Career change is scary
Episode 160 - Why is changing careers so scary: What to do to overcome your fears. Interview with May Samali.
Career changes can be challenging, but there are many things you can do to ensure that your new path will be successful. For this episode of The Job Hunting Podcast, I interviewed May Samali, a leadership coach who has had many career changes and is keen to share how she's managed to land on her feet. Together, May and I will advise you on how to prepare yourself for your career transition and choose the best career path for you.
These are the three lessons I learned from my chat with May:
1. Do your research
Before making any significant decisions, make sure you've done your research. Find out what kind of work you're interested in and whether it's something you enjoy. If not, think about why you might not want it. This will help you decide whether or not you should pursue it. When you listen to the episode, you'll see that May has always been on a personal discovery path, taking mental notes and observing others at work, trying to identify the type of work she wanted to do and was a good fit for. May is also an avid reader, and I could tell she had thoroughly embraced her career transitions and learned a lot along the way.
2. Find out what's right for you
Once you've decided what career or job you want, find out what skills you need to succeed in that field, look at the requirements for the position you want, and see if you have those skills. If not, consider taking some classes or training programs to learn them. May is an advocate of knowing your "why": that reason that sits inside other questions such as "what" and "how." When you get to the root of your motivation to change careers, the path (what and how) becomes more evident, and you know how to take steps toward change.
3. Start making changes
If you're thinking about changing careers, know there is no perfect time to act. Don't wait until you burn out or lose motivation before making changes. Take incremental steps, and know that it becomes easier and more straightforward with each small change you make toward your goal.
About our guest, May Samali
May Samali is a professionally certified leadership coach, facilitator, researcher, venture partner, and business founder. With more than a decade of international experience as a lawyer, venture capital investor, and technology CEO, May has founded the Human Leadership Lab to help individuals and organizations identify their purpose and unleash their power and potential. She is also a Senior Industry Fellow at FORWARD, RMIT University's Centre for Future Skills and Workforce Transformation, and a Venture Partner at NextGen Venture Partners, a network-driven venture capital firm headquartered in the US.
May holds a Master in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where she studied as an Australian John Monash Scholar, Gleitsman Leadership Fellow, and New World Social Innovation Fellow. She also holds a Bachelor of Laws and Economic & Social Sciences from Sydney University.
Based between Sydney and San Francisco, May loves almond milk lattes, morning hikes, and quality time with her family and furry friends. Her primary areas of interest include leadership, entrepreneurship, the future of work, and well-being. She has been published on these topics in multiple outlets, including The Australian, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, TechCrunch, Forbes, and VentureBeat.
Timestamps to guide your listening
04:06 - May Samali's career story
05:09 - May Samali's passion for human rights
06:31 - Moving from corporate to entrepreneur
10:25 - May Samali's mindset and strengths
12:06 - How May Samali maximizes impact
14:45 - Following questions
18:43 - May Samali's regrets
22:15 - Failure and success
24:10 - Stepping into restructuring
25:32 - Psychological safety
26:26 - Listen and learn
27:42 - Know who you are at your core
30:21 - Why are human skills important?
38:18 - Why are career transitions so scary?
50:10 - May Samali's ideal clients
53:17 - May Samali's love for her work
Transcript of this episode
May Samali: Make sure you know who you are at your core. What are your values? How do you want to show up during hard times? What are the ways that you are going to, as Steven Kobe says, sharpen your soul? You are your most limited resource. How are you gonna energize? And this is not about work-life balance.
I don't like that term. This is about being an integrated whole being and being grounded and rooted so you can continue to show up. . Hello, everyone. Today you have two coaches to talk to. Aren't you lucky? And we are celebrating three years this week, and it's been a fantastic and crazy. Three years, all started in 2019. Pretty normal general stuff in terms of job hunting. And then, oh, hell broke loose.
Renata Bernarde: And here we are again, finding our feet post-pandemic. And I am running Bernardi; if you're new, I believe job hunting it's not evil. I think it's great for your career, and it has to go hand in hand with long-term planning and term job searching. Those two are great things to do alongside each other and find, you know, the baby steps towards your main goals.
Now, my guest, May Somali, is a professionally certified leadership coach, facilitator, researcher, venture partner, and business founder. She has over a decade of international experience as a lawyer, a venture capital investor, and a technology CEO. May has now founded the Human Leadership Lab to help individuals and organizations identify their purpose and unleash their power and potential.
She's a senior industry fellow at our M I T Center for Future Skills and Workforce Transformation Forward the name of the institute is Forward. She's also a venture partner at NextGen Venture Partners and a network-driven venture capital firm headquartered in the US. I met May through the John Monash Foundation.
She's a John Monash scholar, and she has other fellowships under her belt. And with that scholarship from the John Monash Foundation, she went to Harvard Kennedy School of Government and did an MPP, a Master of Public Policy. She also has a Bachelor of Law, Economic and Social Sciences from the Sydney University here in Australia.
Now I have so many questions for myself, and I've been avoiding her for week because, as a Brazilian Australian that I am, I like to have casual chit-chats and not sort of, Oh, May, tell me about you now. That's not me. So, Oh, it's so nice to see you.
May Samali: Let's start there. See you, Renata. I appreciate that.
Thank you so much for having me on this podcast, and ready to go.
Renata Bernarde: Wow. Great. The funny thing about meeting so many amazing people when I was the CEO of the John Monash Foundation is that. All the scholars are absolutely awesome, and I'm not supposed to have favorites.
However, I always really enjoyed talking to you, and I think even after I left the foundation, I was in San Francisco for my other job, and I said, Do wanna have a coffee? And we had a coffee, and I'm always so curious. I was back then, not a coach, but I was always so curious as to why you were changing things again.
Like, you know, there's this thing about May Somali, where she's not afraid to try something new. So why don't you tell everyone a little bit about your career story and what you're
May Samali: doing now. I appreciate that Ren and I, I remember that coffee vividly. It was before the world changed. It was, yeah, my career story or career journey, I think, can't be separated from my journey as an individual.
And a journey of getting to know myself better. So it would be lying if I said I've had it all figured out and this is part of a, you know, 20 or 30-year plan. I think part of my journey has always been, and perhaps I didn't have language for it initially, but following my energy and following what kind of makes me come alive.
So I think as a young girl, I had this real drive towards social justice, helping people find their voice. As a child of Iranian immigrants who were landed in the US and then Australia, where we call home, I was acutely aware of the fact that had I been born as a Bahai woman in Iran that I wouldn't have access to a lot of the educational opportunities that I would today.
And so naturally, I had this kind of fire. For social justice in my belly, that really, you know, drove me towards a passion for human rights law. I remember a conversation with my father where I learned that there's this thing called being a lawyer, and they're these organizations like the United Nations.
And so, as an early teenager, I used to imagine what would it be like to be able to bring justice to different groups in our society that are marginalized or historically disadvantaged. And that really took me into the world of law. I started my career working for an incredible woman at the time, Justice Beasley, who's now governor of Beasley, New South Wales.
She was an incredible role model and entry into like what it means to be a boss, but a boss who's extremely humane. After I worked with her, I actually had a couple of years in a corporate law firm here in Australia and was really skilling up, sharpening my skills to, Be the best possible lawyer.
May Samali: But while I was there, one thing a lot shifted. I noticed my energy going more and more to building new things within the firm. So whether it was recruitment programs, whether it was working with organizations, I was energized by this idea of being an entrepreneur, like creating things that didn't exist and was somewhat pushing the envelope within a corporate law firm structure where that's not really what you're being paid to do.
But I also noticed I loved working with startups and social enterprises and non-profits, but you know, initially, as a startup lawyer, I wanted to work with them more than just as a lawyer. And I think that it was this fascination for what I was doing after hours that made me question what I should be doing as my main thing.
You know, as Steven Kirby says, the main thing is to keep your main thing, the main thing, And at that. What I was getting my energy from wasn't my main thing. So, long story short, as you mentioned, I was really fortunate to have the opportunity to be surrounded by some great mentors and also organizations like the John Monash Foundation, which gave me an opportunity to really reflect on.
What do I want to do with this passion and energy, and what is the best way to have an impact? Is it really as a lawyer? And this allowed me to really make that first pivot in my mid-twenties. Early on, I'd spend my whole life as a lawyer and quickly realized my energy was with helping entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, and my foray into the.
Really for my masters, but focusing on impact investing. How do we help people who are change-makers, whether they're using a traditional business model or not, you know, get things started. How do we fund them, scale them, ensure that they're successful? And that it was that inquiry that really allowed me to wear different hats over the last seven years while living in the US as a venture capital investor and then really as an entrepreneur myself, building tech products within the education technology sector.
Even as a venture capital investor, it was starting a firm from scratch. And at every stage, it was like passion for creating something from nothing. And I think that's the thread that connects all of these pieces. But the more I did this work, the more I noticed my energy.
As an investor or even as a manager, going towards developing the capacity and potential of the human being in front of me as a whole person. And it was that kind of fascination that really allowed me to become more curious about human leadership. About, you know, adult development, about peak performance, about, you know, holistic wellbeing and allowing myself to go like, kind of following those inquiries and lines of inquiry which led me to kind of the coaching facilitation and broader work that I'm doing at the moment under the banner of the Human Leadership Lab.
So, in some ways, my story is one around following my energy. The other way is, Constantly realizing there's more to learn. There are other parts of me that want expression, and that I found my career was a way to find it, give expression to the various parts of myself that I was discovering along the way.
And that's part of why the curiosity never ends. And I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. But part of it is letting yourself be with what is now and evolve as you go.
Renata Bernarde: I love that story, mate. One of the things that I am always impressed when I talk to you is that you have this. I think it's part of your generation as well. It's not just you, but you sort of intensify that being unafraid to close a potentially very lucrative door. You know, that sliding door moment of you working, let's say, as a lawyer in a law firm and potentially envisioning, Okay, if I stay here, my career is just fine.
I will make a lot of money, and I'll be a great lawyer, but that's not what I want. I'm not sure what your parents thought of that, like, you know, because I see that in my kids as well. Like, you know, are you sure you want to do this? Are you crazy? Like, and then off you go, and you are just as successful again, and you're just as like, you have this ability to.
Be unafraid and go for it, and some sort of mindset, something inside you that just makes it successful every time, like every time I've known you for what? Close to a decade now. But it seems like you are always very good at getting things done well. What is it that goes in your mind when you say, Okay, I'm not going to be a lawyer, or, Okay, I'm not going to, you know, continue on this path, move to another path, and then go forth.
Tell me what strengths that.
May Samali: is. Well, firstly, I appreciate the kind of compliment. I think, you know, it's not something that's always been there consciously. To be real with you, it was a big deal to leave law initially. In fact, I can imagine it was a big deal. You know, I interned for a particular law firm as a fourth-year law student.
And then, I ended up taking a graduate law job at a competing law firm. And that was considered a big deal at the time, let alone leaving. And so I think one of the things I've realized, and it links back to your question of, you know, why have these transitions been possible or successful? It's realizing that with each pivot I make, the next pivot becomes easier.
I think of it as developing your leg muscles. Like with each jump you take, the next jump becomes easier, like a gymnast. And so, for me, a big pivot was leaving Australia, leaving the legal profession, leaving a relationship at the time that I thought would be like the relationship in my life. And then so when I landed on the east coast of the US studying, you know, public policy, technology regulation, you know, to my friends who I met at Harvard, moving to California to work in venture capital was considered a huge pivot.
Like, what? But for me, it was actually just a tiny pivot compared to the initial pivot and every pivot since. So part of it is recognizing that, you know, we have the bias of, you know, lack of experience. Like if we haven't pivoted before, it feels like a big deal. But the more we do it, the easier it gets.
I think one of the things for me is I have always thought about impact. How do I maximize impact? Not just what does the world need and what am I good at? But where am I getting my energy from? Like where are those moments that I lose track of time and feel most alive and actually keeping note of them.
And I'll give you an example. One of the things that was really fascinating to me when I was working full-time in venture capital in California, you know, as a VC is what we call them, your job is very varied. You know, there's no typical day. You are meeting new companies, and you are investing in companies.
You're then working with your portfolio companies. No two days the same. And the parts of my week that were most energizing were those where I was helping our founders solve human problems. Right? Who am I? Why am I here? Or the burnout questions, or how do I get the most out of my team while making sure that they, you know, stay committed to our vision?
For example, it was meeting female founders at events that were not the sexiest events in the startup calendar but were perhaps for ex-pat women or for women Persian women in tech, which I had a lot to do with at the time. And it was those moments where I felt this disproportionate joy. And I started to notice the thing that connected these was my passion for developing deep relationships with people.
And so I think one of the things that have really helped me is following that energy towards understanding. And really be thinking about how I can best serve and impact others. And that meant that I can be pretty nimble with whatever form that takes, like going back to the substance, letting the form evolve.
And initially the way that I had my kind of come to Jesus moment, if I can call that was when I was sitting in a courtroom with Justice Beasley. As I mentioned, she was an incredible mentor and boss. And at the same time, that was a real awakening for me because I realized I didn't want her job.
And when I was, there was this day when we were in the courtroom, it was a super, you know, important case. Samsung verse, Apple, the best barristers were there. All of the other, you know, staff members around me, my, you know, my year group, were excited to be in the courtroom. And I kind of looked at the courtroom, and I thought, If this is as good as it gets, I don't want to be here.
Like, I actually don't care. Mm-hmm. . And not that I didn't care, you know, per se, I was doing my job, but this isn't what gets me excited. I would find a lot of my time sitting behind the judge in the courtroom, kind of looking at master's programs, looking at entrepreneurship programs, and I had to follow that.
So I think it's that curiosity following the questions. And I love the quote from real Kay that says, you know, live the questions now, you know, follow the questions, and the answers will come. And so, following the questions that I was curious about has led me into the various roles and the forms of my career that it's taken.
I think that's been a really important piece. I think the other piece that I don't want to overlook is one where it took me a while; it probably took me into my thirties but learning to separate. Who I am as a human being may as a being versus my role. And I think such a big part of the problem of letting ourselves actually consider other career options or pivoting is that we think of who we are with what we do.
I am what I do. I am me. I am a lawyer. And so God forbid that I'm not a lawyer because then my whole identity's taken away from me. Yeah. Unlearning what you do is not who you are if you lose your job. So I've been fired. I've had to deal with that loss of identity, and that way, I've also left a profession like law where I've had to deal with leaving something that I thought I wanted.
So different thoughts of loss and grieving of an identity that you thought were, has allowed me to actually more and more, and it's still a work in progress, going to separate what I do from who I am. So I like coaching; I like facilitating. I like investing, but I am not a coach in terms of my identity being a coach.
Right. And that's been really important. And it's something that, you know, working with leaders as well, so we don't conflate our job title with our identity, our values, that we give ourselves a healthy space so that as and when this title or this profession doesn't work for us anymore, there are better ways to have impact that we give ourselves that permission to evolve.
Oh wow. That's just so much to unpack. I love that. When we are thinking about that detachment and, you know, separating who you are and your profession, how is it that you are planning your years ahead? You know, when you look ahead, how do you see yourself 10 years from now?
Renata Bernarde: What will you be doing? Is it too far
May Samali: out? Cause I love to, I love these thought experiments. So it's actually interesting you choose 10 years because I think I forget who says the famous quote, We overestimate what we can do in a year. We underestimate what we can do in 10. Uh, uh, And I think absolutely.
Yeah. I and I think we don't tend to think in 10-time horizons, but 10 years is actually the same time period I run my clients through when we do visualizations. You know, imagine your life 10 years from now. What I've found that comes up in my visualizations and this probably answers your questions in an inverse way, in that I don't start with where I am and think what's my grand plan Exactly.
I start with the visualization and going, What's the data that comes from that visualization that suggests what might be important? And the thing that constantly comes up for me is it's more important. Who I'm being, how I'm showing up in the world, what values I'm honoring and who's around me than my specific job title or what specific industry I'm in.
I think the thing that I tend to see is freedom. Freedom to explore, freedom to be who I am, courage, the courage to try new things, the courage to do things differently, to push the envelope. I see deep relationships and impact around me and also tackling and being part of conversations and problems that really matter in our society.
And so that always is, you know, I come back to it as my north saw. So part of the visioning and visualization of where do I want to be in 10 years? What feels like it's going to be important? Another way I ask myself that question is, in 10 years, when I look back at my life now, what will I regret if I have, and I.
Exactly right. It's good, And we get scared of the question of regret, but Dan Pink's work on the power of regret is really seminal here. And I love this idea of thinking to the end of your life or think to 10 years knowing what you know now; what are you likely to regret? Yeah. And then, guess what? Like you can now preempt, you know, preempt that.
And I think my biggest regret when I kept looking, whether I was 25 or 35, is that I will regret not following this energy I have for building my own business. I will regret not allowing myself to live a global life as a digital nomad where I don't really know where my one anchor or location is physical.
I will regret not giving things a go and failing forward. So to say, like, the biggest failure in my eyes is a failure of courage. Failing to give something a shot. And so that's been, I think, something that's really stuck with me. And the older I get, the more conscious I am that we become a creature of habit and comfort.
And so part of it is I want to consciously challenge myself outside my comfort zone. Time something starts to feel comfortable; I need to go kind of deeper. So even with the one-on-one coaching, you know, that's something I absolutely love doing. I do a lot of it. And as I started to move from, you know, conscious incompetence to conscious competence, and I noticed that I need more in my day-to-day.
That is going to feel consciously, Incom. So is it that I'm going to go do more facilitating or group coaching? Or is it that I'm going to go and learn this new language and bring it in? And so that, I think that's been really important to me, which is the constant growth in 10 years when I, when I look forward there, I think I also have a strong belief that our gut instincts and our intuition when we're connected to ourselves are there to help us and guide us, right?
And so I will often have a stroke of insight that allows the various passions that I have or questions that I've been thinking about to come together in a way that doesn't make logical or rational sense. But writing them down and starting to see the dots connect between the various things that you think you want to do or that you notice you're attracted to.
And that's been part of it. Documenting them, doing the visualizations, and then checking in with myself to make sure that I am continuing to honor my values as I move forward. Have my values evolved? And that's really, to me, the most important part of success in 10 years is living a life accordance with my values.
Renata Bernarde: So I think the learnings for those who are listening now that I'm getting from you is this when I met you, you had already done the first big transition. You had already moved overseas. I think when I first met you, you were still on the East coast at Harvard. And I remember thinking, Here's a pocket rocket.
Look at the confidence of this woman, you know, I think people seek confidence when they actually should focus on courage. Because if you have the bravery to do those things, the confidence will come. And I loved what you said about failing forward because that's exactly what people should do and think.
And the way that they should conduct their career plans and designs is not to think, Okay, let's succeed at every step of the way. Because that is impossible to achieve. But if you admit to yourself that you want to move forward and that there will be some failing involved in that, then you're good to go.
You know, failing is part of winning the game because you're going to fail some battles, but you got's going to win the war.
May Samali: Well, it's, it's interesting. I mean, even like this conversation, we're using words like failure and success. Pretty liberal. . But I think part of the issue is that we don't define them for ourselves as individuals.
We kind of just pick it up. You know, what does my family say? Failure and success are? What is my school system? What is my country? We become so socialized in definitions of success and failure that we don't. It's not until something usually pretty dramatic happens that we stop and think, what does success or failure actually mean to me?
And that's where I say we have to reclaim these words. Mm-hmm. . So success is, you know, what does that actually mean for, for the particular stage of your life, for the particular season, for the particular role you're in? What does failure mean? And I think for entrepreneurship in particular, which is my bias, as an entrepreneur, particularly working, is, you know, an aversion to failure.
Is going to ensure that you fail, right, in whatever definition of the word, because it's all about failure, redefined as learning. And I think learning, growing, experimenting, failing forward as, as you mentioned, as we mentioned, is a big part of what I think is missing in the way that we're also educated to think about our careers or trained to think about our careers.
But it's actually the most pivotal thing, and we need to decide what success and failure mean for ourselves. And we need to go inwards before we can go outwards in that regard. Yeah,
Renata Bernarde: and talking about failures and successes and the flow that careers take, you know, in directions that sometimes are not the ones that we expect.
We have a question from somebody who will be anonymous here, and he's saying, I'm becoming a leader. So he's stepping up as a leader of a company that's laying off all of its executive leadership and many other employees. So he's stepping into restructure. It's a tough, tough. How would you approach getting started with the right foot in adversity like that?
May Samali: it's a great question. It's a tough circumstance, and so I want a kind name, particularly a circumstance like that where we have to take the broader context where 2022—post Pandemic. Pandemic is still alive, well, and truly alive, for some recession and burnout on the brink of burnout for many of us individually, as families, as systems.
So as it is, the systems are on overdrive, individually, our nervous systems, collectively, our organizations. So when we're stepping in to an organization like this, and, you know, this is, I'd say general advice I have, you know, each specific circumstance might be different, is actually to be conscious of that context that we're stepping into employees.
Are humans and humans first? So being able to recognize that we're stepping into a system where humans have been impacted, and there's perhaps some loss to be grieved and also some collective identity formation that needs to happen. I think, you know, two things I would recommend on a systems level, at an organizational level, the work that comes from Project Aristotle, Google's research around what makes highest performing teams, but what. Are variables that make these teams possible?
The number one important fact of the high-performing teams, no matter what industry sector, geography, size that we were looking at, is psychological safety. Without psychological safety, nothing else is possible, Right? You could have everything else going right. So I would start there. Psychological safety is about trust.
It's about intimacy. It's about vulnerability. Brene Brown's work is very instructive here, but I would start with creating an environment where you name what's happened, where we surface hard truths, and that we. Kind of enter with eyes wide open in that regard. Going back to our values as a company and how we want to be during hard times can be really instructed.
People need an anchor, right? And I think leadership during times of crisis, like the war time CEO, if you want to call it that, or you know, leading during the time of a recession, leading during a pandemic, requires us to have deep empathy and deep understanding of what people are going through. So I would say that's the first thing for ourselves as a leader.
I would say there are two aspects to it. One of the best pieces of advice I was given was in our his closing speech on our final day in our master's program. Ronald Heifetz, who is the founder of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard, and his amazing work around adaptive leadership that also has changed my life.
He says, Your first few months in a job should be your sole job is to listen. Listen, listen and learn. It's the opposite advice of go in and, you know, have huge impact. Now, of course, you want to say something, you don't want to just listen and, you know, be mute the whole time. But you want to be able to; I think his point is really don't assume you have the answers.
Go in and understand what's happening for people, what's happening for the business. Listen to the macro environment; listen to the microenvironment. And to be able to do that requires a lot of self-grounding and self-awareness, and self-knowledge. So that's the second part of the individual piece, which I'd say if you are going into a system that's been in overdrive and individually, you know, it's a big challenge and opportunity.
I would say make sure you know who you are at your core. What are your values? How do you want to show up during hard times? What are the ways that you are going to, as Steven Kobe says, sharpen your soul? You are your most limited resource. How you gonna energize? And when we think about rests and energy, I think one of the biggest traps is that we think about energy and rest as one-dimensional physical.
But you know, there's this incredible TED Talk that talks about the seven types of rest or the seven types of energy, and you know, physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual, sensory, creative, how you're going to energize yourself, recharge so that you can continue to show up during hard times. And this is not about work-life balance.
I don't like that term. This is about being an integrated whole being and being grounded and rooted so you can continue to show up. And actually, to have greatest impact and to be selfless is to show up for yourself first and foremost. So they're the two things that I would recommend as a starting point.
Renata Bernarde: a such a tough call, but I remember once. Coaching a client who thought of herself as a great leader for those situations. You know, I think as you mature as an executive, So she was a senior executive at the head of level, and we were brainstorming what her competencies were, and she said, Look, I've done lots of restructures, and I have found that I'm not scared of doing them anymore.
I actually prefer to do them than to let other people do them. That is something I want to continue to do because I understand the natural flow of business strategy, and, you know, restructures will happen if I like it or not. Of course, I don't like it, but I'd rather do it because I have those humanistic skills that are needed for a leader to actually have it done in a way that's humane.
And I. I was so wowed by that, you know, I thought, this is great. How are we going to put that into paper??
May Samali: So, it's true. It's the, you're right, it's humanity because, and I think actually you don't need to be anything other than human in those situations. In fact, more human than ever before. I love the idea of, like, it goes back to the more you do something, the easier it gets.
So if you haven't been in that situation before, it can, it is scary, but you want to feel the fear and do it anyway, but do it in a way that's, you know, upholding integrity of how you want to show up as a human being and not despite being human. You do what you do, but because you're human, you do what you do.
Renata Bernarde: Yeah, you wanted to talk about human skills and why human skills is important, so maybe now it's a good time. What do you mean by human skills? May. Yeah. I
May Samali: mean, human skills is something that I think is terminology that's not foreign to us. It's simply kind of a rebranding. We talk about soft skills, or we've talked about enterprise skills or, you know, skills that are not technical if I can call it that.
I think we've moved away as an industry from. Thinking about soft skills because they're actually not very soft. They're actually really hard and important. , and the word soft suggests that they're easy. I think the hardest thing personally I find is human problems.
Mm-hmm. Technical problems have technical solutions usually, but human problems or adaptive challenges, changing hearts and minds is hard. And so I think part of what I'm really passionate about. It's a product of my own personal experience of constantly pivoting, but also what I see in clients and what I see in young people, I do some work with, you know, that teenage age range as well, is that we need to have a greater understanding of our internal world, our internal landscape.
So those social, emotional, relational literacy skills our ability to understand, you know, what vulnerability is. What intimacy is, what trust is, what it looks like to have the meta-view, your example around 10 years from now, what's that longitudinal perspective we want to hold? And then also just, I mean, when it comes to emotional literacy, this idea of emotional and also cognitive agility, we are not our thoughts, we are not our emotions.
And being able to learn skills around that, tools around that so that when we're feeling down, when we're feeling depressed or anxious, or when we're feeling that imposter feeling, we don't think of it as who we are, but something we're experiencing. Yes. And I think that's such an important distinction.
A lot of the unlock from a mental fitness, and mindset perspective happens when we realize that what we're experiencing is not who we are. We get to decide how we show up for that. And so I think human skills is about the ability to be resilient. It is the ability to know yourself as a whole system and be able to understand and have management techniques for your emotions, for your thoughts.
And I think this is important, not just because it allows for a more fulfilling life and one that is whole, but actually allows us to show up in our organizations in a way that encourages the human aspect and leads to better business performance and peak performance as opposed to trying to, you know, become machines or robots in the process.
And I think this is going to. Increasingly important as the world continues to evolve. You know, as AI and technology are advancing, the one thing that really can't be replaced is human skills. Yes, most other things over time are going to be outsourced. So optimizing for that, leveraging that, and emphasizing that no matter what profession we're in is going to be really important.
But I think we also need to change our educational system. So the way that we're raising our kids, talking about career shouldn't be what do you want to be when you grow up, that one thing? But you know, how do you want to show up? Who do you want to be? Not just what do you want to be and helping them understand who they are.
And it's not just about what you're going to do in the future.
Renata Bernarde: I think that also can escalate or translate to professionals not having great career readiness skills because they lack those human skills in the first place. So, answering very important questions that always show up in a recruitment and selection process.
Like, tell me about yourself. When are you at your best? Tell me about your leadership skills. They haven't thought of that because the work that they do is so all-encompassing, and it's, you know, about that identity. You know, I need to work hard and sit at my desk and do my work and come home and watch Netflix and take care of my family.
You actually never have or carve out the time to reflect and, you know, think about yourself and what you want. And I think that you know, that also leads to. Things that happen in your life, being made redundant, being fired, committing a career-limiting move, or, you know, anything, or being incredibly unhappy and not knowing exactly why because you're making money.
You become really scared of taking the next step because you don't have the tools to do it. Do you think that's why Korean transitions are so scary for people? Because they don't feel like they have, they don't even know they have the tools to do it, and they're not going to die from it. I, I heard you in another podcast talking about my favorite topic, which is, you know, the fight and flight situation that happens to people, and you are in Australia, I'm in Australia, we have clients overseas, but frankly, the fact that they've been made redundant or got fired or don't have a.
Doesn't mean they're going to die. That's how privileged we are. You know, we work with people that are not going to die because they lost their jobs. Right? Yeah. They come a long way. So, but we still feel inside this deep sense of fear and threat. How do you approach that? That to May?
May Samali: I love that you've pointed this out, Renada, because that human instinct, that amygdala response, right?
The fight, flight, or freeze is evolutionary. It's, I mean, it's protected us. Let's be real. It's the intention. It is good to protect us. It has, you know, when Lion was chasing us, our amygdala would go into full flight, and we, run away, and we'd be saved. But when we. Being made redundant when you know the economy is, going in the wrong direction.
Our brain, those, you know, neural pathways are so well paved that they want to tell us we're in danger, but it is a different type of danger. And so just being aware of that, that's what's happening, is really powerful. That we don't have to listen to that voice, that it's there, it thinks it's protecting us, right?
It's what we call like that saboteur voice, that inner critic. But I think one way to think about career transitions is it's an opportunity to recreate yourself. It's an opportunity to realign with your energy with your passion. I want to acknowledge it can feel scary, and it's natural for it to feel scary.
May Samali: Cuz as humans, we don't love change. We have status quo bias, but it's made extra scary. In certain ways that, I want to say we don't have to make it as scary as it is. So one is what you just pointed out, Renata, which is when we undervalue our human skills, or we don't think they're important, then it is scary.
Because if I'm moving from law to venture capital, then I don't know anything about venture capital, but I need to also look at the how of, how I worked, how are my skills translatable? How are the way that I showed up with clients here, maybe translatable here, and actually like valuing those human skills? I think the second we've also touched on if you are too attached to your role as your identity of who you are and you haven't defined your core values or looked at your broader wheel of life, the different areas of your life. Then it's going to be a form of loss and grief.
And so that separation feels more scary. I think another thing that I've seen, and you know, I was kind of guilty of attempting to do this initially, is career transitions can feel more scary if you're trying to change everything all at once. , it is harder to change your industry, your sector, your role, what city you live in if you're doing them all at the same time.
Now you might have an aspirational kind of career spot you want to land, but part of it is like, rather than doing a 180, what's this that I could do than this? And then maybe this and this, right? So for me, I didn't, I wasn't able to jump directly from corporate law to investing in startups, but I could use my regulatory and legal knowledge as a way to then invest in startups that are highly regulated, right?
So thinking about those minor shifts, I think, makes it much more easy. And then I think this is a point that you've raised right at the start, which is career transitions. I think feel scared because we are not having that long-term strategy of lifelong learning, of constantly being curious. We think once we have a job, that's it.
I've graduated university; the learning is done. So it's more scary when you haven't been thinking, growing more holistically as a person. And that's where it feels like, oh my gosh, I need to get a new job. It's that intensity over consistency. Whereas if you think about learning and evolving as about consistency over intensity, which James Clear talks about, I think this is the way it becomes less scary because it's just another part of the growth process and growth journey.
But that it's natural, that it feels scary. I think there are some things we can do to mitigate that fear along the way.
Yeah. As an example, I, I was working with a client who was made redundant, and it wasn't the first time that she was made redundant, and she was finding it really hard to find the resiliency to bounce back and the confidence to keep going.
We got her there, she got a job, and then she was so grateful, and she came back to me and thanked me profusely. And she said, And I don't want this to ever happen to me again. And then I thought, Oh boy, my job's not done yet.
May Samali: No, no, no. Let's have a few more sessions. Because, because that's not going to happen. You're too young to think like that. Like, you know, you have at least two more decades to go in your career, and chances are darling, it will happen a few more times. You know, especially if you are in that sort of Bracket where most of my clients where it's so easy for them to be made redundant, you know, Cause they're not the workhorses and they're not the C level, they're the heads off, they're the senior project managers.
Like really easy for you to be made redundant again. So we needed a little bit more time, and we're still working on it. ,
It's a good opportunity. And I think redundancy because of restructure is one thing. But also, you know, we know on a macroeconomic level we go through ebbs and flows as an as economies, right?
Whether it's now or in 10 years, or 20 years. But also, the exciting part about this is there is innovation happening all around us. Even. Eight years ago, when I graduated, or when I was graduate school, so many industries that are now people talk about every day didn't even exist back then. So we are selling ourselves short by thinking that we are going to be in this one spot forever.
And I think, frankly, Renata, the pandemic, the silver lining of the pandemic has been that we are realizing that the only certainty is uncertainty. Like I think before, we thought we knew what's going to happen, but it's always just a guess, and the pandemic through that all kind of in the air and said like, you, you can have all these grand plans, but you also have to be able to adapt and adjust and be present for what's happening right in front of you.
So I think a healthy balance of planning. , but also being present for what is mm-hmm. . And you know what I think about it as just in time learning as you are, you don't need to have learn everything just in case you know, all these different variables could occur. But as you are going, notice what the signals are around you, notice what you are hearing more about.
Notice where you are finding your energy towards and learn something just in time for when you need to do it. And if you're doing that, you are constantly learning as you go, and you're not going to be static or stagnant in your career. And I think learning doesn't to happen just through your career, but if you're also engaging it outside of your career, sometimes there are opportunities to then do it as your
Renata Bernarde: career.
Yeah, I love that. Just in time learning. That's so true. And one of the things that I teach, and it was even in my free master class from a few weeks ago, is don't be afraid to hop on a bandwagon. If you can deliver on that bandwagon like it's something is trendy now and back in your repertoire, you have the skills or the competencies to, that you can grow, even if they're, you know, baseline, even if they're a bit outdated, but you think, Oh, I have that, you know, I can work on this.
So I'll give you an example. During the pandemic, I was working with a few people and looking at their resume, and they had, like, Biogenetics PhDs, and they were now public servants. Like, I'm like, Why aren't you using that health background? You know, how, how are we going to, you know, doing the fires in New South Wales And they had military background.
They had been to Afghanistan. And I'm like; we need people like that. This is how bad the situation is. We need to reconstruct entire towns, like bring that forward. Oh, but it was 20 years ago. And like, mate, you can do it. I'm pretty sure that you can apply for this job, and people will love the fact that you have that competency that a lot of people don't.
So, you know, it's important for people to watch what's happen. Absolutely. In and outside of the AI sectors, right?
May Samali: Absolutely. And it's the, I mean, you point to the recency bias, right? We just remember the most recent things we've done, but we actually have a lot of these skills, you know, work a lot with mothers who are entrepreneurs, people who are navigating different roles outside of their jobs.
it's not despite, for example, having children that you're going to be successful. It's often because, right, the skills that you are developing in at home or going through crisis, if you've been a refugee, these are not things To have a story around that's separate, but like, let's bring them into the human skills or the resilience, the change resilience that you have going in, or the time management skills or the energy management skills, the human empathy.
May Samali: So many of the different, you know, the different experiences we've had, the different parts of our identity enhance our ability to show up in a professional environment in our workplace as entrepreneurs. I don't think we do a great job of connecting them as readily ourselves because we don't think they're relevant.
And I think part of this, frankly, Renata, is it goes back to probably familiar with Simon Sinek Golden Circle. the how and the what, Yeah. And he actually uses this framework in the context of organizations saying most organizations focus on what they do.
Some think about how they do it very. Start with their why. The organizations that start with their why know their vision for why the company exists most successful. And then, they think about the how and what they can adapt during hard times. And you think of companies like Apple or Harley Davidson that he refers to in the center.
It's about why do we do what we're doing? We're pushing boundaries with technology and design. Now what we do is we might build a computer or an iPod or an iPad, right? But that's not who we are or what it's about. The why. I think, as humans, it's the same. We focus a lot on; I don't think this is just a management principle, it's it's an individual personal development principle, which is focusing so much on what we do is taking us away from the more important questions of how do we want to work, how do we want to show up?
And why are we doing it in the first place? Because the how and the why are actually allowing for many different types of what. But when we start with what, when we go to job posts and think, Okay, I need a job. I'm going to start by just looking all the job posts out there. We're narrowing ourselves. If we start with why, you know, what are our values?
What's most important to me? Maybe it's courage; maybe it's social justice; maybe it's, you know, authenticity. Starting with how, like, I know for me, I love working; ordinarily, I love building new things that don't exist. I love setting my own agenda. I don't like having strict time to how I work. It's no surprise that I work for myself.
And then things about how I like to collaborate with others. Now for, each of us we have certain ways we like to work. That and why we do what we do helps us understand what are the various roles. Companies, industries that this week we potentially could apply this to. And I was actually having a recent conversation with my sister, who's transitioning from being a dental practitioner a technical expert to wanting to work more broadly in health management or health startups.
And, you know, just seeing that we have our own bias of not being able to see what our skills have been and how we've worked, how we've solved problems are actually highly relevant to the other sectors that we want to go into. And I think this is where we need to kind of look inwards at the why.
If we start with the why also gives us a lot of energy.
Renata Bernarde: I agree. And, it's interesting because we haven't really thought about why, you know, and sometimes our why may have been so polluted by noise with the education that we received, what our parents wanted for us, what we think society expects of us.
So there's a lot, you know, I work with much older clients, sometimes my clients much older than I am. I'm 50, and I have clients in their sixties and late sixties even and for them, and I'm not afraid of telling them you can still work. I mean, have you seen Bobby Brown? Bobby Brown was locked out of opening her own businesses for 25 years when she sold Bobby Brown's cosmetics.
She just came back swinging at 64 and, you know, is doing really well. So if you want to, if you know your why, You can find the energy to do whatever you want at whatever age you are. I truly believe that it, it is all about knowing why you want to do it. Because if you're going to do a big, old, boring job, then there is no energy, and age will affect your performance.
May Samali: is such a good point, Renata, and I think I want a kind of almost offer a tweak to that when we say, you know, start with why or know your why that can also feel overwhelming and inaccessible to some folks. I mean, it did to me initially when I read about this. It's like, it doesn't have to be just this one great life purpose.
That that can also feel overwhelming. Think of it as you might have multiple whys, and your why can be, you know, a sense of like your visioning. When you think of yourself in 10 years, what are the things that feel important, your why is also your values? You know, you might want to do a core values exercise.
Get to the heart of, like, what's the music behind what I say is important to me? What are the core values I want to honor in whatever way, shape, or form? And those things combined give you a sense of your why, right? It doesn't have to be perfect, and your why can evolve. But kind of hoping that you'll come up with a way as you are doing whatever you're doing doesn't work as well when you just start with the end in mind.
Cause it gives us energy into the now even if we decide to go off track. Cause what we're not seeking is destination clarity, right? It's not that point. It's directional clarity. And as we move in that direction, I might go actually; it's easier for me to catch a flight now or jump on a boat.
It's not about getting the car and know exactly how to drive there. We have to be adaptable. But we want to have a sense of if we're, you know, going north or south, that's important. Yeah.
Renata Bernarde: and look, I'm glad you mentioned it because we make it feel so simple. You just need to know why it is not simple, and it's not going to just happen to you.
You know, It's just the thing about being mindful that it's something you should seek, and it take notes and write down, you know, you and I know John Monash. The best thing about that man is his diaries. I love reading them. I have a collection here at home, and I think we lost recently, you know, in the last 50 years or so, we lost this.
Ability to write or put our feelings into paper, put our ideas into paper. We don't do that as often as we should. So if you're mindful that these things are important, or your career sustainability to your well-being and your life, then start doing that. You know, that's free advice here from two coaches.
May I want to ask you if you're working with individual clients? You're also working with companies. Who and what are your ideal clients?
I, I work both at an individual and organizational level. So I'll start with the related at an individual level; the ideal client is not so much a, you know, demographic definition.
May Samali: I work with men and women. I work with, you know, folks as young as in their mid-twenties to, in their, you know, sixties, like you were saying. I work with folks all over the world, but predominantly us, UK, and Australia, and I would say the ideal is really around your psychographic. It's like, what is the way that someone thinks?
That is my ideal client. Firstly, someone who is ready for a deep partnership. I say if this is the one place in your life that you can be completely honest and let yourself be seen as a whole person, body, mind, and spirit, personal and professional, this is the place for you. Someone who is self-aware but wants to increase that level of self-awareness and is focused on both the inner game.
So knowing yourself, knowing your strengths, knowing your values, being able to self-regulate, understand your emotions, understand your limiting beliefs, and that mindset and mental fitness training as a way to enhance what I call the outer game, which is that operationalizing it. In an organization, in a career, in parenthood, or frankly in, you know, most importantly, like our relationships at work and in management.
So I tend to work with startups, CEOs, founders, venture capital investors, people who are at the—kind of intersection of innovation and entrepreneurship. And also, people going through career pivots, but mostly those who have maybe pivoted in and are now looking to enhance their skills. So that's really at the individual level.
I would say at the organizational level. I work with all kinds of organizations, but those who are looking to bring more humanity or human skills into their leaderships and teams. And so this could look like anything from building trust and psychological safety in our teams to understanding, defining, operationalizing our organizational values and purpose.
Actually, being able to think and audit them. You know, only 11% of organizations actually translate their values, those shiny nice words that we come up with and put on the wall, into observable behaviors and actually green light behaviors. That's really important. So part of it is helping organizations with that type of piece.
As well as, you know, offsites, workshops, retreats, you know, keynotes. So the form is malleable. There are multiple modalities, but all in service of growing. The competency of the teams.
Renata Bernarde: Well, that's why I'm so happy that we've reconnected because I want to help people transition from one career to another, one job to another.
And then I want to onboard them and, you know, make sure that they're happy where they are, and then work with somebody like you because, you know, if I educate themselves and the importance of investing in their careers, then hopefully they will do that for life. And hopefully, we can sort of bring you on board to continue to support my clients, either because they need it themselves or because they're leading organizations that may need somebody like you to step in.
So we'll be in touch.
May Samali: May. We'll, and like, you know, the reason I love this work is we're often wearing multiple hats, and you know, someone that you've worked with in another capacity, you now work, and I, I've been the beneficiary of coaching therapy mentorship. I'm a big believer in this work; growth is a core value of mine.
So it's probably not a surprise, but I do believe that there's no an endpoint to individual and organizational growth. And so that's part of, we need multiple resources or tools in our toolkits and relationships like this. You know, we go through seasons where we might need a different kind of coach or a different kind of mentor.
And also just noticing that in ourselves, it's not a one-and-done deal. I always encourage clients to think about, you know, what's next for you. Is this the right type of relationship? Or what's the next frontier of learning and growth? So I'm excited to have this conversation with you, Renata. Yeah. And try to partner into the future.
Renata Bernarde: love to. So next time I'm in Sydney, we're going to catch up. Sounds
May Samali: awesome. Thank you so much. Have a great day, Sydney.
Cheers. Thanks, everyone.
Renata Bernarde: Bye, everyone.
About the Host
Hello, I’m Renata Bernarde, the Host of The Job Hunting Podcast. I’m also an executive coach, job hunting expert, and career strategist. I teach professionals (corporate, non-profit, and public) the steps and frameworks to help them find great jobs, change, and advance their careers with confidence and less stress.
If you are an ambitious professional who is keen to develop a robust career plan, if you are looking to find your next job or promotion, or if you want to keep a finger on the pulse of the job market so that when you are ready, and an opportunity arises, you can hit the ground running, then this podcast is for you.
In addition to The Job Hunting Podcast, , on my website, I have developed a range of courses and services for professionals in career or job transition. And, of course, I also coach private clients.
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