When I first launched my coaching practice, I tried to build my business helping nonprofit leaders take better care of themselves. I gave free talks, regularly attended all of the networking groups, and hustled to get clients. But still, I struggled to convince nonprofit leaders to invest in their self-care. 

A couple of years in, I did a 180 and decided to focus on helping healers get more clients and make more money. I quickly filled my practice, but the work didn’t feel exactly right. I didn’t yet know how to integrate the inner work teachings I found most transformative into my work with healers. As a result, my clients’ results were often unpredictable. 

How I was working didn’t feel quite aligned with how I felt called to work. 

So I experimented, engaged in trainings, shifted my message, and took many other small steps to bring my work to a place that felt aligned with what I felt called to offer.

Five years in—in early 2018—I was nearing completion of my MBA and had to choose a topic for my capstone project. By that point, my coaching practice was consistently full, but I felt limited by only being able to serve fifteen people at a time. I wanted to help more people. Meanwhile, I still wasn’t satisfied with the focus of my work. 

So, I experimented with several ideas, from teaching college students peer coaching to offering burnout prevention courses to nonprofit professionals. 

Finally, I paused and got the outside view. 

I had just gotten clear about what my clients were asking for in a class on data analytics. For a research paper, I’d taken all my clients’ intake forms from the previous two years, made a list of the words they used most frequently, and then tallied how often they used these words. That’s how I discovered that the word my clients use most frequently is clarity and that the words they use almost as often are confidence, focus, and balance

I had thought that my clients’ biggest concerns were making more money and getting more clients, but it turns out that most of them were coming to me to get clear and confident about their next steps in their work-lives. They knew they needed a change, but they felt scared, overwhelmed, and confused about which path to take and where to start. 

That’s how I discovered my new focus.

Even though I had worked with my clients for years, if I hadn’t listened more closely to what my ideal clients needed and wanted, I wouldn’t have realized the extent to which they were longing for clarity.

For my capstone project, I decided to create a curriculum about how to get clear about what’s next in one’s career. One of the first steps I took was trying to find a book for my clients that would answer the question How to get clear about what’s next? 

I read all the books I could find on career transition, but I couldn’t find a single book that adequately answered this question. 

So, I decided to write one myself. 

Along the journey of writing this book and supporting my clients, one of the most important realizations I’ve come back to is this: 

A fulfilling and impactful work/life lives at the place where what you love and are good at intersects with what your clients need and are willing to pay for.

To get hired, you have to understand what your potential clients need and are willing to pay for. You must speak in a way that demonstrates that you understand their challenges and longings. 

  • Clients hire healers to fulfill a need (help them heal their pain and transform their lives). 
  • Employers hire employees to fulfill a need (get the job done well). 
  • Donors donate to fulfill a need (make a difference or leave a legacy). 
  • Practitioners refer to other practitioners to help their clients fulfill a need (get the results they want). 
  • People join movements to fulfill their needs (create change in the world). 
  • People pay money because they hope their purchase will fulfill a need. 

If your work doesn’t meet a need that people know they have and are able and willing to pay to fulfill, people won’t buy. 

If you are struggling to get clear about what’s next in your work-life, the purpose you’re called to serve may be right beneath your nose. Just as I didn’t realize that my clients were coming to me for career clarity until I paid closer attention, people might already be asking you to serve in ways that you haven’t quite heard yet.

By listening closely to how people in your life are asking you to serve, you might discover a profitable business idea, a way to present yourself more effectively in interviews, an idea for an organization that could make a big difference in your community, or a new possibility for collaboration. 

You do not need to say yes to all requests you receive, but you can gather unexpected guidance about paths you might take when you pay closer attention. 

Practice: Listening to Who’s Calling You to Serve

With this in mind, I invite you to take a moment and reflect on the requests you’re already receiving. 

Grab a pen and write down what arises in response to the following questions:

Who is Calling You To Serve? 

  1. What kinds of people do you naturally seem to draw to you? 
  2. Who keeps showing up for support? 
  3. What type of support do they ask you for? 
  4. What are their biggest problems (their Point A or starting point when they first come to you)? 
  5. What are they longing for (the Point B or the changes they want to achieve)?
  6. What words do they frequently use to describe what they’re looking for?
  7. How does your body feel in response to the various requests?

Who Do You Most Love Working With?

  1. Generally speaking, who do you seem to be best at helping? Where do you shine? 
  2. Who do you have the most fun working with? Why are they fun?

Your Next Steps:

When you’re complete, look over your list. Identify common threads. Then, ask yourself: 

  1. What have you discovered (if anything) about who you might want to serve and what they need? 
  2. What does this practice tell you about who your ideal clients, employers, or collaborators might or might not be?
  3. Who might you feel inspired to have a conversation with?
  4. What small step forward might you take next to gather more information?

I invite you to stay curious about the requests that are coming your way and who you’re called to serve. If you stay curious, keep listening, and continue taking your next small step forward, you, too, will eventually get clear about who you’re called to serve. 

Wishing you lots of listening and lots of learning on the path ahead!

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Much love,

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