've now got this common interest, and this new thing. Vera Lee Crows, one of the other interviewees, and she's got this great career as a tax attorney in one of the big four. When she wanted to explore something new, she's like, I needed a new network, and that new network, because of that shared interest, immediately was like, I've got ideas for you, I've got your back, here's what I can share.
Nancy knew what I was about. And can I tell you that about a year-and-a-half ago I ran into Nancy, hadn't seen her since this class, at BlogHer, and I was speaking at BlogHer. And she was like, whoa, like... (laughter) And I was like, "and I have a book deal." And she was like, "whoa." It was like a really special moment, and I told her, I was like, "Nancy, this all started with you." "Like, you handed me the front page of the newspaper "with them." Like I have full goosebumps just thinking about it. It's crazy. The other full circle moment that happened just to show you how small the world is, is our agent, Brandy, who is the queen, was colleagues... I didn't know this til later, colleagues with the woman who first taught that class that I enrolled in seven years ago, or six-and-a-half.
Who needs Kevin Bacon? (laughter)
Literally, it's crazy, it's crazy. But there's so many parts of that story, like getting involved with Lavo is what kinda started to build the foundation for making it all possible, but then getting, actually getting the book deal, I mean, you were so, there's so many moments when I think about all of the advice that you're giving here, but also that you personally gave me of... That dream, even when I started to have the foundation blocks of platform, and following, and expertise, and oh, right, a good idea, finally, which took time, it required so much help, so much help, and so many people.
Well, a couple of things that are running through my mind, first of all, we're gonna go back to Nancy, Nancy, we're going back to you.
Think about this, here's someone who is now in a very narrow, niche network with you, someone who's sharing these desires with, and what you wanted to achieve, and now she's fallen into this network. And she's fallen into your broad, shallow network, and think about all of our... You know, like a tide. Relationships are gonna do this. Don't, I wanna say, get upset by it, don't, "Oh, I haven't seen Nancy in six years, "I'm sure she doesn't care that I got a book deal." No, she did care, right?
So find ways, this is where this digital era, and social media, and social platforms, why I love them, is because we now have these loose touch points. And because of a shared experience, you know, we can pull people back in, and we haven't lost touch with them forever. You also understood what it took to get into the room. IE, the room of, this is what I really want to do. And it's happened, right? And that's another big thing when I think about our goals, and who can help us, and what we need to do. And that scary part of the tactics, when you know what you wanna do, right? You can understand, alright, this is what I need to do, to achieve this outcome. No guarantees, but I know I'm gonna have better chances of achieving it, by taking these steps. You also said, I'm prepared to do this. And that's also too, when your network, in terms of reputation, right? In terms of their willingness to give you time, that's when your network steps in. I hinted at this earlier. I think our three most, three, not four, three, three, let's learn how to count, three most valuable assets in life. Relationships and reputation, you can grow and build relationships, you know, you can annoy a friend, and hopefully get them back, right? Reputation, you build that. You know, some people who get to resurrect reputations after their reputations have been tarnished. Time is your only non-renewable asset. And it's the only non-renewable asset that anybody else has. Why are people gonna give up their time for you? Giving up a contact name is easy, giving up time is hard. And those things are all connected. So when you think about why people wanna help you, think about those three pieces. Someone might feel like they're the right person who has the right contacts to open the door for you, and you used to, maybe you used to know them once, but why do they wanna give up their time? What have you done for them? How have you been there for them? How have you lived your life on that daily basis, that they say, you know what, I'm gonna bet all these things and take the time to do it, because I believe in you. And I think that's you know, I think we overlook that piece of our own commitment a lot. In your commitment to improve your craft, to do what it had to take, to be realistic, it just, it's really part of the story.
It take some time.
Oh my God, tell me about it.
It takes so much time, but I also think that, I mean, you are so right in that, I think if I had asked for the connections for my book, I knew that the women in my world had them. I knew you had them. The people that ended up really coming through for me, on getting me into an agent, looking up my book proposal, doing all of those things, if I had asked any earlier, like a year earlier, two years earlier when it was starting to bubble, I don't think I would've gotten the same reception. So I think you're so right in knowing that you have to know that it's the right time, that you're gonna run through the door that they have opened, because they madly believe in you. And then that also helps you believe in yourself.
Oh, makes such, like such a big difference. And that piece on timing is right, it's also, what can I give them, so that I can actually hand off, you know the right pass, so that I can get this touchdown, you know, with their help? But also knowing when's the right time, because of what's going on in their life. And you know, it was like I wanna say, it was such absolute joy for me, knowing you were gonna be here today, because this was a commitment, and a commitment of time. And I know what point you're at with all of this. Been there, done it. (laughter) didn't look as calm and poised as somebody else does right now at this point.
I'm not, I'm freaking out.
But, I know, and so that was a huge, like, oh my God.
We can do this.
But someone else is making this commitment in helping me be successful. So, thank you. One of the other pieces, because this is, and we're gonna talk on this more, peer networks. Think again, go back to where I started network, and we're always thinking it's somebody up here, right? Networking's 360. And you really, your peer network was really vital, just talk about that for a second.
Yeah, I, thank you for giving me the space to talk about that because, I, you know, the you and the Tiffany's of the world that have paved this way for me have been amazing. And, you helped me get over some big roadblocks, and then there were these other very large roadblocks like, how you build a following, and starting my writing to begin with, and then media, there were all these other things that were needed to get a book deal that really came from my women, and my just, community of deep friendships. You know, Carly Heitlinger, who is the college prepster, now Carly the Prepster has this massive blog, and she was like, right on my sight. So I've been writing on her site every other week, that is how the internet found me. You know, when it came to building press, there was a woman that I met who, we just like, vibed, had a phone chat one time, six months later, she calls me and says, "are you free this summer? "I wanna put you as the face of a, literally, "fortune ten company's campaign, please say yes." And that got me every media hit under the sun. And then when it came to connections, and all of the things, you know, needed to say that I can get this book sold, Jaclyn Johnson, the founder of Create and Cultivate, had put me on every stage, you know, in front of every brand that my company could make money. There was just all these women are within, younger than me, within a couple years, and we knew each other six years ago. None of us were doing what we're doing now. So it's like, Jackie has told me this, the founder of Create and Cultivate, "Look around at the women, and be in the hustle with them, "because you never know where you all are gonna end up, "not ten years from now, two, three." And they were the people who opened so many doors for me, in conjunction with the women I had, and so I think it requires all the pieces.
I love that.
Stories that I didn't know, so thank you for that, but it's the yeah, like, how do you show up? Because you weren't showing up saying, "Oh gee, I'm gonna hang with Jackie, "because she's gonna do this great thing, "and she's gonna be like, this honcho, "and I wanna be with her." You were like, who are people of your values?
Yeah, who's not only just flat out fun. And again, doing things just because, you know what, it's the right human, decent, kind thing to do. And it may lead to something extraordinary, like this.
Like, deep friendships have gotten me the farthest. Just deep friendships.
You didn't even know where we were goin with the class, and you've just set me up so nicely. (laughter)
Thank you, for this, thank you for this. (audience applause)