Trusting yourself with Sarah Sternberg
After nine months of maternity Sarah was looking towards returning to work with trepidation. There had been some significant changes while she was out and she had had a history of parachuting out of jobs quickly when things weren’t exactly perfect. She was worried she’d do that again and potentially end up in the wrong place. She wanted to be thoughtful and considerate about the next phase of her career but she wasn’t sure exactly how. Today she trusts herself to navigate bumps and transitions because she knows what she wants. She’s clear on where she’s going professionally and has shaped her current environment to support her growth in this direction. She’s unwound from people pleasing, is no longer tying her sense of peace and happiness to goals in the future, and is connected to her emotional world to help her make smart, aligned decisions.
In this episode we discuss:
- How Sarah restructured her career to suit her strengths, interests, and priorities
- Detaching her happiness from finding a new role and learning to create it now in the midst of her own evolution
- Unwinding from people-pleasing and how this can get you off track during the interview process
- The importance of connecting to your emotional world as part of your work life to help you make good decisions
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Anne: Welcome to the career studio podcast, where we boil down the noise and focus on the core concepts, essential for building an energizing career you love. One that is simply an extension of who you are and how you wanna live your life. Anyone can do it. It's just a matter of knowing what to focus on.
Hi, my guest today is Sarah Sternberg.
Sarah began her career as a strategist in advertising and now works in philanthropy in the service of gender equity, figuring out how foundations and charities can best spend their money to achieve gender progress. She currently works at November Foundation, thinking about how we can get men to adopt more progressive masculinities.
She lives in North London and outside of her work spends endless hours reading, going on a bear hunt with her two-year-old daughter. Together, Sarah and I discussed how she restructured her career to suit her strengths, interests and priorities, detaching her happiness from finding a new role and learning to create it now in the midst of her own evolution, unwinding from people pleasing, and how this can get you off track during the interview process.
Creating a network around her or her peers that will always support her and makes her feel grounded. And the importance of connecting to your emotional world as part of your work life to help you make good decisions. So let's dive in. Sarah, welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for being here.
Sarah: Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.
Anne: Yeah, it feels. Exciting that we're doing this almost a year after we work together. Cuz I think that often so much of the work that we do then solidifies over that time and like insights come in and, uh, yeah. So it's often a really interesting place and time to meet people.
So yeah. Excited to dig in.
Sarah: Likewise. Yeah, it does. It feels both like it's been a long time and also like no time at all has passed, so, but I think time is probably gonna be one of the things I'm gonna be, uh, talking about a lot in this conversation. So, yeah. An appropriate place to start, maybe.
Anne: Perfect. Yeah. Well, maybe actually where I'd love to start is for you to just paint a picture of how you were feeling professionally and personally, you know, before we started working together. Just, I think describing that really helps people sometimes find their own self in that description. So maybe you could paint a picture of what was going on for you and then we can jump off of that.
Sarah: For sure, I think. Um, so we started working together in August, 2021 and at that time I was, I think, nine months into maternity leave that was soon to be ending. So I was returning to work in September and I'd had a really complicated pregnancy and quite like a difficult early babyhood with my daughter, who, you know, is fine now.
But um, it had been quite a scary time and during that time, I think my work had been a really helpful anchor and it felt quite kind of solid. And then when I was on maternity leave, I found out that my boss, uh, was leaving my job or leaving my employer, you know, he would be leaving really before I got a chance to return to work.
So we would be sort of ships in the night. And I remember finding that out in July and just feeling so adrift, so at sea, kind of so worried about the prospect of returning to work, which. You know, I already felt like it might be quite freighted and quite hard, and then suddenly thinking, you know, my boss is gone.
Why is he leaving? And, um, what am I gonna do and what's, what does this mean for me? And actually, you know, how am I really feeling about it? About returning to work in, in its totality, and I had a bit of a history or as I kind of painted it myself, a a bit of a history of parachuting outta jobs very quickly of sort of in my own words, I think at the time feeling like I was quite princessy and quite sort of fussy and, and as soon as things got difficult sort of pressing a eject and jumping out and.
I was really worried that I was going to do that again. I was like, this is a stressful, kind of panic inducing situation. If I'm not careful, I'm just gonna jump out of this job and jump into another one. Uh, but I now know from previous experience that that doesn't always lead you to the right place. And so I really knew.
That I needed to be careful and thoughtful and considerate about this next phase of my career and kind of give it a deliberate consideration. And I thought the only way to do that was to invest in the time and space and relationship, uh, of coaching to do it.
Anne: Yeah, I think, I think it's so relatable both on the kind of coming back from maternity leave, feeling adrift, feeling uncertain with how that's going to land, what it's gonna be like.
Especially after your first baby. And equally that sentiment of or experience of as soon as something isn't working, pressing, eject, right? That knee jerk reaction to this environment isn't working. I need to find something else. I think that that is such a common reaction for people in really often what gets us into trouble.
Sarah: Hmm. I think it's just, um, it is making the decision or, or, trying to make decisions when you are yourself in quite a kind of panicky state. And I think I recognized that I didn't want to do that, but I also didn't know how I would do anything other than that unless I got some help to do it differently.
Anne: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. yes. So maybe now contrast that feeling or experience with how you're feeling now or have been feeling over the past year professionally.
Sarah: I think it's been, um, I mean, I now feel great. I feel, um, I feel really calm, actually. And I suppose it's interesting to talk about feelings as opposed to, you know, where you are, what decisions you've made or not made.
Because I was feeling really panicky and now I'm feeling really calm and really trusting, I guess trusting of myself, where previously I felt like I really couldn't trust myself to make the right decision. I now feel like I really can trust myself. And I suppose I feel like I've had experiences over the last year where I felt like I've made really good decisions where I feel like I've developed, I suppose, the techniques and capabilities based on some of the work we did together to be able to, yeah, make the right calls when I need to, and, and, and trust my sort of gut, not have the fear that I'm going to sort of make a reckless decision as I was feeling previously.
But yeah, feeling much calmer, much more centered, uh, much more trusting of myself.
Anne: I have got chills when you say that because that's really, oftentimes when I talk about my business, it's really, I say really what it's about. You know, I have these four fundamental things, and we're gonna talk about those in more specificity.
But really when you boil all of that down, it's really about learning how to trust yourself. Hmm. Because if you are tuned into. Who you are and what you're about and what feels right and what you need, you can always make the decision that's right for you. And it's not necessarily about describing the result in of like, I have this job and this title and this is what I'm doing.
The result is, as long as you can trust yourself and that trust comes from within, you always have a map, right? And you always know where you're going. And so I think it's really beautiful that that's how you chose to explain it.
Sarah: Oh, well. Yeah, that's how I feel.
Anne: Yeah. Okay, so let's see. What do I wanna say? I think maybe we can start by talking a little bit about your brand and kind of owning who you are and why you think where you are is a good fit for who you are and your priorities right now.
Sarah: Sure. And actually it's interesting to, to sort of to go there because I think, you know, one of the things that happened while we were working together was, you know, I was, I was feeling unhappy with the role that I was doing at the time and I wasn't feeling that represented by my organization.
I think that's changed in the last year. And that kind of has to do with actually, you know, me getting clearer on who I am and also the organization going on a bit of a journey too. But during the time that we were working together, I was sort of exploring other, other places I could work, other options.
And found, you know, while we were working together, I, I sort of, you know, went through an interview process for a very prestigious organization that I had to kind of, you know, well it was interesting. I'd always imagined on some level maybe I would wanna work there. But I remember the first thing we talked about when we talked about the opportunity was how it didn't necessarily feel like it was on brand for me.
It felt like it was maybe a bit more kind of stiff upper, a lip or straight laced. And I think it was really illuminating, I think, to recognize that I could be both a sort of creative and analytical thinker and also be someone who was, you know, very serious about social impact and gender equality, which is the, you know, field I'm in.
In order to work in that space, I didn't have to be a kind of, you know, Oxbridge business school, international development, you know, wonky political person. I could be who I was, which was sort of, you know, yes, strategic and yes, analytical, but also fundamentally more creative, more dynamic, more kind of imaginative, I guess.
And that it didn't need to be the case that I, I didn't need to pretend, I guess, that I either had capabilities that I didn't have or that I had that I didn't have. Some of the strengths that I do have. And actually one of the things that was very interesting about going through that, Um, interview process is that I really, you know, based on the work that we'd done together, I decided to make what I had perhaps previously thought of as a weakness, which was, oh, I'm a bit too creative, or, I've come from a bit of a different background from all these other people.
I'd thought of that as a weakness, and I think my instinct before working with you would've been to probably hide those things, and in fact, I then decided to make it the center of my application. I was like, This is who I am and this is how I think about the world. And this is how, you know, this is how I've been able to do this work today really effectively.
It's not something to shy away from. It's actually something to kind of shout about and, and be proud of. And that's been I think some, one of the things I've carried through and that has actually been a bit of a lightning rod for me. In terms of assessing future opportunities, both in my existing organization and then you know, when other things have come to me it's been a, well, you know, the work of this place might totally chime with my values, but if the people aren't my kind of people, then it's not going to speak to me.
Anne: I love what you said about what you used to think was a weakness is actually now you're flipping that on its head and, and owning that because I really, this is often.. The Pivotal 180 that we need to do to create this alignment and this self-trust. I think oftentimes we're looking out at the world and feeling like we have to, there's a certain standard and everyone's standard of what they think they should be or what their CV should look like or the types of strengths and experience they should have. Everyone's version of that is slightly different based on, you know, what they're interested in and, and the environments that they're in.
But if you are in that situation when you're like, oh, I should be more X, Y, Z, this is how we get out of alignment because we're saying, I need to be like someone else, or I need to change who I am in order to create the career I love. But actually, if you own who you are, And with the experience you've had and use that as your front foot, right, that's when you're really gonna thrive.
I mean, for me, you know, I talk a lot about this in my content, but I spent a long time wanting to be analytical and quantitative and you know, I did an MBA thinking that that's what I needed. I needed to go be a management consultant. And when I dropped all of that, And really said, you know, I'm great at building relationships.
I love thinking about personal development and just owned that. That really allowed me to create the career I have now where I feel really free and energized and not stressed. And like I, I get to show up every day to work and do something that I feel inherently good at. And so I think that's such an important point.
Like, if people are feeling like you should be, this is like an alarm bell. It's a red flag. I mean that you're thinking about it in the wrong way. Totally. Yeah. And, and you've really kind of recreated a role for yourself at November that I believe is kind of helping you do more of the stuff that you would like to be doing.
Sarah: Absolutely. And I think actually there's also, uh, I sound like a break on record. I'm like, this came from our coaching conversation, but I remember, um, I remember you said, I think it was actually probably now one of our first conversations and I was really worried about returning to work and I was really worried about workload and being asked to do things I didn't wanna do, being asked to, cuz we'll carry some of the work.
My boss who'd left was, you know, carrying some of his work. I thought, oh, I don't wanna do that. And you were like, well, why don't you just write down what you want to do and maybe also what you don't want to do, and why don't you just talk about it with your boss? And I was like, what? Like how could I, you know, I can't, like, you know, I was just, you know, I was, I was spinning and catastrophizing, but I did do it.
I did write it down. And one of the first things I did when I returned was I scheduled a meeting to talk about, you know, all the work and who was gonna do what. In the team, you know what I was prepared to do and it was completely fine and it worked and it meant that I returned to work with so much more ease and more confidence actually in myself to then get what I wanted.
So then when it came to actually, I. You know, at a later day really figuring out, well, what is it that I'm enjoying about working here and the opportunities and what are some of the things I would like to change? I did exactly the same thing. I sort of wrote down what I wanted to do and had in my mind, you know, a firm sense of what I perhaps didn't want to do, and I just talked about it with my boss and then with my boss's boss, and then I got to do it.
And it was really easy and I'm, you know, I'm sure it's not always like that, but I think it was so illuminating. Like the liberating way that you framed the fact that, you know, well, it's, it's up to you. It's your decision. You know, your phrase of you are in the driver's seat was one of the things that I think I've said to numerous people since about career coaching, because it was, I think the thing that, but you know, I'm sure not all organizations are the same.
I'm sure there would be, you know, I might have faced more barriers with different people working with me, but. It's also like, well, why wouldn't you try? Like if they'd said no, then that would also have been very useful. I'd have been like, okay, well I can't do what I want to do here, so I guess I'm gonna have to go.
Whereas it, what happened luckily for me was I did get to do what I wanted to do and over the last year, you know, think, thinking back to, you know, when we first started working together, um, and when we stopped, I mean, we stopped working together a year ago. So it's sort of, you know, it's 18 months probably since we started, and then a year since we stopped.
In that year, since we started working together, I can see how much I've grown in terms of what I've been exposed to professionally. Like my sort of hard skills and my soft skills have massively increased. And that's because I asked to do this role that I'd kind of half made up, but thought was needed and thought I'd be good at, and I would not have asked to do it if we hadn't worked together.
So I sort of feel like I can draw a really clear red thread from you just saying, well, why don't you just ask. Like it was the, like, it was the easiest thing in the world. And I was like, what? I can't ask. And then I did ask and it was great. So I think there's a sort of, yeah, there's a way in which I can really see the direct impact on the coaching, on what I'm doing now and, and the fact that it suits me so much better than what I was doing before and feels like a real, you know, I've really grown in the role that I've been in.
But also I think the attitude, like the attitude shift's been the thing that I'll carry with me forever, which is you can just ask, you know, in the next role or in the next role, that will now be my philosophy. I'll be, I'll be thinking, you know, uh, but if it doesn't, if I'm not happy, if it isn't working for me, the thing to try and do is take positive action to change it by just being really clear and direct and asking for what I want.
Anne: Yeah. I mean, brilliant. That's so, it's so brilliant and I'm so pleased to hear all of that. And you know, you're, you've been lucky to work in a, well, not lucky, but, and you acknowledge it yourself in the way that you responded, but you work in an organization that was amenable to Yes. Your feedback, which is brilliant.
You know, good organizations, good people, leaders will always wanna put people in the roles that are best fit for their strengths, interests, and priorities. And if you're in an organization where people don't recognize the value of putting the right people in the right. Places right then, then you're not in the right space, right?
That's not a sustainable work environment. It's not a sustainable team. And to your point, it's the signal. It's equally valuable information because you know, this is, you know, this place is not a long-term solution for you, so brilliant.
Sarah: It reminds me a bit, I know you've used, you've used like dating analogies before in your content, and I do feel it's a bit like that.
It's like, you know, if someone isn't getting back to you, if you've like, you know, if you've reached out to them in a romantic sense and they don't come back, or like they dilly dally, it's like, well, wouldn't it just be better to know sooner rather than later? Like, wouldn't it be, let us know that like they're not interested and this isn't going anywhere and then you can move on.
It's like, What's scary about knowing, there is a lot that is scary about knowing, but you will be able to move on with your life so much faster, either when they say, yes, you know, I do wanna date you, or I do wanna give you the role that you want, or, no, I don't wanna give you the role you want, or, no, I don't wanna date you.
It's like, okay, well great. Have the information. Move on.
Anne: Absolutely. I think that's, thanks for bringing it back to that. I love that topic. I would be equally say though, you know, some dilly dallying or, or treading water, not getting back to you clearly is also just a form of rejection. Yes. Right. It's less clear.
Yes. But it's, but it's also a sign of No. So yeah. I, okay, so maybe we can talk a little bit about, I got a very open question around, you know, to create this reality you have now, of trusting yourself, of creating this role that's really good fit for your strengths and interests and priorities where you're growing and learning, you know, what beliefs did you struggle with or what did you have to get over in order to create that?
Sarah: I think one of them, and I sort of mentioned this at the top of our conversation around time. I think one of them was a really weird, like, now I think about it, I think it's crazy, but I think it's really common and it was really affecting me, which was this idea of only having a specific amount of time in which to make career and life decisions, like setting arbitrary deadlines in my own head.
So when we first started working together, I said to myself, okay, well I'm gonna invest this time and money now in coaching with the expectation that in six months time when this is over, I will have a new job, and that's kind of why I'm doing it. It's to get a new job. And I think loads of people probably have a similar sort of motivation and a similar idea of like, well, it's worth it now because I'll spend the time now and then I'll, you know, I'll have achieved this very concrete thing at the end of that time.
And I think I had a similar idea also of, you know, I really want to, and when, you know, that didn't happen, I did not end the coaching, you know, cycle and have a new job. Um, and so during the coaching, I think I really had to let go of that idea and that idea, the idea that the time had to then equate with a certain sort of direction of progress or a certain milestone of progress and a certain sense of success.
And then I think that was a much, actually a much bigger theme in my life, which was about wanting to have achieved certain things by certain times, wanting to have, I guess, you know, ticked boxes and a sense of certainty. And as time passed and, you know, I, I didn't get that. I really struggled, I think with that, um, with accepting that, you know, things weren't happening in the timetable that I wanted.
And I think one of the things that was hugely illuminating about working together was this recognition that like, it's never over, you'll never like, you know, I think like what I wanted was, you'll do the coaching for six months, you'll get a new job and then like tie it up in a bow. That's life. Like, you've done it, well done.
You, you've done your career challenge. Now you've done your career Mount Everest, you've climbed the summit and that, that's it. Whereas I think one of the things that really came through as a theme when we worked together was, your career is gonna be a long time. You know, and then it's gonna be a big theme and a big, big part of your life for the next, you know, 40, 50 years.
So you will go through experiences and, and you'll go through periods and cycles of not being happy in what you're doing. Again, like this isn't going to be the only time that you are not gonna feel aligned with your work. And actually the thing that is more valuable than getting a job in the next six months, is developing the capabilities and the tools and having the kind of practices and the resources to be able to, the next time this happens, think it through and to be more considered, and also to start questioning things like, why do I think I need to have done something in six months time? You know, the world's not gonna end.
I'm not going to, you know, I'm not gonna have lost anything. Like, where does this idea of a deadline come from? And I think it, you know, it comes from lots of, you know, questionable notions about productivity and, you know, the idea of myself as a sort of ideal, you know, successful, good person who's ticking boxes and doing the things they should be doing and the order that they should be doing them.
But fundamentally, the thing that's important about time is recognizing that, you know, these, these times are gonna come around again, but also, I've got time. Like there's no, what's the rush? And I remember when we were working together, one of the things that really, um, really struck me of having just come back from maternity leave, you know, wanting to both spend time with my daughter, but also commit time to my work was realizing that like, you know, I'm not looking to speed up time and to kind of get to the finish line, which I think was my previous mindset, actually a big part of my career has to be about enjoying.
And making the time I have in whatever I'm doing, even if it's not exactly what I want to be doing, working to optimize that time, you know, working to make it better. I'm not looking to make the time go quicker. I should be looking to make the time better rather than to sort of get to the end, which I feel like I've not expressed particularly clearly as a, as a kind of limiting belief.
It felt kind of transcendental as a mindset shift because it isn't just about my work, it's about my life, which I think, you know, that's something you've, you've said, but really hit me when we were talking about time.
Anne: Yeah. This idea, just linking it back to your daughter Stella, like, you're not waiting for her to become 18 and leave the house.
Right. You're, you're, you're enjoying the journey of being her mom and like being there every day. And it's not just about these milestones and end points, it's about being present and, uh, not always looking to the future to feel the way you wanna feel.
Anne: Yeah. I, I think that's a, it's a really good point because to your, you know, while you didn't end the coaching with a new job, it was the very idea that getting a new job was the answer, which was getting in your way of creating what you wanted, cuz it was more just focused on, I will feel better when I have a new job.
Right. And when we do that, we're constantly hopping from one job to another, and it's not always the right thing for us. But what you've created for yourself is you've gotten really clear on where you wanna be professionally, what that means for your needs, and in terms of your own development and growth.
And you've structured your current role in a way to facilitate that, and you're working on that as well outside of. Work, right? You are building relationships with people in the spaces that you wanna grow into and that, I mean, I'd love to talk about networking and having conversations, but I think, you know, there is a result.
It's just that the result isn't exactly in the package that you thought it was going to be. Totally. And there's like that clarity, that clarity and that direction that you were hoping a new job would give you realizing you can have without a new job.
Sarah: Absolutely. I think, um, I think I had a really inaccurate sort of, I had a really idealized notion about jobs, which was, I want a job where I'm at home, like I want to be, I want my job to be my home.
And actually I think one of the things that I realized in doing the coaching and particularly actually through the networking side of it and the kind of, you know, reaching out to my current network, reaching beyond that. I mean, it was amazing. I think, you know, I'm sure other, other clients of yours have said this, just, you know, people do want to help you.
People do want to put you in touch with other people. I think I ended up having about 40 kinds of networking conversations during the time we were working together, and I'm now kind of continuous. Doing it, you know, I'm kind of still meeting or chatting with people, I'd say at least like one a week and kind of putting other people in touch.
You know, I suppose I like it anyway, and I, I, I was lucky enough to have, I think, quite a strong network to start with. But also it's, you know, it's, it's been hugely effective. But I think that that's, you know, it's gonna sound really cheesy now, but, you know, I wanted a job to be my home, but I actually think I realized that my network was my home.
And you know, I've got probably five or six people who I didn't really know very well before we started working together. Who knows, you know, we're WhatsApping each other. Every couple of weeks about what each of us are up to professionally sending opportunities, like sharing content, and I feel like I have a professional network of people who are not my colleagues, but who are certainly peers with whom I share a lot of values and interests. And I feel like, you know, if my, I was say, I guess I was gonna say burned down because it was like the home analogy, but if my, you know, if my place of work burned down tomorrow, or my job disappeared tomorrow, I wouldn't feel as I felt, you know, coming back from maternity, which was the sense of being totally adrift, totally at sea. I think I'd be like, well, I've got this network of people who can help me. And the first thing I would do would be to reach out to the, you know, five or six, you know, close peers that I've really kind of cultivated through the networking.
But then I also know I've got a much wider, wider network too. So I feel like I've, yeah, come to a place where I can trust myself about decisions I want to make around my career. But also I've got a lot of people who can catch me if I end up falling through because it's not about a job to call home.
Really, it is about seeing myself as a professional with interests and capabilities and, and, and, you know, as, as part of a, a bigger network almost regardless of what my current job place or title is.
Anne: Yeah, I love that. I mean, I think once you learn how to build relationships, use them to help you address your questions, concerns, fears, and support you. I mean, yeah. Then you're totally supported and, and you're not starting from square one if your job was to disappear.
Anne: That you have this ongoing living, breathing relationship that really are the ones that are gonna steer you in the direction of interesting opportunities. So I love that. Another big theme I had in my notes that I think was big for you in terms of something you needed to unwind from, to create this more trust in yourself. And this direction that was more authentic and clear for you was kind of unwinding from people pleasing or kind of telling people what they wanted to hear.
I know we had a few moments together when you're working together where, well, why don't you. Why don't you talk about this before I put words in your mouth, like, how did you feel about, um, how do you feel about that and, and your journey through that?
Sarah: I feel it's funny with people pleasing because, and particularly, you know, I work in gender equity.
I spend a lot of time thinking about gender norms and patting myself on the back for not, for not subscribing to them. And the people pleasing thing really surprised me because I think I was like, oh, I don't do that. I'm quite, you know, I'm quite firm. I'm quite clear. I'm. You know, sometimes quite princessy.
There are lots of things I don't want to do, um, and I don't make any bones about it. But while we were working together, I think it was actually fairly early on, a ridiculous opportunity came up, which I will talk about cuz it is just very funny. Which was, you know, a, a contact got in touch to say that a member of the royal family, the British royal family, was interested in creating a festival of the strawberry. For kind of to coincide with Wimbledon and uh, you know, like having a big festival. It was sort of, it was around the time, I guess it was sort of a post Brexit thing and I was intrigued because it felt maybe quite glamorous and silly and you know, initially I was told it would be like a short engagement and you know, it would speak to my strengths.
But, I also probably had a feeling when it was being talked about, yeah, I could do that. I mean, I don't necessarily want to do that, but I could do it and like it sounds, you know, I could, you know, you are asking me, you're in, you are a, you are a, you know, old work contact and I like you and you obviously thought I'd be good for this, and so I'm, I'm kind of flattered and so yeah, like I could do that because you want me to do it and so yeah, I could do it.
And I remember when we were talking with wonder about it, you were kind of like, but why? You know, why would you say yes to this if it's not really something that you actually, you know, it's not gonna lead you anywhere. It sounds actually like when you uncover it, like it's potentially quite stressful.
It's not using the skills or capabilities or kind of industry, you know, it's, it's, it's not, it's not in your North star, like, it's not in your wheelhouse at all really, this. You could do it and you would do it maybe as a favor or like to have a funny story, which I think was also part of my motivation to do it.
But it was really illuminating because I think I had, you know, the thing I could have said on the phone was, Thank you so much for thinking of me, but truly like this doesn't feel like it's where I'm, you know, where I want to be going professionally and, and actually, you know, doesn't necessarily speak to things I want to be doing in my future, even if it is something I could do now.
So, you know, thank you for thinking of me that it's okay. Instead, what I did was I kind of went through a big whoah process of starting to write a proposal, talking to someone from the royal household about it. And then stopped and was like, hold on a minute, this is ridiculous. You know, why am I now spending time and energy and wasting other people's time and energy on something that I know I don't really wanna do?
And actually, you know, it's starting to give me a bit of a sinking feeling every time I talk about it or think about it. And that was, That was, yeah, that was really kind of eye-opening because I'd never thought of myself as a people pleaser before. But that was a, you know, quite extreme and ridiculous example of how, and I think actually we talked about it with one another about how um, you know, the first place I worked in my career, there was a big, you know, grad graduates, cause it was a graduate scheme, graduates were really encouraged to just say yes all the time.
And I had never thought that that was something that had clearly kind of seeped into my bones, but I think it had. And so it was illuminating also to think about, you know, what are, what are some of the received bits of wisdom or kind of ways of being or behavior that I've sort of somehow managed to, you know, make muscle memory and people pleasing.
I think it was, obviously, it's so, it was so ingrained that I didn't even recognize it. And then it was in talking together about that opportunity and then also about, you know, the first place I'd worked and how that had been a real people pleasing culture. Um, that I realized, oh yeah, I am a people pleaser.
Uh, just, just a, a sort of tacit secret one who, who thought that they had gotten over that a long time ago.
Anne: No, I think that I thank you so much for sharing that. Cause I, I think it's a really important story I wanted to bring up, because I see this situation a lot. My clients are the types of people I work with.
When you are smart and ambitious, you know, especially also in school, right? In school, you don't really get a choice of what coursework you're gonna do. I mean, you know, at university, yes, but most of the education system, you're given a set of subjects and your job is to perform, right? And when you are an ambitious, smart achieving type of person you're used to just saying, okay, well what is the thing? And then I will do it well, right? And yeah. And not really thinking, do I want to do this? Is this the right thing for me? And so I think that this pattern is often learned in school. And to your point, in your first job, I'm just saying.
I can just figure it out, right? I'm smart and I'm focused, and I'm hardworking, and I will just do it. And if people want me to do it, I will be successful. I think this is often what gets people tripped up is not just getting stuff done because you can, instead of listening to what you described as that sinking feeling, Of like, I don't actually, which is what I would describe as a no, what a no feels like in your body for you.
It's a sinking feeling. Everyone's gonna, physical expression will be slightly different. But you know, this is a big part of trusting yourself, knowing what a yes feels like, versus knowing what a no feels like and using that as the, do I wanna do this or not? Because of course you can do it. Right.
You know, you're smart and hardworking and in achieving and of course you can build a beautiful festival of the strawberry for the royal family or you know, whatever. So funny. And we're, what happened? We're recording this just after, uh, Charles got coronated, so it's a very apt Subject act.
Sarah: You'll notice there were no strawberries part of that.
I think the idea obviously got canned. It didn't happen. Um,
Anne: That's cuz they didn't have you doing it.
Sarah: Had I had the chance to do it. Yeah, exactly. Maybe it could have been a huge success.
Anne: Yeah. They were like, well, Sarah's not doing it. We're not gonna do the festival anyways. Anyways, so yeah, I think that this is, it's just such an important nuance.
Of course you can do it, but do you want to do it? And I think, having that as the mindset shift is, is a really, really important growth opportunity in creating an energizing aligned career.
Anne: Yeah. Okay. We've covered a lot of the stuff I wanted to chat about. Do you feel like there's anything else that was really pivotal for you or that you've really taken away from our time together, you know, shared with other people, whatever that you wanna chat about?
Sarah: I think there's something really valuable. I think, you know, you started this conversation by talking about the amount of time it had been since we were working together.
And I remember actually one of the things that was really, I think I felt a bit nervous to stop working together. I was like, how will I, you know, how will I do this on my own? Anne's been so fantastic and the career coaching has been such a, kind of, such a shift I think in, you know, in in my approach to my career.
But actually one of the things that I think was so kind of yeah, so transformative for me was the work we did around emotions, but I think that that work actually only really sunk in in the months after we stopped working together. I think it did take like two or three months for me to kind of, yeah, for that to sink in and for me to feel like I knew how to, you know, trust my emotional response and to pay attention to my emotional response. And I think because I've done therapy, my mother is a therapist, like I think I came into coaching with a real like, oh yeah, well I get this, all these emotional stuff I get elsewhere and you know, I don't really need to think about this here. And I'm here to have, you know, serious, rational conversations about work.
I'm not here to talk about my feelings or cry or, you know, ask what that means. You know, I, that stuff I take really seriously, but I do it in a different forum. But in fact, I think that has been like one of the most, the, the thing that I practice the most, I suppose in my work life now is thinking about emotions and the emotional how to kind of listen to the emotional response that that's happening to me in relation to my work, and to not run away from that or be afraid of it or try and suppress it, but instead to to really think about, okay, why am I feeling like this? What does this tell me about what's going on for me at work and how can I use this information about my feelings in a way that will enable me to take the right action next?
Because I think previously I would've just sort of, you know, you have a difficult day or you have a bad conversation, or you know, something happens at work that generates an emotional response that isn't comfortable. And my previous. Instinct would've been just to suppress it. And I think because of working together, I've really, and it did, it did take a few months for it to like sink in, but it, but it really did the sort of paying attention to your emotions and using your emotion or responses as really meaningful, valuable information for you about what is and isn't working in your, in your work.
Uh, that was something that, yeah, I was initially like, oh, whatever this, but as ever was one of the more. Transformative aspects of, of coaching for me, and it's something I've talked about actually when I've, you know, when I've recommended you to friends or, or talked about coaching in general. You know, I, all the things that were, the things that I were like, I was like, oh, you know, I'm less into, this was of course the stuff that was the most valuable in the end.
So, you know, I, I suppose my, like my plea to anybody listening who's considering coaching, but who has doubts about certain aspects of it, The things that you have doubts about may end up being the things that are the most valuable to you, even if you know, even if that feels uncomfortable or weird to think about.
Now. That was certainly my experience.
Anne: It's so good. It's so, I mean, the feeling stuff is really because, I mean, look, it's so funny the way that we, this conversation has unfolded because I think a lot of people come into this just wanting a new job. Right, and like, oh, let's just help me figure out what it is and interview and prepare and like get the job.
And of course there's, there's lots of structures and coaches that you can work with that will help you do that. But you know, what I have found and the way that I structure my program is that you really, I. It kind of depends what you're after and what career you want, but if you wanna trust yourself and create a career that feels energizing and aligning, you can't do that if you aren't connected to your emotional world, like the body and the mind have to work together.
And once you know what a yes feels like and what a no feels like, this is so much important information. And it's a, you know, we aren't really taught. Intentionally how to feel and how to scan our body for emotions and then allow those emotions and process those emotions fully, and then use the data of those emotions to make decisions.
You know, sometimes you hear about that narrative in society, but you're not ever taught it. So I think really learning that as a skill is essential, and that's what allows you to trust yourself. So, Yeah. I, I love that you shared that and if anyone is like, what is a feeling and, and how does that work? You should listen to the episode, I think I called it: Feelings Your Overlooked Superpower, but it's maybe like five or six episodes in from the first episode.
Nice. Wonderful. I'm so glad that that is, working for you and yeah, all of this stuff works in concert together, so
Anne: Yeah. You can't do the rational bit without the emotional bit. So as much as we would just like to be rational robots who just execute, we unfortunately are emotional beings, and so that's an important part of the work.
Amazing. Anything else that you wanted to share?
Sarah: I think only to say it's. A lot of the stuff that, it's actually a bit like in, um, strategy, which is sort of my, I guess, discipline. One of the things that people always say about good strategies is that as soon as you've said them, they should feel obvious.
Like it should feel completely intuitive, what the insight is, and kind of, you know, as soon as you relay it, somebody they should be like, oh yeah, of course. And I think that's been a lot of what has been so successful about. A lot of the techniques and a lot of the kinds of pillars of the work that we did together, which are things that you maybe would not have thought about yourself, but as soon as it's something that you are discussing or thinking about, and as soon as it's something you try like with.
Well, I could just write down what I could do and put it in front of my boss and see how she responds. As soon as you give it a try, it's like, oh yeah, it's obvious. Why didn't I do that before? But I think that that's the real strength of it. You know, it's like this. There's no sorcery or you know, mysticism around this stuff. Some of it is obvious and it should feel obvious, and it should feel easy as soon as you are able to do it, but that's the strength of it and that's what it means. It's something I feel now confident to be able to keep doing again and again on my own, you know, without your support because I feel like I've been able to practice the techniques, but also the techniques are not, there's no secret source.
It is just stuff that as soon as you hear it, you're like, oh yeah, why didn't I try that before? Why wasn't that something that was in my mind and now I've been sort of supported and am nurtured to be able to do it myself? I have no doubt that I'll be able to do it myself in the future. And that's what I think is the real, you know, the real strength, I guess, of the coaching program that we did together was I've come away from it with all of the skills and capacities to practice it on my own, and that's partly because a lot of the staff is, is easy to do and that's in, you know, in no small part because it is, it's about being able to, as you said, you know, let go of those limiting beliefs, understand the barriers that are holding you back. Try some stuff and then once you've tried it, kind of reap the fruits of your labor.
Anne: It means so much to me that you said that, because obviously I love good strategy and, um, yeah, you know, the, that's the whole philosophy is that when you boil down the noise, there's only these four things you need to focus on, and they're pretty fundamental stuff, right?
Owning who you are, learning how to have conversations, being intentional with the thoughts you put in your brain, and learning how to manage your time, setting boundaries, getting stuff done. It's all fundamental, right? And so that's why it feels easy cuz it's fundamental. But this is often why, you know, we're not taught this in any sort of intentional or structured way.
And so when you learn these four fundamental concepts and you know, understand the insights and, and the tools to execute on them, it's something you can do for the rest of your life. And you'll always be able to trust yourself if you know how to do these four concepts. So, Thank you. Thank you for coming on, and chatting.
Sarah: My pleasure.
Anne: Always a pleasure to hang out with you.
Anne: Yeah, looking forward to seeing you in London in a couple months.
Sarah: All right. Absolutely. Yeah. Thank you so much for having me.
Anne: Hey, if you're ready to create an energizing career you love, one that is simply an extension of who you are and how you want to live your life. Then I wanna invite you to schedule a consultation. We'll get to the bottom of what's going on for you. And exactly where you need to focus to bring your career and life into alignment. It's free. Just head on over to thecareer.studio/schedule to find a time that works for you, or if you're enjoying and getting value from these episodes, I'd love you to leave a short review on whatever podcast app you use.
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