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Advice / Career Paths / Career Change

How a Career Coach Helped Me Get Unstuck—and Transfer Internally to a New Role

Jason Lee
Jason Lee

We all have times in our careers when we feel stuck or uninspired. When this happens, it’s hard to figure out what steps to take next or who to ask for help.

For Jason Lee, help came from The Muse Coach Connect. After talking things through with a career coach, he finally realized what needed to change to get him out of a rut. He shared his story with us about how his newfound inspiration ultimately resulted in an internal transfer at his company.

How did you hear about The Muse Coach Connect?

I was browsing the web looking for career coaches. I happened to find The Muse and really liked the content I saw there. I ended up choosing Kristina Leonardi as my career coach under the “Stuck in a Career Rut” package.

Why did you sign up for a coaching session, and what were you hoping to get out of it?

I decided to sign up for a coaching session because at the time I really felt at a loss with what I wanted to do with my career.

I graduated from the University of California, Irvine in 2014 with a degree in business information management, also known as Management Information Systems at other colleges. It was a great hybrid major that exposed me to many disciplines in the field of business (marketing, accounting, finance, operations, strategy, and management) and computer science (algorithms, coding, databases, engineering, and tech).

I started off my career as a quality assurance analyst for a mortgage company named CashCall. During this time I did a bit of exploration in other fields too, but the industry that really interested me was user experience design—that’s what led me to dig deeper to figure out what I wanted to do. Then I worked as a quality assurance tester. I started working in UX on the side as a possible new role to take on—I even enrolled in a boot camp.

By the time I signed up for coaching, I had been in the same job for four years—the job was decent, but I didn’t feel fulfilled by it.

Some of my biggest questions going in were: What type of job do I want to have that I’ll want to wake up in the morning for? How do I get there? What are my next steps? I was hoping to unlock some insights about myself to figure out what type of job would be best suited for me. I also wanted a professional to evaluate my situation without any bias to figure out a plan as to how I could get myself out of this “stuck” feeling.

How did you feel going into your coaching session?

I didn’t have too many expectations going in. I was curious more than anything and was a little bit excited about the possibility of discovering something that I didn’t know or wasn’t aware of.

What was the most meaningful thing you got out of your session?

The advice that stuck with me the most during my session was not to just look at the job position or role itself, but evaluate the environment I wanted to be in. For the longest time I was isolated in my own world and cubicle at work. I couldn’t relate to a lot of my co-workers because they were in a different stage of life than I was. There were times I felt I didn’t belong with the company or fit into the environment. It led to me feeling unmotivated to do my best work.

When my coach mentioned environment, and how to be mindful of it, I realized I value camaraderie at the workplace more than I thought. I was looking for a workplace where I connected to the community, culture, and people and felt motivated to work hard alongside them. Now I recognize how important it is to establish a human connection at work, have office buddies, and share stories outside of everyday tasks. Because of this, I’ve worked a lot on building a strong social network on the job.

What was your favorite part about the session?

My favorite part was when I got to reflect with my coach on how my life was going. I really felt like I was listened to during the session. Kristina was very supportive and gave me constructive feedback based on what I told her. She was also able to learn a lot about me in such a short amount of time. And in that short time, she was able to construct a nice personality profile of me.

The personality profile gave me a better understanding of my identity and strengths and weaknesses. It was useful to document some of it in my Linkedin profile to better market myself and help me craft key selling points during interviews.

Across the board, it was a helpful exercise to see that after doing QA work for so long, I’ve become truly detail-oriented, adaptive, and versatile with how I tackle any problems that come my way, whether software- or hardware-related or with life in general.

For example, one helpful “elevator pitch” she offered was: “You have a very curious nature about people/behavior and systems/technology and business and how it all fits together. You are an established IT generalist who can speak many different ‘languages’ and communicate among various stakeholders to achieve a goal or solve a problem.”

How did you feel after your session?

Overall, coaching made me feel more confident in my skills and value. My coach pointed out all the things I have going for me. Holistically, I wasn’t doing anything wrong but since I was my own worst critic, it always felt that what I had wasn’t enough. My coach pointed out that I had to be mindful and get out of that negative space. By truly reflecting on where I stood, I realized I was already very proactive in my situation. I was attending meetups and conferences, networking with friends, cold contacting on Linkedin, and documenting my process with spreadsheets.

Through this process, I really started to feel more positive and confident. I saw how much value I could provide as an IT generalist who speaks many languages across various business channels based on experience from previous IT jobs.

What happened next?

Once I was able to figure out what type of environment I wanted to be in, I was better able to craft a strategy that allowed me to move forward and get out of my rut. The coaching really influenced me to open my eyes to explore what else was going on at my company. I was able to find new initiatives to tackle, one of them being a website revamp for our current retail site.

My boss noticed I wanted to try new things and that I was actively engaging in side projects at work. As a result, he recommended me to the director of project management for an opening that came up for a project coordinator. I interviewed and transitioned to the new role internally. So I am still with the same company but in a different role, much different from what I was previously doing.

How long was your job search, and how did you de-stress during it?

My job search was around three to four months long, and I de-stressed by going out with my friends, cooking (and trying out new recipes), playing sports, watching Netflix, and doing a bit of yoga.

What’s your job now, and what does your day typically look like?

I’m currently an IT project coordinator, and my day-to-day responsibilities [vary]. Generally, I’m in a lot of meetings to assist with keeping projects on track by getting status updates from everyone, or to gather requirements for what’s needed in the next steps of a project. There are times when I’m working on roadmaps as well as managing any software releases we have coming up for the week.

I see my role as a conductor of an orchestra; there’s a lot of coordination that’s needed in order to [get] everyone (the chief information officer, VPs, directors, managers, and employees) within the IT team [in sync]. Even though I didn’t end up going into UX, the biggest takeaway I had from dabbling in UX was learning empathy and really digging deep when thinking about the user experience. I now apply the skills I learned in boot camp in my current role, by being an effective communicator when managing projects.

What do you like most about your current job or company?

The variety and challenge. I can’t predict what will happen in a given day. I am able to plan and anticipate for what could happen, but despite that there’s always something that will happen that was unplanned for. Every day is a learning experience for me and there’s a lot of room for growth, as I plan to become an IT project manager in the future.

Is this the kind of job you thought you would be doing?

Not exactly, but it was the type of job that I thought I could potentially be good at. The problem was figuring out how to get there and how to transition into a role like this. There aren’t too many entry-level project management roles out there, and I see it as a position that’s often offered to internal candidates only. So I’m glad I was able to find an opportunity at my own company!

What’s your go-to activity for a work break?

My go-to activity is usually food related, meaning that I’ll go out for lunch with my co-workers and grab some boba along the way. Food adventures are always nice to have and a great way to bond with people you work with.

What advice do you have for someone who’s stuck in a tough job search?

One piece of advice I would give is to be proactive and keep trying different approaches until you find something that works or feels right for you. Keeping track of your job search (how many jobs you applied to, where you applied, when you applied, etc.) is extremely useful [when you’re trying to stay] grounded with facts rather than emotions that tell you that you’ve done nothing or progressed little.

And once you find what works for you, stay consistent, keep going, and never give up. As long as you’re persistent, despite feeling that all odds are stacked against you, an opportunity will eventually open up.