I’m an industrial or organizational psychologist, which means I help companies improve their workplaces and the performance, satisfaction and well-being of their people. I began working for a management consulting firm while earning my PhD, and have been there for 17 years. For most of that time I was senior manager in our human capital consulting practice; I was experienced in my profession, secure in my network and confident in my abilities to help clients with their most critical human capital challenges.
About three and a half years ago, I made my first big shift from being an external consultant to helping my own company’s employees learn and grow. The work I was doing on the consulting side of the business had been extremely rewarding, but it had slowly taken me away from the passions that I had cultivated in graduate school. Though nervous that I would be “starting over,” I was drawn by the opportunity to focus full time on developing our company’s future leaders.
A few months passed, and I was in one of the most rewarding career experiences of my life, doing exactly what I wanted to be doing, when I found out I was pregnant with my third child. As I had with my first pregnancy (of twins), I worried about what would become of my job while I was on maternity leave. The company put another senior manager in charge of my team while I was gone, and so I wondered, what what my job look like when I came back?
I contemplated taking a shortened maternity leave, but then remembered how difficult it had been to return to work after having my twins, and frankly, I wasn’t sure that would help anyway. So I did the exact opposite: I took the longest amount of time off possible (using all my maternity and paid leave, in addition to some unpaid time) and did a training program to become a certified executive coach. I went to the first class just a few weeks after my C-section.
Most of my friends, colleagues and classmates thought I was crazy, but for me the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I was taking some needed time with my blossoming family while adding to my skills, investing in my future and diving into my passion.
When I returned to work almost six months later, my job had changed, as I had expected. The team was reorganizing, which consolidated our firm’s leadership training programs, mine included, into a single team under a different lead. But with my newly-earned coaching certification, I was the perfect fit to lead our executive coaching and team development area. Since that time, my role has continued to evolve, with many new functions added to my portfolio in the performance and talent management space, broadening my impact in the firm.
We don’t always know where the roads we take will lead. But I’ve learned that if you stay true to who you are and follow your passions, the place you end up will likely be closer to where you want to be.