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Reentering the workforce? This career path may be a good fit

Corporate integrator Kelly Knight suggests that this role might be good for those with a background in senior leadership.

Reentering the workforce? This career path may be a good fit
[Photo: 10’000 Hours/Getty Images]

There has been an increasingly more serious trend of women leaving the workforce. Between 2015 and 2020, women opted out of work at lower rates than men; but by 2020, almost one-quarter of women considered leaving the working world completely, according to McKinsey. What was the reasoning behind this? Likely, many female professionals were feeling burned out, exhausted, and under greater pressure to perform than their male colleagues, especially mothers and women in senior positions.

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Despite the unfortunate causes underlying this women-lead workforce exodus, an exciting opportunity lies within: These trained, experienced women have the chance to start over, create their own businesses, find a new form of career freedom, and open doors for other women choosing a similar path.

I speak firsthand about this need. When I had just graduated college, I ignored my lack of experience and money to build a business as a financial advisor. I would have plummeted without the mentors who supported me and provided advice.

In my current role as the integrator of a company, which has me training business owners so they can pass on their skills to other entrepreneurs to execute their own business operating systems, I focus on a particular slice of female professionals. I place an emphasis on helping women who are considering leaving their current positions—whether that’s exiting the workforce, a current career, or just a particular job—and starting on new paths.

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Many of these individuals decide to, like I once did, become their own boss. For those with experience in senior corporate roles, business coaching may seem like a logical next step. Of course, even with relevant experience, women who are entering into business coaching should keep some key pointers in mind.

Stop worrying about your appearance

When I was starting out, one of my biggest concerns was trying to look pleasing and polished at all times. It took me years to learn how to be real, raw, honest, and vulnerable. Hopefully, you’ll take to this lesson quicker than I did—letting go of upholding a certain self-image leaves you open to acknowledging your vulnerabilities and lowers the mental barriers to asking for help. Be authentically yourself, and don’t feel like you’re wasting someone else’s time reaching out to others: Mentorship and coaching offers both parties what some CEOs call “career currency,” or a benefit that extends to both mentor and mentee. This sort of currency translates to growing both persons’ ability to lead.

So, my advice to women and any individuals looking to change industries is to try to make connections, ask questions, and seek real-world experience outside of your comfort zone.

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By reading a leadership book or watching a webinar won’t create as much impact as connecting with people and asking questions. With a real person, you can get questions answered like, “How does this work? Why does that matter? What are the benefits and drawbacks to these processes?”

I emphasize the need to stay curious and interested in people, and allow that to take the pressure off worrying about how you might be perceived as you’re learning.

Embrace breadth over depth

A mentor once told me I was a “jack of all trades” and “a master of none.” At first, I was offended, thinking that meant I had no particular talent. However, I eventually realized he was identifying and acknowledging my unique ability as a cross-contextual and industry-spanning learner.

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In other words, I’m a generalist, but that’s a strength that has provided me with multiple perspectives to offer. As an integrator, I needed to understand all levels of an organization at a fairly high level to ensure they can work together harmoniously. That basis of understanding often begins with my broad background.

Embracing a more generalist standpoint has also helped me banish perfectionist tendencies, which can be a huge detriment to our productivity and long-term success. Not to mention that mastered skills release less dopamine than budding talents. Striving for breadth has kept me happier, and it’s encouraged me to try new approaches and successfully innovate tactics. But even if you happen to specialize in one discipline, you can’t go wrong by learning how to apply it across other sectors and professions. As a business coach, you’ll probably work with teams that don’t come from the same professional background you do—and having pockets of know-how about multiple areas can be a huge asset.

Multiply your company’s projections

When starting up a business, you’re likely to underestimate your needs, from your first budget to staffing expectations. I recommend listing all your needs (for instance, time, resources, money, team members), and then tripling all those estimates. Moving into a business coaching career means your time investment isn’t just dependent on you. Business development is a group effort, so overestimate how long it could take both to win over new clients and help them implement better business practices.

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Keep in mind that you’re bound to run into unforeseen challenges, so even the best business plan needs to include penciled-in cushion and contingencies. After all, running out of cash is the top reason start-ups lose steam. You may need to stow away a nest egg to live on for up to a year. If you don’t have enough savings, you can gain access to funding through loans, credit unions, or pledges from friends and family.

The bottom line? You need a business development plan for parts A, B, and C of your company’s future. Build uncertainty into your first business plan, and don’t expect that plan to carry you through your start-up phase. The risk multiplier applies to reviewing that plan, too: Tap multiple reviewers for feedback, and review your plan frequently to keep dialing it in. About 20% of businesses fail within the first year, and about half fail by year five. As a female business owner, your job is to stay adaptive to change and keep your footing for more exponential growth.


Kelly Knight has been the integrator at EOS Worldwide since 2016. She is driven to find and grow other talented people and guide them to reach their maximum potential.

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