Interview with Rachel GarretT // Career and Leadership Coach
Through my work as a Postpartum Back to Work Coach, I see many mothers who are unsure if they want to go back to work in the same capacity as before they left for maternity leave. Or if they are going back to work, they are likely considering some adjustments to their schedules and work boundaries.
Enter Rachel Garrett, she helps people who are looking to get to the next level of their career. And she assists moms who are thinking about spending some time at home with their children to make a good plan to stay in the game, even just a little bit in preparation for when they are ready to return.
Today we have the pleasure of chatting with Rachel and learning more about her work, and what's at stake for mothers. Enjoy!
BC: Hi Rachel, thanks so much for chatting with us about your work at a Career and Leadership Coach today. What is a career and leadership coach? What problems do you help your clients solve and in what capacity do you work with individuals and companies?
RG: When I first became a coach after transitioning from a career in digital marketing, my older daughter was 6 and she asked, “What’s a coach?” I told her, “Other working moms come to me and tell me their hopes and dreams—and I help them make their dreams come true.”
She went silent, thinking deeply about this and responded, “Mom, that’s not a job.” But then she changed her tone a bit to ask, “When they tell you their hopes and dreams, can you come home and tell me what they are so I can help you make them come true?”
After a brief explanation of confidentiality, I hired my first intern.
I love that story, because after years of coaching hundreds of women—I come back to that definition often. As a Career and Leadership Coach, I help women 1:1 and in groups to become leaders in both work and life, define what’s important to them and create lives based on their version of “having it all.”
BC: How did you get started doing what you're doing? What brought you to this work?
After 16 years in digital marketing roles at companies like American Express, Reader’s Digest, Scholastic and most recently the Visiting Nurse Service of New York—I had a nagging feeling that was growing stronger. I wanted to do something different, but I wasn’t sure what it was. So, I did the obvious thing any overwhelmed working mother of two would do…ran the New York City Marathon. I know…what the what? But it broke me out of my rut and I realized, “I’m not that good a runner and I just ran a freaking marathon. What can I do with the things I’m REALLY good at?”
For me my career has always been about lifting people up, leading my team, helping other women, talking about my hilarious daughters and what it’s like to be a working mother. When I strung all the clues together, I went back to school for my coach training and my practice was born. As soon as I began, I felt immense gratitude that I could be who I truly am for such a large percentage of the day instead of those 5 minutes before and after a meeting.
BC: Are there some common themes you see with moms of young babies/children?
RG: Oh yes! We put A LOT of pressure on ourselves, ladies! We feel like we need to make everyone (including our partners) think we can do it all—and perfectly at that. So we’re texting the nanny feverishly in between meetings and working on a craft project with the toddler while we’re nursing the baby and posting the blissful sleeping baby pics on Instagram (right after she conked out from the global thermo nuclear war she fought and won minutes before). It goes on and on and we don’t feel like it’s ever enough. The to do list is so long we never get to the second half.
When I see moms in this state of overwhelm, we clear the decks and make some space for some self-care and creativity to refuel. Usually those things are at the bottom of the list. Then we take a hard look at what’s going on in their day to day. What’s on the list that feels like a “should” and what is truly tied to their core values and priorities. Simplifying and learning to say “no” (even to your mother in law) is possible and positively liberating.
BC: What are some of the biggest barriers for moms and advancing their careers and leadership?
Smart companies who want to retain women must get on board with both official and unofficial flexibility policies as part of their cultures. This train has left the station and we’re in a moment where there are companies that are making commitments to do just that. But it still feels slow for many of the women I coach that are in companies with face-time required cultures.
With my career transition and job search clients, I arm them with the right questions to ask during the interview process so they can vet companies with the flexible cultures they’re seeking.
I’m also a huge proponent of women creating personal brands and authentically promoting themselves in their organizations. I talk more about this in my piece, Flexibility And Advancement Are Not Opposites. When women can go beyond doing great work and plant seeds often of the value of their work and their expertise, when they go to have the conversation about flexibility, they’ve already demonstrated their worth and impact on the organization. This then changes the conversation so that it’s more about the value they will deliver rather than about the amount of hours they will be in the office.
BC: What is the most fulfilling part of your job?
RG: My clients get promoted. A lot. My joy is helping women discover their worth and their confidence so they can do what’s uncomfortable and ask for what they want. When I see my clients begin to trust their intuition, tap into their strengths and celebrate big and small wins—I’m truly ignited. I mean, it’s on.
BC: Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
Of course there is! If you’re considering taking a career break after having your child, that’s a totally viable choice—but get some support before you make a firm decision about it. My experience with women on the other end of their career break who are trying to get back in is that, being a stay at home parent was more of an identity shift than they expected. When they are looking to return, they feel like they need to do some hard work (including a lot of mindset shifting) to get their confidence back and believe they can re-invent their careers. My advice is to know what you’re getting into and I outline this in my piece, Before You Take A Career Break, Think About These Things. My biggest tip in there is to keep at least a toe in at all times. Whether it’s volunteering, continuing to network at least quarterly, taking on projects—creative or otherwise—if you think you may want to get back to your career, stay in it—at least a little so you can keep those juices and ideas flowing. It will make it way easier to get back in on the flip side. I promise!
Rachel Garrett is a Career and Leadership Coach with a mission to get more women into positions of power. Through 1:1 coaching, workshops and online programs, she supports women in up-leveling their leadership skills, ditching impostor syndrome, mastering the work-life juggle and lifting up other women as part of their growth. Join her community @ http://rachelbgarrett.com