Embarking on my own new career, I am a Carol success-story-in-progress, a breathing testimonial, feet on the ground, winding my way to the Carnival.
My wonderful friend from 2nd grade, Margo Epprecht (once known as Margaret McGlade), wrote the following profile of me. It says a little about her and a lot about me. I think she is a wonderful writer and is soon to be an “official” journalist, once she completes a grinding year of study at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Carol Cheswick – Life Coach Profile
In the weeks after I left my career of 28 years, I felt like a helium balloon that had slipped out of the damp, sticky grip of a child at the fair. I was drifting above the spinning rides, the music, the smell of popcorn, the laughter and raucous fun. It was getting quieter and quieter. I signed up for a “woman’s networking breakfast,” thinking that I might find my feet touching ground among the other professional women. For the first half hour, the coarse, heavy lemon scone on my plate acted as my lonely anchor. I looked at my watch. The scone was getting smaller. I was heading back to the silent sky, by myself. Among the clusters of women surrounded by blond wood and bottled delectables inside Le Pain Quotidien, I spotted a face I knew.
“Carol, hi, do you remember me?” The friendliness in Carol’s smiling, open face, framed by brown tousled curls released a little air in my balloon, and I relaxed.
She did indeed remember me, “So, what are you up to these days?”
“Well,” I was not yet used to answering this question, “I am sort of… in transition.” “That’s perfect!” Carol replied with conviction, “because I have just become a life coach.” Prepare for landing.
A year and a half later, I am interviewing Carol in her home. She begins to relate her own transformation from an investment manager to Executive, Enterprise and Career coach.
“At a cocktail party, a man I had never met before came over and introduced himself. He said, ‘Tell me something about yourself that does not have anything to do with your job, your husband or your kids.’” Carol relates this tale with an amused and still somewhat puzzled smile, “I was stumped!” she says, “I didn’t know what to say.”
This last remark is hardly credible from the voluble, percolating woman seated across from me, surrounded by her portable world: amply stuffed purse, iPad and phone. She is connected to clients, calendar, family, news, interesting websites, helpful contacts, notes to self. She accesses all of these over the course of a 90-minute conversation, raging with ideas, information and insights, handing them over like pieces of a chocolate bar. If asked the same question today, Carol would have a lot to say.
“Should,” she begins, “is a big red flag for me. Every time I hear the word ‘should’ as in ‘I should lose weight’ or ‘I should keep the house neater’, I am wondering, ‘Who says so?’” Carol’s arms gesture to the edge of the office sunroom in the rear of her quiet, comfortable home in southwestern Connecticut. “Is that someone else talking? Is it your parents, your spouse, your children, your boss, or society as a whole?” Birds feed outside the window, squirrels climb the screens. The bookshelves are neatly lined with titles on sailing, finance, self-discovery, an eclectic mix of novels and Barefoot Contessa cookbooks. The three dogs, a Bichon, a retriever and a setter, prance in when invited, blissfully content with their career choices as snuggly, wriggly show-offs.
“Answer this question,” she challenges, “What absorbs me so completely that I lose all track of time? Answer that question and you begin to have a clue about what you want to do, not what you ‘should’ do.”
During her 25 years as an investment advisor and manager in the stock market, Carol recognized that the part she enjoyed about the job was hearing about her clients’ needs and dreams. The part she didn’t like was creating detailed earnings and cash flow forecasts for individual stocks. Later, in her training as a Martha Beck certified Life Coach, Carol learned that her body had been sending her messages. “I was constantly on and off antibiotics to treat sinus infections during the last three years of my investment career” Carol admits. Her cocktail party epiphany came at an opportune time, as new owners took over the family investment management company. She was free to make a change. “I started to pay attention to what made my heart beat faster and my mind race with enthusiasm”. Newly married to the love of her life, she hired a Life Coach. Inspired by the coaching process, she enrolled in the Martha Beck certification course, following the philosophies and exercises developed by Martha Beck, detailed in Ms. Beck’s Finding Your Own North Star — Claiming the life you were meant to live.
The youngest of three children of a homemaker mom and highly successful World War II veteran and financial executive dad, Carol worked hard at everything she did, intent on pleasing her parents and creating the life she knew they wanted for her. She was an A student in high school, swam at the state level and went onto Wellesley College. There, she majored in Art History and Political Science. “Carol can talk for hours about color, texture, art and the creative process,” says friend and “coach-buddy” Kirsten Cameron. When graduation came, however, Carol was interviewing with New York banks for finance jobs. “It felt like that was what I was supposed to do.” Carol’s simple statement is weighty with the irony of hard earned self knowledge.
Her natural gift with people and strong work ethic propelled her career as she added to her credentials by pursuing an MBA with a concentration in Finance at NYU. “I was enamored with the marketing courses,” she admits, “but I majored in finance.” She kept getting promoted. She married in her late 20’s, had two children and moved into the family business with her father after 15 years in finance. Later, as her marriage began to fail, Carol’s disconnect with her career choice became more acute. She knew she had to find her way out of one career and into another, as yet unknown career. Her own life coaching process gradually illuminated her path forward.
Shortly after receiving her Martha Beck certification in 2010, Carol added to her credentials with a certification in the Kolbe system, developed by Kathy Kolbe. The Kolbe Index evaluates how each of us instinctively behaves when approaching a task. Carol discovered that she was an innovator and a risk taker. Carol uses this tool with all of her clients. For example, Yvette McIntyre sought Carol’s advice for her consulting business. “I couldn’t seem to get out of my own way,” she admits. Yvette loves knowledge and information. In fact, she often cannot stop gathering more knowledge and information and sometimes cannot stop sharing all of her knowledge and information with other people. She worked with Carol to turn knowledge into action. “Now, I set a mission statement for each class or seminar I teach. Being clear about the mission helps me know when I have enough information and to gauge how much I need to impart.” Yvette found herself much more productive following this discipline. “Carol helped me not just to understand my way of working, but to allow it and to find a way to say, ‘Enough. I can move forward.’”
Carol is also combining her own business experience with Martha Beck and Kolbe to consult for small companies which, she believes “can really benefit from the Kolbe analysis.” Carol worked with Kirsten Cameron on her family’s floor heating business in California. “When it came time to hire an additional sales person,” Kirsten says, “we knew exactly what qualities to look for, and we hired a great fit. We are more productive and enjoy our day more since Carol helped us.” Carol is preparing a proposal for a business in which all ten managers have almost identical Kolbe profiles. “Founders often seek out people like themselves.” she explains, “Book keeping and sales require people with contrasting Kolbe profiles. If they are the same, someone is in the wrong job.”
Carol keeps reinventing herself as she helps her clients reinvent themselves. In fact, capturing her on paper has been a unique challenge. Each time we meet, I have to rip up the old copy and start over. Carol’s energy for her mission to help others lead more fulfilled lives appears infinitely renewable. “I’m teaching my second class in business planning for the Women’s Business Development Council “, she tells me recently. She is moving too fast to be caught, exactly. In a blur of motion, she mentions, “Oh, yes, and I am working on applying Kolbe to help students refine career and college choices…What do you think?”
I am glad I met Carol and became her client just when I needed a soft landing, good advice and a better understanding of myself. Embarking on my own new career, I am a Carol success-story-in-progress, a breathing testimonial, feet on the ground, winding my way to the Carnival.