Person of the Week
Roni Bailey Chambers
My mission is to inspire people towards their life’s work. I think we all had a dream when we were seven. Then life happened. The magic happens when you align yourself with what makes your heart beat (what you would do for free) and what you are good at doing. Know your strengths and don’t be afraid of what they are.
1. What led you to the mission of being a career coach?
I’m a human resource (HR) professional. It’s my nature to nurture. I actually wanted to be nurse as a kid. I found in human resources, the best place to be a nurturer. I was always drawn to the people side of business and not to the process side. That is where I became most successful in corporate America. (Click here to learn more about Roni as a career transition coach, mentor, speaker, columnist, and manager director at Career Innovation Partners, LLC.)
I spent twenty-five years in corporate America. I saw the destruction that happens to people when they lose their identity and their direction and take on the identity and direction of the company that they are working for. They are less fulfilled and the company doesn’t get their money’s worth. Good or bad, it happens.
I am a certified ombudsman so my corporate work was in that space of being the mediator – the neutral person. I had to manage the manager and on his side coaching him and then on they other side manage a poor performer and coaching him. So I was managing on both sides of those relationships. My gifts in corporate America were around employee relations and that neutral space.
When I had the opportunity to exit corporate America, I just had to find the right space. I spent three years as the executive director of a nonprofit. We helped professionals in transition. Forty-five hundred people came through the organization in three and a half years. I developed a curriculum and I practiced it, used it, and taught it while I was there. It was the height of an economic crisis in this country. Corporations were laying people off by the hundreds. In August of last year, 2013, we closed the nonprofit and I stepped out on my own.
2. What does this mission mean to you?
My mission is to inspire people towards their life’s work. That is what my mission is as a career coach. I think we all had a dream when we were seven. Then life happened. Whether we were the two percent that could fulfill that dream or not, we should be doing what we are best at.
Here is an example. My middle child went to college and was really strong in science and math. He graduated from college with a financial degree. He thought he would be a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) some day. Just before he graduated from college, he called me and said, “Let’s have dinner.” When your child calls and says, “Let’s have dinner,” something is always happening.
I sat down at the table with him. It was just he and I. He put a piece of paper in front of me. At the top of the paper was written, “The Pros And Cons Of Being An Accountant”. At the bottom half of the paper was, “The Pros And Cons Of Being A Fireman”. He said, “I love you, but I don’t want to be like you. I don’t want to be owned by corporate America. I want to be a fireman.” It was post 911. We had just lived through all that.
Today he is a fireman. He is extremely credentialed. If I need somebody to save my life, I want it to be him. He followed a dream different from what the piece of paper he got from college said he should be.
Oftentimes we follow what the piece of paper says because we are strong at it or the right side or left side of our brain says to do it. But I spend my career coaching time asking everyone to start anew with a life map. We start at birth and focus on what you were doing as a kid. We look at how this played out in your whole life. Then we discover what you are passionate about and see how these passions align with your skills. If we can align your passion with your skills, you can end up in a career long term. (The average career is four years now.) The magic happens when you align yourself with what makes your heart beat (what you would do for free) and what you are good at doing.
3. What was your best day as a career coach?
My best days are always when somebody lands in the very best job. Those are the best. I had a client who came in dejected and with no self esteem. This person was sad and didn’t believe in himself. I pushed him way beyond his comfort zone. When you push yourself beyond your comfort space, it gets bigger. He is now doing remarkable things. That is it! My best day is when somebody finds their passion in their career.
4. What was your worst day as a career coach?
This was probably the day I decided to close GO Network. That was a very sad decision to make. We served sixty people every Tuesday. Sometimes one hundred and fifty people were served in one week. As jobs and times got better in 2012 and 2013, we went from one hundred to fifty or sixty. (To see an interview with Roni and GO Network click here.)
My toughest day was standing in front of sixty people and telling them, “We aren’t going to be here any longer.” Although it was an amazing and wonderful program, we did some things wrong. We didn’t ask people to pay anything. When you don’t have any “skin” in the game you don’t show up right. It became a place to hide for some people. That wasn’t good. We had to release people to fly.
5. How did you survive your worst day?
I know that I am doing the work that God intended me to do. I get up every morning and say my prayers. I say, “I’ll follow, you lead.” If He leads me and the day is tough, I am OK. I’m supposed to be. There is something on the other side — whether it is for me or for the person I am working with.
I have an amazing faith in my God. There’s a lot of dark time on that life map of mine. There is divorce and intervention, molestation, bankruptcy, the alcoholism of other family members and I just have a strong faith in my God. I think you have to be really introspective. You have to know yourself. You have to know your strengths. You have to do a lot of assessment. In fact when I coach people, I give them a strength finder and assessment tools.
I believe that we all have a purpose. I am living my purpose. I innately knew that my purpose on this earth was to nurture people. My skills set and my business degree aligned with the work of being a career coach.
My advice to people would be to know who you are – know your strengths and don’t be afraid of what they are. I wanted to be a nurse. Well I’m not being a nurse, but I am nursing. I’m just wearing a different uniform.