this episode, Nicole and Marina interview their first guest of the podcast, career expert Serena Johnson. Nicole, Marina, and Serena talk about job hunting, career pivots, and what a dream career looks like.

Right now, as we face a continuing global pandemic, everyone is at a weird point because the world is at a weird point. We figured, now more than ever, we could use some clarity, so we brought in our friend and career expert Serena Johnson. She’s a feminist career coach whose focus is helping people find their dream careers.

Serena is the founder of Ladies Who Do Cool Shit. She helps Feminists who are asking themselves “how do i get out of this job” or shouting “get me out of this job!”and gives them the tools to find clarity, confidence, and actionable steps to make a career change. 

Marina worked with Serena at the beginning of 2020 in a group coaching setting, now works with her one-on-one, and found working with her on her career goals and her vision for her life instrumental in making the steps in the right direction.

For example, while Marina has her MFA and has been freelance writing on the side for years, never before working with Serena did Marina realize she a) wanted to be her own boss and freelance FULL TIME and b) she wanted to write and publish a novel, or more, and that now was the time to be working on it.

Marina lost her full-time job because of the Covid-19 Pandemic, and was dreading starting another job hunt. Working with Serena helped her find the clarity for what she wanted, the confidence to do what she wanted, and the steps on how to do it. 

And Serena, as someone who got a degree in something and then immediately after graduating pivoted to a different career, and then after a few years made another 180 degree pivot, she’s seen it all! 

Most of our GenTwenty readers are in their 20s and are focusing on beginning and building their careers, and/or making career switches after they’ve realized they’re not happy in what they’re doing. Some readers are also still in school or pursuing higher education and trying to figure out “what’s next.”

Serena answered questions for us about how you can re-envision your career. 

G20: What does it mean to find your dream career?

Is that even possible? Most people I know are unhappy at their jobs, and it’s hard to imagine anything will change with the way things look now. 

Serena: It’s a loaded term, for sure. Your dream is going to change, and for our generation and future generations, the idea that you’re going to have one career for your entire life is no longer a realistic idea for most people. Sure, some fields, like the medical field or in the sciences see more longevity in a single career path, but really most people are going to have on average 7-8 different careers and 15 different jobs in their lifetime. So you need to get good at understanding what you want out of a career and how to go for it.

To find your “dream” career, it’s not a thing you identify, it’s a part of yourself that you identify. I use what I call the Career Compass which is composed of your strengths, your core values, and your non-negotiables around work. When you identify these three key areas, you start figuring out what fits you to help you thrive, rather than fitting yourself into a specific job title of a career path. 

G20: Going off of that, can we talk about non-traditional career paths?

For example, Marina has three brothers who all have been at the same companies that hired them before they graduated, and they’ve grown and developed within the companies over the past ten years. As for Marina, she has been all over the place and had so many different jobs,  and it was hard for her not to compare.

Serena: It’s so easy to compare yourself to what you see in other people. And it might be a great fit for them, but you don’t have to fit yourself into a traditional career path if you don’t want to. If you do want a traditional career path, great! But if not, it’s ok to go your own way. That decision has to come from what is true to your core rather than what you think you should be doing. It’s a subtle shift but it’s so important to own what you actually want to do, and to know it’s ok if it doesn’t match what they always thought they’d originally do. There’s a “sunk cost” fallacy that we tend to have that tells us we’re starting over at zero if we change our minds and switch paths. But really, you’re building upon the experiences you’ve had, so you never start over at zero. Your experience never goes away, you take it with you.

G20: What advice do you have for people who might have that “sunk cost” mentality or who are afraid of giving up everything they’ve worked for so far but are really unhappy in their jobs and want a change?

Serena:  Get rid of the idea that you have to have a “dream career.” And DON’T go on job forums and start mindlessly scrolling. It will deplete you. Instead, stop and take a step back. Asses for yourself and let’s get back to the career compass I talked about earlier. Ask yourself what are your strengths? And strengths aren’t so much skills but the things you naturally gravitate towards. For example, I’m always good and gravitating towards building relationships. Think about what energizes you, what activates you, not what depletes you. It’s important to understand where you thrive and where you don’t thrive. Think about your work flow, and when you last did something without looking at the clock or taking a break, because you were enjoying what you were doing. That’s a flow. Now, apply that “flow” idea to where you feel activated most in work, and that’s where you want to start. 

Ask yourself what are your core values? If you are passionate about environmental protection or minimalism, you won’t be happy working for a company that promotes fast-fashion and bulk shopping. Finally, what are your non-negotiables. Do you hate to drive or sit in traffic? Then taking a job where you have a two-hour-long commute will destroy you. Do you need X amount of money to pay your bills and feel comfortable? Then you can’t take the job that “sounds good” but is 10,000 less than the salary you need to live on.

These are all things that are important to you, and taking the time to figure that out first before you start applying and before you make the leap is SO IMPORTANT. And it’s STEP ONE. Don’t stay in the safe but miserable zone. Do this work, because you will end up with a different result and it will be a happier one.

If you come from a place of authenticity, people will see, hear, and meet you where you are. If you don’t believe yourself, others can’t, so you need to figure out who you are, what your identity is, and own it. Know that it can and will change, and embrace it. When you come from a place of authenticity, you are living your truth and everything will begin to connect. You are in control of your career and every step you take.

Note: Some answers have been edited for clarity or brevity. Listen to the full interview here.

Want to learn more about Serena Johnson and work with her? Head over to her website for more information at Ladies Who Do Cool Shit.

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