How To Make Your Career Dreams Come True
I’m in a reflective mood this week – partially because it’s finally raining in California (yay!!!!), and partially because this is the anniversary of my move across country from DC to SF.
It happened three years ago, but to me it feels like three lifetimes.
Relevant sidebar: I went to the University of Virginia for my undergrad, and it was founded by Thomas Jefferson. When Jefferson died he wanted to be remembered for three things on his gravestone: 1) Author of the Declaration of Independance (naturally – I mean, who wouldn’t want that?). 2) Author of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedoms, and 3) Father of the University of Virginia.
Not being President. Not being Ambassador to France or Secretary of State. Not the Louisiana Purchase. Interesting to think about what’s important – no?
Jefferson inspired me. Starting my coaching practice was my first step, but my move west was a tangible promise to myself – that I would stop limiting my career and life dreams, and instead walk my own talk.
I wanted to create a career that made me proud, so that when I looked back I would have made both an impact and a life. Mostly, I wanted to focus on what was important.
As I look back over the last three years, one of the things I’m most proud to have created is Career Camp. I’m not TJ and it’s not the Declaration of Independance, but it was transformative weekend for the folks who attended. And not to sound too cheesy, but for me it was a dream come true.
I’m not going to talk about what Career Camp is all about – you’ve heard that before. What I WANT to talk about is how I made that career dream happen for myself. How did I get a bunch of women to fly across country (and the Atlantic) and spend the weekend with me working on their careers?
Why? Because if I can do it, anyone can. Especially you.
So here’s the process I used, that I want you to steal next time you find yourself daydreaming about what you can do in your life.
Step 1: I declared it. Out loud. To other people.
Career Camp didn’t start out as Career Camp. In fact, the first time around it was a very small 4-5 person event idea that I called Career on Fire. But it actually started out as a toast.
Three plus years ago, I was at a business retreat talking to my partner in crime, Jodi Flynn, about how great it was to get away to California and work on the coaching business, instead of being IN the business all the time. We were joking about how wine + sunshine makes everything better, and I said to her that I wanted to create something like that retreat for us and others. A chance to get away and work on the stuff in your career that really MATTERS instead of just the 9-5.
We looked at each other and said something like: “As soon as we can do it we are coming back to California and making magic happen.” Then we clinked wine glasses.
Making that statement out loud helped me focus my energy and my thoughts. I didn’t go home and start working on the idea right away, but I did file it in my mind and when opportunities to learn came up, I took them immediately.
Step 2: I learned more.
I am a master facilitator and trainer – so creating weekend workshops is an area of strength for me. But hosting a career event involved so much more learning and growing. I had many questions: How to make it transformative and engaging (instead of one big speech + networking slamfest). How to enroll people to attend? How to set up the website to be informative and pretty? How to talk about the event given that it was SO much different than anything else out there?
I started talking to other coaches who hosted events about how they did it, their advice, and pros and pitfalls. Most of my research happened organically – but I found that because I had declared my intention, I kept *somehow* stumbling into helpful people :).
Step 3: I tested the idea.
Remember my awesome career retreat in Costa Rica two years ago? No? Probably because I canceled it :). In a rush to make a career retreat happen I threw up an information page and started circulating the idea.
Because I was rushed (and not 100% focused), my ideas weren’t very clear and the page didn’t get a great response.
But it did help me think through what I was doing and become much more clear. Writing up what the event was about, researching hotels and venues, talking about my ideas with clients …. it sharpened the saw and my takeaway was that my foundational idea of a career conference focused 100% on career change was solid. But I needed to get clearer on the details, the budget, and the process if I wanted to pull it off. Also – I needed to have more time to focus.
Step 4: I started small.
I spent another 8-9 months refining the idea while I continued to serve my clients. I also got clearer on the risks, the process for enrolling folks to join, and the right people to attend.
I didn’t change my business, or quit doing anything. I decided to start small, and I created Career on Fire for my current private clients. I had a cap of 5 people because I wanted to be able to coach everyone 1-on-1, and I put together a detailed information deck for folks who I thought needed to be there.
I committed to doing Career on Fire no matter what, and I threw myself into spreading the word. I set aside 2 months to do no new projects and just focus on this event.
It worked :). I had 4 lovely women join me and Jodi last year for an event dedicated to passion.
I walked away thinking – YES. I want to do more of this.
Step 5: I dreamed bigger.
This time around I attended a few new conferences and got excited by all the different events out there. I knew I wanted to reach more people and build a bigger community focused not JUST on passion, but on all aspects of career fulfillment.
I started calling the project “Career Camp” as an internal name. And somehow it stuck.
I wrote down my goals for the event “1,000 people!” “Sponsorship!” “Action-plans!” “Wine!” “CAREER TRANSFORMATION.”
After that I paused and thought about the women who I wanted there and what would be best for them and their careers. I wrote down the things, based on my experience, that would help them the most.
“Small groups” “no sponsors” “definitely action plans” “wine won’t hurt” – and by doing so my thoughts on what the event should be became more clear.
Step 6: I got laser-focused.
This time around I actually set aside even MORE time for this project. I’ve learned the hard way that the less you do, the more you accomplish. There’s some truth to the fact that busy people get things done…but I think that focused people are actually the ones who really hit career home-runs.
I knew that if Career Camp was going to happen, I needed to devote some time and resources to making it happen. So I delayed a few RevClub projects, I blocked off time on my calendar, and I dug into the work.
I got stressed out at times. I got worried at other times. But I kept coming back to my core dream and philosophy: This was what I wanted to do and this was also the best way to serve my clients. Expert coaching + community + getting out of the routine IS the fastest way to career change. I’ve done the work, I know this to be true. I needed to honor it.
Step 7: I went all-in.
A lot of time we don’t make a career change because of the millions of doubts and fears – some valid, some not – that plague us. So we play with the idea of career change. We stick a toe out but we never commit.
At some point you have to commit if you want change to happen.
So, I committed. Someone asked me: “What happens if only two people attend the conference?” and I said: “It’s going to be the best two-person conference on the planet.”
I decided I was doing this no matter what, and so all I had to focus on what making it happen, not worrying about IF if was going to happen.
That freed up the hamster that powers my mind to spend its energy on what mattered – because the rest is just bulls*t (that’s for my career campers out there – you know who you are!).
This is a long post. But I wanted to write it because you CAN create and do what you want. It will take time. It will take effort. It may not look exactly like you planned – but making your career dreams come true is work worth doing. I had no idea three years ago that I’d be where I am today. I sometimes can’t believe where I am today. I LOVE where I am today.
Please go and work on where you want and deserve to be. If I can do it, so can you.