Kristen Baker is a career coach who helps women find what it is they really want to do. She helps them find their true purpose. In our interview, she shares her unique take on finding work and fulfillment that makes you feel good. And, she dispels a very prevalent myth that holds people back in their search for their passion and purpose. She also shares her journey from opera singer, to commercial real estate, to career coach.
Meredith: So Kristen, you had a really interesting history before you started your coaching business, you sang opera and then you were in commercial real estate and now here you are. So tell us a little bit about your story and how you got to what you’re doing today.
Kristen: So I actually sang my entire life. At 15 years old I wanted to be a Broadway star. I followed that dream and I went to Northwestern and I studied opera and music theater. During my senior year, I realized I didn’t really like watching opera, I say realized, but I knew that the whole time, it just occurred to me that maybe if I didn’t like watching it, maybe I shouldn’t be an opera singer or even a musical theater performer. There were these clues along the way, and I sort of ignored them. So senior year came around and I was like “Oh God, I don’t want to do this, I don’t know what I do want to do but I know I don’t want to do this.”
So I jumped into the practical responsible career and I went into commercial real estate and about 8 months in I was like “Oh God, I hate this, and I don’t want to do this either, but what do I want to do?” So I started that exploration process but the entire time I did that I really limited myself as to what I could do. I had this box of what I thought was possible, and what I thought was possible for me. I really only explored within that box, and because of that I just had all these fits and starts, like okay maybe I’ll get an MBA, maybe I’ll go into consulting. I never really followed through on anything because I think at some level I knew it was better but still not quite it, it was not quite my calling.
So eventually, fast forward seven years, still in this job where I felt really miserable, and I was still trying all these different things and I took this acting class. I had studied acting in college as well and there was something about it I loved but it wasn’t really the acting. So it really hit me when I took this class, it is the personal transformation. I love watching people go from hiding behind the wall to really being authentic in their truth. With the help of my own career coach I really started to shape what that was and what the clues were that I had missed all along and what was the through-line for everything that I really had explored, which was that personal transformation. I just really love watching people be lit up and so that’s how I came to be a career coach.
Meredith: And who do you mostly focus on in your practice?
Kristen: Professional women are who I work with, just really driven, really good at what they do but just not in the right space, not in the right job.
Jasper: So how do they come to the realization that they need your help?
Kristen: I think it’s really that feeling of “I’m so bored.”, “This is really tedious.”, “I know I’m meant for more than this, but I just don’t know how to do it.” At that space where they wish they could change jobs yesterday, they are like “I need support in figuring out this transition.”
Jasper: Is there a particular age range that people come to this conclusion or is it sort of across all ages?
Kristen: You know I have actually seen it be across all ages and it’s funny because I’ll talk to a 30 year old and a 50 year old and they’ll both think it’s too late for them. I’m like “It’s not too late for either of you!” But it’s great to work with people at the beginning of their career too because they have all that time to make that transition.
Meredith: Do you think that maybe there’s a myth, it’s kind of the same as the marriage myth in a way, people think that you can only fall in love once. Is it the same thing with careers that people think that you can only have one career? I know, my daughter’s 11, and the questions is what do you want to be when you grow up and the expected answer is one thing. “Oh I want to be a veterinarian,” because all 11 year old girls want to be a veterinarian, all of them.
Kristen: I did a “Take your daughter to work” day at a vet, so yeah.
Meredith: Do you think that’s a myth? I think most people have several really different careers during their lives.
Kristen: Perhaps, and I also think that people limit themselves in what they think they can smush together as one career. Even for me when I decided that I didn’t want to do music I kind of just put that to the side. I was like “Alright, I’m not doing music anymore.” But recently I’ve been able to bring in that musical component of what was beautiful about it to me and that emotional part I even had a guitarist come to this retreat that I ran and we sat around and sang songs. So I think maybe both, you can do different things but you can also do everything you love in one career. You don’t have to necessarily choose, you can incorporate lots of different things.
Meredith: What advice would you give somebody who just knows that they’re bored and they’re unhappy but they don’t know what to do. So what would be the first step to figuring out what might make them happy when they have no idea other than they’re just not.
Kristen: Well, that’s the thing most people start out they come to me “I know what I don’t want but what the heck do I want?” So it’s a great place to start because what you don’t want, there’s a lot of good information there. Starting to figure out what do I want instead I think there’s two different things to that. The first part is know what you know and know what you love about yourself. Look back into your past, what did you love learning about, what projects lit you up in school, what volunteer jobs did you like. Be really willing to look at the nuance of it; don’t just throw out the baby with the bathwater. If you like one piece of something really look at that and don’t ignore that.
The second part is to start to make a hypothesis about what was interesting to me, what do I know about myself and then move towards it. So you make a hypothesis, and then you test the hypothesis. Okay, I liked working with animals,; I want to be a vet or whatever, so go volunteer at an animal shelter. See what works about it, what you love about that and don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Be willing to hear the nuances that are coming to you and also just be really open to “I don’t exactly know how I’m going to make all this work yet, but there is a way for me to figure this out.” Because I think we stop ourselves before we even start because we think “I can’t figure out how to incorporate this.” or “I can’t make any money doing this.” But just be really willing to hear what comes, and then ask the question “How can I make a living?”
Jasper: Well that’s the other aspect of that isn’t it? Where people are in careers, they’re used to getting that paycheck. Sometimes it’s very easy to think well “I can’t do without the money.” So how do you make that transition when you’re not going to be making money at your new passion to start with? That’s a difficult sort of thing to juggle, isn’t it, really for many people?
Kristen: Absolutely! I think the first step is to believe that it’s possible. It’s so funny, there’s two pieces to that: to believe that it’s possible in the world and then to believe that it’s possible for me. To believe that it’s possible in the world, when I started looking for evidence that that was true I just found all these people and all these really amazing careers and people doing whatever the heck they wanted and making a living.
I found this woman who is a mermaid for a living, that’s what she does. She’s a mermaid for parties. There’s a guy who builds rainbows, literally outside in the sunshine, rainbows. Then there’s this woman, you can look her up on YouTube, Amanda Palmer, she’s a musician. I worked with an opera singer actually too who was like, it’s very much getting stuck in this idea that there’s only one way to make a living as an opera singer, or whatever, a musician.
There’s this one woman who basically, her story is that she had 25,000 fans. She tried to go the traditional route, and 25,000 fans was not enough. She chose this completely different route where she actually asked her fans to pay what they could. She made a living doing it, she was able to travel and do what she wanted but just really to be open to the possibility that it doesn’t have to be in that one set way. I think, to answer your question about, you know, you’re in this job and then you’re transitioning into something new.
You just kind of have to know your own comfort zone in terms of making that transition. If you don’t want to make the leap, don’t, but that doesn’t mean you should stop yourself from doing what you love when you have the time to do it. To me it’s always about dancing with that comfort zone because if we are staying in our comfort zone, we’re never changing, but if we’re like way outside of our comfort zone we’re going to be in shut down, willpower resistance mode. I think people think that they have to choose, it’s either like I stay in my comfort zone, I stay at my job or I quit. Which could be, for a lot of people in that resistance, willpower shut down mode. The question is, how do you really dance at the edge so you’re always moving towards that goal of transitioning fully and just be willing to be uncomfortable but not so uncomfortable that you are just going to totally shut down and not do anything.
Favorite Book – Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham
Favorite Resource: Puttylike.com – for people who have lots fo interests and want to find a way of “smooshing” then together.
Who am I? Take some time to get the head and heart in sync
Take action – or at least determine was is preventing you from taking action
Want to get a free audiobook version of the book recommended by this week’s guest? Click here to download it.
Guest – Kristen Baker
With over 10 years experience, Kristen is a Rowdy Life and Success Coach, Speaker, and Author. Starting her career as a professional opera singer, and then transitioning into the cutthroat industry of commercial real estate and generating over $100 million in revenue for her clients, Kristen is an expert in what it takes to be successful. But quickly realized that success alone was not enough without the ability to step fully into her creative potential. She discovered that the more she was willing to express her unique talents and gifts, the more freedom, joy and love entered her life. She unearthed and integrated tools and teachings to create both success AND happiness. Kristen now teaches ambitious, passionate women her simple system to get whatever they desire in career, love and money, and be successful and adored for exactly who they are.
Kristen created a new opt in e-Kit: 3 Steps to Get Unstuck and Create a Career+Life You are Excited to Wake Up To. It includes content, exercises and guided audios to integrate and implement immediately.
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