Ep.035 Build a Career on Your Strengths and Joy

My guest in this podcast is Liiz Herrera, an inspiring coach who pushes herself to face her fears. Liiz is a career services professional in higher education and loves her 9-to-5. She will also share her story of “accidentally” becoming a full-fledged career coach to boot (LiizCareerCoaching.net).

An Accidental Entrepreneur

One of Liiz’s greatest challenges is that she never intended to be an entrepreneur, believing that path was only for people who didn’t like their day jobs. Yet her drive to help people put her firmly in this new territory, an experience that creates constant change.

It started when, to encourage her students, she put herself on LinkedIn as a career coach. Little by little, people started reaching out to her for career development issues. She’d always say yes to assisting with someone’s resume or coaching them on interviews—until it became an overwhelming workload. Yet when people told her, “You should start charging,” she resisted.

Like many of us, Liiz suffers from “imposter syndrome” and had a hard time believing that anyone would want to pay her for doing what she loves. After a couple years, someone on LinkedIn again asked how much she charged, and she finally made the leap.

Liiz started posting there consistently about career issues, which brought in more messages and requests for help. These requests grew her business organically, and as more clients trickled in, it became less scary. She felt exposed and vulnerable, but wonderful things kept happening.

Liiz’s takeaway was deciding that she can’t be afraid. She has a genuinely helpful skill and decided to adopt the attitude of “just exploring,” to remove the pressure. It’s worked!

The StrengthsFinder® Assessment

As a certified Strengths-CoachTM, Liiz believes we all know what we truly love but because they come so naturally, it’s easy to forget they are valuable. She always asks her students or clients, “Where do you thrive? When have you done something that makes you feel so energized that you can do it all day?” She knows you can and should base your career on this strength.

Liiz helps people identify and own their innate strengths. For anyone who says, “I’m not good at anything,” or “I don’t stand out from the crowd,” she recommends taking the StrengthsFinder® assessment. It’s not too expensive and identifies your top five strengths. Even people who feel like they don’t have anything to offer, always do, according to Liiz.

Do What You Are Afraid Of

At one point Liiz was asked to create a webinar, and she said “yes” though she was terrified. She prepared well, made it engaging, and put her own spin on it. Sitting in her living room as she hung up, she realized she felt that kind of energetic-and-happy she always asks people about. She realized she would not have discovered this joy if she hadn’t stepped out of her comfort zone. Her advice? “If there is something you are curious about or that sounds interesting to you, even if it scares you, do it.”

That’s been Liiz’s philosophy since she was 16: if you’re afraid of something, do it. For her birthday last year, Liiz told her husband she wanted to try the trapeze, even though she is afraid of heights—in fact, because she is. Though she fell on her first try and was shaking, she got back up, eventually nailing the routine. Looking back, she learned that she will be ok when she falls.

I love this. We forget how hard the first steps are. Everything that’s challenging or scary is helping us to grow and becomes a strength in hindsight.

How to Step Out when You’re Feeling Shy or Scared

For folks who are shy about sharing their core talents or unwilling to leave their day job, Liiz recommends taking baby steps. Consider joining a professional association or attend events with a friend or colleague. If you dream of doing a certain job, Liiz especially recommends reaching out and doing an informational interview with someone to learn more about the daily work.

We often have an exaggerated vision of what it will take to create change, and in talking with others, we can see the baby steps they took to get to where they are. People love to talk about their job, too. You will never bother someone by taking them to coffee and asking them to share their story.

I know when I work with clients, they can only see the big mountain they want to be at the top of. I have to remind them that there is a first step to get there, and a second one. Like all else in life, it’s a process.

Liiz suspects we all know what that next step is for each of us. It’s often a matter of making the commitment, however. If you aren’t ready, Liiz recommends working with an executive coach or a mentor—someone who can ask the right questions and act as a sounding board with an unbiased, professional perspective. Our loved ones, she says, often have the best intentions, but the value of coaching is to get a neutral point of view, help setting realistic goals, and staying accountable with a positive attitude.

Liiz’s Book Recommendation: Big Magic

Liiz loves Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Liiz had never considered herself creative, though in reading this book she realized it was due to her limited concept of creativity. Though she used to get poor grades in art, she has been told many times she is very creative in how she presents or coaches.

This book gave Liiz permission to explore creativity more broadly. Today she leaves the book on her desk as a reminder to let go and not get hung up on perfection. Instead of putting things off because she didn’t think she could hit perfection, she now allows herself to do what she can and to put “her spin” on it before putting it out into the world. You can always make it better next time—just get it out there.

When I was young, I was told creativity was not my thing. Today I still can’t draw or paint, but I can think outside the box or generate a ton of ideas. We are all creative in some ways, even with numbers, and this book helps us define creativity our own way.

Liiz’s Tool Recommendation: Bullet Journaling

Liiz loves accountability tools and highly recommends bullet journaling. Work-life balance is important to her, and this process helps her see how she spends her time and stay on track. You can search online for the different types of bullet journaling, There are even apps that incorporate badges and rewards. Liiz sets monthly goals and tracks her daily activities this way now. (One of her goals was to get on a podcast!)

Another new year is fast approaching. If you are looking for career coaching or to take the StrengthsFinder assessment, find Liiz at LiizCareerCoaching.net, on Instagram, or on LinkedIn at Elizabeth (or Liz) Herrera. Thanks to Liiz for sharing her story with us today!

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