The importance of having a very clear niche is one of the key points that stands out from my training at the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (IPEC). Of course, defining a niche is easier said than done. In fact, it can be one of a business owner’s biggest challenges. Over the past few years, my niche has evolved. Even though IPEC’s warning — that by targeting everyone, you’re targeting no one — kept rattling around in my head as I launched my business, determining my ultimate ideal client didn’t happen right away.
When I begin working with clients, I give them a questionnaire to fill out. One of the questions is “If you had all the money in the world, what would you do?” Without fail, everyone says travel. Experiencing other cities, countries, and cultures is something that lots of people want to do, but the expense of travel can hold people back. As an entrepreneur, I’ve been able to make travel a regular part of my lifestyle, and it’s something I couldn’t live without. Along the way, I’ve discovered ways to make travel not only affordable, but beneficial to my lifestyle and business. My trips inspire creativity, help me break out of my routine, and allow me to relax. When I return home, I’m more motivated and inspired. For these reasons, allowing myself to spend time and money on traveling is well worth it.
When I started my business, one of the first things I did was write a blog post explaining what coaching is. There are a lot of misconceptions about coaching, not to mention people who have never even heard of coaching as a profession. Now, with two-and-a-half years of experience as a business and career transition coach, I’ve discovered how fulfilling my job can be, and I’ve worked with clients who come from a wide spectrum of backgrounds and fields. Most of them have one thing in common: they want to live, work, and earn on their own terms.
As a coach who focuses on clients who are transitioning to new jobs and careers or growing their businesses, I often hear from my clients how exciting, yet overwhelming, their days can be. An entrepreneur myself, I completely understand how challenging it is to manage all your responsibilities in your business and personal life when you’re experiencing a big transition or growth in your job or business. Over the past several years, I’ve had to develop ways to manage my time, prioritize, delegate, and work smarter, and I’ve worked with my clients to help them do the same.
My friends, family, and clients know me as a natural networker. I’m always reaching out and making connections on behalf of my clients, as well as for my own business. But networking doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and I know lots of people who want to run straight for the door when they even hear the word. It’s true that there’s a real stigma around some networking clichés, particularly the dreaded “Can I take you for coffee and pick your brain?” line. This turns the process into a chore for both parties, and successful networking doesn’t happen when either person feels burdened or uncomfortable. In networking, what you’re actually aiming for is a conversation that’s productive on both sides.
People most commonly encounter ghosting while dating, but believe it or not, it’s pervasive in the professional world as well. The fundamentals are the same: Someone expresses interest in you, you respond with enthusiasm, and then, usually after some back-and-forth, they suddenly disappear. You attempt to contact them as many times as your dignity will allow, and when you receive no response, you move on, left with a bad taste in your mouth.
When I first launched my coaching business, I didn’t have a plan of action for managing my finances. As any entrepreneur knows, the first few months can be both hectic and exciting, and accounting and budgets might be the last things on your list. Dealing with money and numbers can feel daunting to some and boring to others. I tried to coast by using my mom, who manages our family business, for advice, and an accountant that she set me up with. And two years in to running my business, I still felt like I didn’t have a firm grasp on my own finances. Moreover, I didn’t feel like my team fully understood my business, and as a result, it was hard for me to feel confident about my money.
In our careers, it’s normal to crave more—more recognition, more responsibility, or more money and benefits. Many people also crave more meaning from their jobs, especially if they feel like they’re stuck in a rut or that their company doesn’t value the same things they do. If you feel like the work you’re doing isn’t meaningful, take some steps to make a change. While making big career changes can feel daunting, there are ways to make small changes along the way, easing an eventual transition to work that feels important to you.
Danya Shults is a connector who aims to build and strengthen communities, create greater access for more people, communicate with transparency, and promote learning through sharing. Inspired by her “Jewishly sourced” pop-up restaurant, Pop-Up Shabbat, and her digest of all things Jew-ish, The Ish, Danya founded ARQ, a lifestyle brand and platform that helps people connect with Jewish culture in a more modern (read: relevant, inclusive, and convenient) way.
Previously, Danya created the marketing and community functions at Spark Capital, was a founding employee and leader of culture and community at Skillshare, and fought for educational equality as a Director of Recruitment at Teach For America.
How do you define success?
Success is about knowing what is enough for you. Not for your boss, your frenemy, that person who has more Instagram followers than you, or anyone else. Your definition of “enough” may evolve - I always maintain the right to change my mind about what I want! - but it’s crucial to put your expectations of yourself into words so you can recognize when you’ve succeeded and then celebrate yourself (SO important) and create the next goal post.
How do you measure your own success?
I regularly reconsider what success means to me at any given time, personally and professional. I put into words what it looks like and feels like, what identifiable impact it would have on me and those around me so I can actually recognize success when I’ve accomplished it. I come from a very metrics- and results-driven professional backgrounds, so I’m also big on setting actionable, realistic, tangible goals on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis for my business.
How does success feel?
When I’m successful, in the larger sense of the word, I feel like I’m truly living out my values. When life is good, when it feels like everything is going right and I’m accomplishing what I’ve set out to do, I feel a deep sense of gratitude for and from others, I feel totally free, I’m collaborating with inspiring people and learning something new every day.
When was the last time you felt successful? What happened?
How do you celebrate your success?
This is SUCH an important question! I’m an incredibly impatient person, so this is a huge challenge for me and something I’m working on constantly. As soon as I accomplish one thing, I’m ready for the next and barely pause to congratulate myself. I celebrate by taking a minute to recognize what I’ve just done and I share my excitement with my husband and my family and my friends. I journal every Friday and write down my ups and downs for the week, as well as what I’ve learned and questions I have - it helps me celebrate the small and big things that have gone well, in addition to the things I’m still trying to figure out and obsessing over.
What advice would you offer to someone who wants to be successful?
I just saw the most perfect cartoon about this very topic and it totally grounded me in the midst of a stressful time. The headline was “The People Worth Impressing” and a picture of a little girl with the caption “Your 5-year-old-self” and a picture of an older woman with the caption “Your 85-year-old self.” If you want to be successful, you have to start with the hard work and identify your values and the impact that you want to have on the world and the people around you and on yourself. Once you do that, you’ll know what success looks like to YOU - stick with that and don’t worry about the noise.
One of my favorite things to do at the end of the year is to listen to all the playlists I made throughout the year and review what my favorite albums and songs were. This year was unique because there were so many individual songs that I absolutely loved yet didn't have many albums I loved in full. So, with that being said, this list is going to be different from the past years where it was strictly 10 songs and 10 albums. I couldn't figure out 10 albums and I had more songs. Changing things up on you.
Have a look and then a listen to my favorite music of 2016 (in no particular order).
(You can listen to it all on my Spotify playlist here)
- James Vincent McMorrow, Get Low
- Maggie Rogers, Alaska
- Car Seat Headrest, Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales
- Lucy Dacus, I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore
- Field Music, The Noisy Days Are Over
- Empire of the Sun, High and Low
- Father John Misty, Real Love Baby
- Gordi, Avant Gardener
- King Creosote, You Just Want
- Michael Kiwanaku, One More Night
- Okkervil River, The Industry
- Peter Bjorn and John, Breakin’ Point
- Ra Ra Riot, Water
- Caveman, Never Going Back
- The Avett Brothers, Ain’t No Man
- Graham Nash, This Path Tonight
The three albums that I loved the most this year were:
Jim James, Eternally Even <---I could not love this man more. He is absolutely brilliant.
Local Natives, Sunlit Youth <---finally saw them live this fall, oh how I love them.
The Head and the Heart, Signs of Light
THE ALBUMS THAT I ENJOYED YET NEED TO SPEND MORE TIME ON:
Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
case/lang/veirs, case/lang/veirs <----brilliant performance at Newport Folk Festival especially when they sang Helpless. Watch here.
Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Getaway
Bon Iver, 22, A Million <----after seeing them last night, I am adjusting to this newness but it's not the same. This will take some time.
The Last Shadow Puppets - Everything You've Come to Expect
Hope you enjoyed checking out my list -- I'd love to hear what your favorites were this year so feel free to email me or tweet me your favorites @harper_spero.