Finding your way on your career path: Nicole Rogers on “Designing a Purposeful Career”

Ama La Vida CEO Nicole Rogers.

Sometimes, that period between Commencement and settling into our first professional-level job can be exciting. All the years of studying are transformed into a position that (hopefully) puts those skills we learned into action!

But for a number of Sun Devil alumni, that first (or second, or third) job can lead to uncomfortable soul-searching … with nights spent staring at the ceiling wondering, “Why don’t I like my job?” or “Why do I feel like something is missing from my professional life?” or even “How do I hit the eject button on this career?”

On April 19, ASU alumni will have a chance to discover a way to shape (or reshape) their career, with help from Nicole Rogers, CEO and cofounder of Ama La Vida, a personal and corporate coaching firm. She will be presenting this week’s Wednesday Webinar program on “Designing a Purposeful Career.”

We chatted recently with Rogers about what led her to become involved in Ama La Vida, and how alumni can get started aligning their work with what’s most important to them in life.

Tell us about your ASU background and your route into the personal and corporate coaching industry.

I started out at ASU as a finance major and added supply chain management as a double major because I liked it. I decided that I wanted to go into Management Consulting fairly earlier on at ASU - it sounded like it would suit me well. I liked the idea that I would travel a lot and have a job which changed regularly so I wouldn't get bored.

I joined the Consulting Scholars program at ASU and eventually got a job at PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in Chicago doing supply chain consulting … my dream job! But about six months in, my dream had become a nightmare. I hated the job. I hated Chicago. I hated the cold. I hated the travel. I had my "quarter-life crisis" and felt pretty lost about where to go from there.

Luckily I stuck it out at PwC, and went on to enjoy my time there (for the most part). And I learned A LOT. When I got a promotion after a couple of years there, I was assigned a coach to help me through the transition. I had never worked with a coach before and I was pretty skeptical, but working with that coach changed my life. We continued a relationship outside of PwC, and she led me through a series of exercises to help me figure out why I was unhappy in consulting and what I would be better suited for. Everything pointed toward entrepreneurship.

So I left consulting and … got another corporate job. I wasn't ready for entrepreneurship yet! I had more and different things still to learn to prepare me. I did corporate strategy for a startup so I could learn the ins and outs of how a small business works. While there, I started building Ama La Vida, crafting a technology-based coaching company which would utilize many similar exercises to the ones I, myself, had gone through to figure out what I wanted to do. Then, eventually I left my strategy job to work on ALV full time.

At Ama La Vida, I'm actually not a coach, myself -- I am the CEO and co-founder and I run the business side of the business. That is what I'm good at and what I love. But having struggled for so long to figure out the kind of career I was looking for, and seeing so many of my peers go through similarly challenging times, I was passionate about building a smoother process to help people through it. I also wanted to create a supportive environment where people have affordable access to a trained, certified coach like I had.

What are some of the key points you’ll be addressing at your April 19 webinar presentation, “Designing a Purposeful Career.”

I'll talk a bit about the reasons why so many people are unhappy in their careers and why we sometimes get stuck there … even convinced by those around us that it's the only way!

After that, I'll explain our company’s framework and process for designing a career you love. We believe you first have to look internally and understand who you are, what motivates and excites you, what you're good at. What you value. What your purpose is. Only once you really get to know yourself you can start to explore how that relates to the job market and how you can select or create the right job for you.

My business partner who is a tremendous executive and career coach will join me on the webinar to actually take us through the first step together to begin to identify our passions, the things which make us come alive, and she will help us understand how we can incorporate our passions more into our current careers.

How can a busy professional find the time to ensure that purpose is built into their career?

Like anything, the reward comes from putting in the work. But the first step is to at least have some awareness about it! This webinar will help you understand what things you should even be paying attention to. For example, instead of beating yourself up for procrastinating at work, take note of what you tend to do when you procrastinate. Do you always read certain articles? Listen to certain music? Socialize? What does that tell you about yourself and what makes time fly for you?

Once you’re aware of what your values and passions are, you can start to put strategies and goals in place to do more of them. Maybe you're always socializing because teamwork is one of your values and part of your purpose, but you're in a role where you always work alone. If so, maybe you can join a committee or club, offer to mentor someone, or deliver some training on the job.

Most people think their job description is way more static than it actually is. Once you identify your purpose and you can articulate what you need to feel more fulfilled in your work, you'll be shocked at how accommodating most employers are and how many opportunities exist to make it happen.

What are some common ways in which working professionals can get disconnected from their life purpose? How can they rectify these situations?

There are a lot of them, and I will talk through a bunch in the webinar, so I'll just highlight a couple of common ones:

  • They do what someone else wants them to do. We see so many of our clients who have gone down a career path because their parent influenced them to. Or perhaps a professor. Or it's what their friends were all doing. Your career usually takes up a huge part of your life and for most people also becomes a large part of your identity. You usually won't find joy, fulfillment or your greatest possible success if you are doing something someone else wants you to do, or what you think you should do and not what you want to do.
  • They don't know themselves very well. This sounds silly, but it's shockingly true. Life and societal pressures can take people so far away from who they are intrinsically that they start to forget. When you go through our program, you are challenged to think back to when you were a carefree child, before those pressures, and think back to what you loved to do then. Did you love setting up the lemonade stand? Or building stuff? Or drawing? Everyone loved something, and odds are you haven't done anything like it in a while. You are also challenged to imagine a world where you have all the money you need and no commitments, how would you spend your day? Would you help people? Write? Travel? While we of course aren't suggesting you quit your job on the spot and go travel the world, your answers provide you with clues about who you are and what pieces of you are missing in your life and career.
  • They only chase money. I love money, and our company’s coaches will never tell you not to at least consider the financial implications of a career path. The problem appears when people believe that money alone will bring them fulfillment. It won't. It also often becomes an unattainable goal. You used to think $X would make you happy and somewhere along the way that number became $Y. You end up delaying happiness for some unknown future date that often never comes. Money is something to consider, but not the only thing.

What are some of the rewards of a purposeful career?

The beauty of it is it brings you both happiness and success. You find happiness in it because you are doing what you love. You are receiving recognition. You are living aligned with your values. You get to spend your days doing what you enjoy doing. You find success because you are utilizing your own gifts -- the things that make you unique. You're engaging your passions, which give you energy instead of draining you.  You will excel when you start doing exactly what you were built to do.

What's one thing readers could do today to start aligning their career with their purpose (beyond signing up for the webinar)?

Think about these 4 questions:

  1. What makes me come alive?
  2. What makes me unique?
  3. What values guide my decisions?
  4. When do I feel most happy and fulfilled?

That is a VERY simplified form of our program, but a good place to start exploring. Start to answer those questions and identify where those things are not appearing in your career or are in direct conflict with your career. If you want some support or to do a full career coaching program, you can learn more here.

Is there anything else we haven’t discussed that you think is relevant?

Don't get discouraged, and remember to enjoy the journey. If your job and/or life is not at all aligned with your purpose right now, that's okay. Good for you for having the awareness to say it. Don't sit in your apartment and cry like I did that first winter in Chicago (only sort of kidding). Just get busy figuring out what you need and recognize that careers are not linear. Take a step backward or sideways if that's what you need to do. Have a laugh about it and find a way to enjoy the process. Blog about it. Do some volunteer work. Find ways to embrace your purpose and passions before you can incorporate them fully into your career. Whatever you do, try not to postpone your happiness.

Sign up for the April 19 “Designing a Purposeful Career” webinar with Nicole!

~ Liz Massey, Managing Editor, ASU Alumni Association