85% of workers worldwide admit to hating their jobs when surveyed anonymously, according to a Gallup poll released in late 2017. Yet, many of us tend to stay in our jobs and careers, thinking it’s too late to make a change. I am here to tell you – it’s never too late! Dare to be happy and bold. You can change your career at any age.
Here to inspire us on this topic is our newest Executive Author – Stephanie Hellman. Stephanie is an inspiring, authentic leader with 20+ years of experience working for Fortune 50 companies, including Wells Fargo, Citibank, and American Express. In late 2017, she made a courageous decision to leave her corporate career to find fulfillment and a more meaningful way to contribute to this world. Her stories are an inspiration to me and I think will be to us all.
I am pleased to share my first interview with Stephanie on
- What is her definition of success and has it changed in the last 5 years?
- What led her to this dramatic decision in her career?
- What does she do for work now?
- What advice does she have for others who are at crossroads of their career?
Lei: Stephanie, thank you so much for your time and letting me share your stories and learning with our reader. Before we get into these questions, can you share a little of your background?
Stephanie: Sure, glad to be here. Thank you for the opportunity to help others through your blog.
I fell into the financial services sector at the age of 24 without a lot of intention. One of first roles out of college was administrative assistant at American Express. For 22 years I worked my way up the corporate ladder working for Fortune 50 companies to lead marketing channels, CX and product teams and enterprise-wide initiatives. I have a bachelor degree of history from UC San Diego. Last year I graduated from CBA’s Executive Banking School and also became a certified mindfulness trainer. I live in the Bay Area with my husband and 3 kids.
Lei: What is your definition of success or career fulfillment? Has it changed in the last 5 years? What changed it?
Stephanie: The definition of success has definitely changed for me over the arc of my career.
- In my 20’s I was extremely motivated to “succeed”. That meant be a high performer, move up the corporate ladder and be recognized as a leader. I see now much of this drive was subconsciously to gain my parents approval and fulfill on a very stereotypical norm of earning money to feel valued.
- In my 30’s I grew as a leader and felt much fulfillment from helping others develop and grow and from working on teams which delivered large scale projects.
- In my 40’s I began to question if I was in the right industry. I enjoyed the people and the relationships around me and led some very interesting and complex initiatives. A strong connection to the work was missing for me.
There was always a consistent voice inside. “Was it enough? Would I be satisfied at 65 years-old if I stayed on this path?” I knew I was yearning for more personal fulfillment connecting me to social issues and began engaging with several non-profits as well as internally leading a Diversity and Inclusion council. These engagements including traveling to India and Dominican Republic for service trips helped me realize I am happiest when I am directly working with others to make an impact.
I now define success by living in alignment with my values and how am I contributing to making the world a better place.
Lei: I know you made a pretty dramatic decision in late 2017. What led you to making to this decision? What were the tipping points?
Stephanie: For a combination of reasons, I got to a place where I no longer felt I could be an authentic leader at my last company. I was becoming distracted at work and wasn’t sleeping well at night. I was experiencing fear and anxiety associated with leaving my job but my heart was no longer in it.
As a mother, it is of paramount importance for me to be a good role model. When my 11 year old daughter held up the mirror and asked, “Mom why are you working there still? You’re not happy. You always tell us to follow our dreams and listen to our heart.” I really began to start tackling fears and get serious about creating positive change. I knew I had to take action and break out of this cycle of unhappiness.
Since making the very difficult decision to leave I enjoyed (finally!) having the spaciousness and the energy to explore curiosities and passions I’ve had on the backburner for years. I read and networked a ton. Attended conferences that interested me on social enterprise. And ultimately these experiences brought relationships and roles though which I have gained both wisdom and happiness. There is no question the decision to leave was the right one.
Lei: Wow, that’s an amazing perspective. Glad to hear you are enjoying life and work again. I know you have a new career and job now. Can you share what it is?
Stephanie: Sure, happy to. I joined Responsive Intelligence as lead consultant – we bring neuroscience-based mindfulness and emotional intelligence to organizations, primarily corporate clients. I share and integrate mindfulness based tools and strategies to help professionals enjoy and excel at their jobs and in life.
This work blends my 13 year mindfulness practice and my passion as a leader bringing out the best in people. I share my personal story of how I was able to transform some behaviors and enable my authentic self to emerge. This occurred through self-awareness which is a byproduct of mindfulness. At my last corporate job, I facilitated a few introductions to mindfulness workshops and I found it tremendously rewarding.
In the corporate arena, I believe there is great potential for positive transformation – both for individuals and at the organizational level. Driving results is a core leadership strength of mine. It’s very exciting for me to make an impact in helping people and companies thrive. I am delighted and grateful to have found meaning in my work and to be challenged and experience growth in a whole new way.
Lei: That is quite a change. I can hear the enthusiasm and energy you have for your new adventure. What advice do you have for others who are at crossroads of their careers?
Stephanie: At the risk of sounding cliché – Don’t let fear hold you back. Fear driven thoughts are limiting and counterproductive. Try to diffuse these and replace with positive affirmations and inviting positive change. Listen to your heart or your intuition. Trust as these simply will not fail you. Every time I’ve chosen to demonstrate courage and vulnerability it has been met with reward. There is an enormous world of opportunity and you owe it to yourself and the world to live out your purpose. Create intention and momentum for change by inviting it and taking action:
- Consider the happiest moments of your professional life and tease out why?
- Make a list of the conditions of your perfect day in the ideal job.
- Visualize and get as detailed as possible with how it would look and feel including how you dress, your commute, # of hours you work, size of the office.
- Start networking at lunch with people outside work simply to explore what others do. This takes discipline to make the time but it is worth it! I found people I barely knew were extremely helpful, generous and willing to support my journey.
- Begin a 10 minute daily sitting meditation practice. The insight and calm you will gain are just 2 of unlimited mental and physical benefits. There are many apps and books for beginners.
Two favorite books which helped guide me:
- Thrive by Arianna Huffington
- You Are a Badass – How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living An Awesome Life by Jen Sincero.
Your Comments: Are you considering a career change? What additional questions do you have for Stephanie? Let us know your questions.
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