Being Intentional about Designing Your Career Path

By: Patricia Arboleda - Women’s Executive, Leadership and Career Coach

“Be intentional about your career” is what I tell young women who are now starting their professional life. Had someone said that to me 25 years ago, I would have probably experienced my career in a completely different way.  Today, I know that even though I have had some difficult times, those challenges have helped me grow into the person I am today.

In 1992, I graduated as an Industrial Engineer from the University of Illinois in Chicago and joined the corporate world working for Ameritech. A couple of years later, life threw a curveball my way. I ended up divorcing my husband and moving back to Colombia with my four years old son.  In 1999, I joined a Fortune 500 company in the IT Industry and moved with my son to Spain, looking for a fresh start.

I worked in Europe until 2008 when I relocated to the U.S. and continued to successfully climb the executive ladder in the company. The positions I held required me to travel often from Europe to Asia and Latin America, so I learned about the importance of connecting with people. Whether it was communicating with clients or conversing with co-workers, I realized that to truly influence, we must first connect, be empathetic, and most importantly, be authentic with one another. Through my years of leadership roles, I was beginning to see my own passion unveil– helping people grow.

I spent years living as a workaholic, abiding by the preconceived notion that I had to work myself to the bone to be fulfilled. Born in Colombia, I was immersed in a culture where being “perfect” was an expectation. This pressure made me work harder at my job, spend less time with my family, and sacrifice my health to achieve an unrealistic version of myself. I got to a point where I was exhausted, drained, feeling empty, and stuck. I was traveling around the world with little time for myself, dealing with tremendous pressure to get results, and doing my best to keep my teams engaged. I was considered a high achiever, but at the same time, too bossy.

I decided that I had to take a bold move and invest in myself. I started working with an executive coach who showed me that the real igniter to boost my career was my own mindset. With time, I also learned that it wasn’t necessary to overwork myself until burnout to move up the executive ladder; I just had to develop the right mindset and the habits that were going to help me accelerate my success.

I had to work hard to develop the right mindset, crush my inner critic, and reframe my beliefs about myself and my environment. It was then, when I decided to make it my mission to help women advance in their careers, doing what they love, without having to sacrifice their personal time and their families – as I did for so many years.

I had a clear vision for what I wanted, and for years I considered what it would look like to leave the safety of my corporate job to pursue a career in something I would have to build from the ground up entirely. To let go of financial security and job stability to pursue my dream was daunting. I had grown comfortable in my corporate bubble, but it was no longer fulfilling me. The one factor that impacted my ability to take the leap, was the determination to take action, even when I felt fear and uncertainty. After a decade of talking myself out of a career shift, I finally decided to leave corporate and pursue my passion as a woman’s coach.

Going from pursuing a career in a corporation with large teams under my responsibility to waking up every morning to live my passion took immense learning. I had to do everything myself, from marketing, business development, content creation, finance, and of course, coaching. But even though it sometimes felt like a roller coaster, with ups and downs, I wanted to pursue my passion and be in alignment with my purpose.

Taking the steps to be where I am now has made clear how important it is to be intentional about what you do and to do what you love. Every small step you take is a step forward into the success that you have defined for yourself, in your own terms, and nothing can be more rewarding than that.

For a person like me, a transformation agent who is highly motivated at making an impact and helping others experience a fulfilling life, becoming a coach, trainer, and speaker, has been the best decision I could have ever taken. And that helps me bring another point: it is super important to understand what motivates you, what makes you get up every morning energized and enthusiastic about the new opportunities that the day will bring.

It’s never too late to start; it only takes courage to stop, reflect and find out what you really want to do. Once you know, it’s all about being accountable and taking action. The good news is you can be fulfilled, inside or outside corporate, as long as you align with your vision and values.

My advice for women would fall into three things: establishing a growth mindset, developing self-awareness, and doing what you love.

  • Establishing a growth mindset is the most critical step in your journey to success because your mindset is the foundation for everything you do. Having a growth mindset will enable you to find opportunities that challenge you and develop abilities and habits that help you advance.
  • Developing self-awareness is listening to the inner voices that tell you that you can’t do something and knowing that what you are hearing is not true. Those inner voices are preconceived notions that you are not good enough for the person you want to become. In reality, you can reframe those same beliefs and master your mindset. You have the power to decide what your story looks like.
  • To do what you love may be unclear or scary at first. It took me almost a decade to find my purpose and finally do what I love. It is never too late to take the first step towards your dreams. Never let your fears stop you from becoming the person you’ve always wanted to be.

And never forget that, as women, we must support each other into growing the habits that will help us succeed, without losing track of what is really important: our own health and balance, and our family and relationships.

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