I Finally Feel “Whole” At Work
Emilie: I’m so excited to share your journey with our community, Cari! Tell our bosses who you are and what you’re up to these days:
Cari: I am a connector. I view the world through the people in it. Most of all, I love bringing people together to make big things happen.
I work with an incredible team at the intersection of entrepreneurship, global development, and women’s empowerment. I am the Director of Engagement of Solar Sister, a nonprofit social enterprise that combines the breakthrough potential of clean energy technology with a woman-centered direct sales network to bring light, hope and opportunity to even the most remote communities in rural Africa.
E: Women helping women across the globe – I love it! So how did you end up where you are today?
C: It wasn’t easy. I struggled throughout my twenties to find my place in the world. A series of disempowering managers, health issues, and geographical constraints left me feeling completely disconnected from my fearlessness.
After years of working depleting 90-hour weeks (of paid work and everything I was doing before and after work to fill the fulfillment gaps), I just had to stop. In order to reconnect with who I am and what I wanted for a sustainable and happy life, I needed space and time to look inward. I resigned from my job with nothing else lined up.
At the time, I didn’t feel brave. I was at a low point and felt foolish for giving up the security of a comprehensive benefits package and reliable income and not knowing how to respond when people asked me, “what comes next?”
Two years later, I’m truly happy, but I don’t credit this to bravery – I credit it to slow and steady perseverance, an incredible support network, and a deeply held belief that it is possible to feel whole at work.
E: Wow. Amazing, Cari. Congratulations! “Feel whole at work.” Can you tell me more about what you mean by that?
C: Feeling whole at work is different for everyone, but for me it boils down to 3 specific things:
1) loving the specifics of my role and getting to do work every day on projects that both leverage my talents and challenge me;
2) believing deeply in the organization’s mission, vision, and impact and;
3) being aligned with the organization’s work style, culture, and values – all the invisible, environmental factors.
E: That reminds me so much of our core belief that work, love, and wellness are connected. How did your experiences with us impact your transition?
C: Bootcamp impacted my life in two major ways. First, it connected me directly to a network of phenomenal women committed to pushing themselves and each other to build the lives they wanted personally and professionally.
Their stories and support emboldened me reclaim the agency I needed to go after what I truly wanted.
The second is that Bossed Up held me accountable to more than just my career goals. I realized that I was not as financially literate as I thought I was – and I had to make some major changes if I was going to be self-employed and financially sound.
A year ago I was living month to month, stressed that bills wouldn’t get paid if clients didn’t pay me on time. After my wake-up call at Bootcamp, and with a lot of hard work afterwards, I am proud to report that I maxed out on my IRA contribution this year, check in regularly with a peer finance coach I met at Bootcamp, and feel a great sense of pride that I’m taking charge not just of my present, but my future.
E: What advice do you have for other women navigating life’s transitions?
C: I took many great jobs that weren’t great for me. Don’t make that same mistake!
When considering your next move, ask yourself how it would feel to take that job, not just how it would look. For example, as an extrovert, I struggled working in tiny organizations where I could be entrepreneurial, but was cut off from my main energy source – connecting with people.
Do your personal values align with the company values? Is this a culture where your contributions will be valued and your personality will thrive? If you’re looking to start something, be mindful about building a values and culture-driven organization (think Airbnb, Zappos, Patagonia).
If I could do it all over again, I would never have selected jobs based the title or organization’s mission. I would have put in more work up-front to better understand my own strengths, values, and environments where I thrive and leverage that self-awareness to navigate and prioritize opportunities. Tools that I’ve found helpful for self-reflection include Myers-Briggs, Barrett Values Centre, and Strengthsfinder.