7 Questions with Alexia Vernon, Author of Awaken Your CAREERpreneur

October 18th, 2010 by lewis

Alexia Vernon is the owner of Catalyst for Action, a coaching and training company that empowers people to build successful, sustainable careers and companies that make a positive social impact. She just released a new book called Awaken Your CAREERpreneur. I had a chance to talk to Alexia about her coaching business and her new book.

How did you decide to start a coaching business?
When my husband proposed, I could answer his rather rhetorical question, but I realized that I didn’t have an answer to my increasingly pressing one: Who do I want to be by the time I get married? I had done a lot of really exciting things in my early-mid 20s ranging from starting a nonprofit to producing a burlesque show to working as a teaching artist in the NYC schools. Yet, I didn’t feel like I was fully aligning my values, strengths, resources, and enthusiasms to make the maximum possible profit and impact. My process of self and professional discovery led me to go to Coach U to get certified as a coach and launch my own training and coaching company, Catalyst for Action.

What motivated you to write Awaken Your CAREERpreneur?
My experience, firsthand and through my clients, has been that when you fuse best principles of self-empowerment with best principles of entrepreneurship, you can build a successful and sustainable career….. irrespective of the economy….. irrespective of your medium (e.g. job seeking, freelancing, entrepreneurship, etc.). Yet, I see so many folks playing by antiquated rules for building a career that makes them reactive rather than proactive. There are a lot of sensational books out there that tell you how to transition from college to the workplace, find you next j-o-b, reinvent yourself, etc., but I wanted to write the book that I wished I’d read when I was still in school. Therefore, Awaken Your CAREERpreneur offers a more holistic approach to career development AND empowers the reader to develop the mindset, relationships, behaviors, and materials that are necessary for career success throughout your lifetime. Each chapter has SUCCESSwork to ensure that you are able to immediately transfer the principles and strategies I share into action to increase your results.

What’s the toughest client you’ve ever coached?
I believe that our coaching clients are mirrors for what we’re projecting out into the world. I’d love to say that means all of my clients are highly evolved, spiritually abundant folks….. and for the most part they are! But every once and a while someone shows up who is really focused on how she is stuck or how someone, some company, or some system has wronged her. While we all are “entitled” to feel the sting from disappointment or defeat, I chose to become a coach because I think that in every challenge there is an opportunity to learn and discover something. And I want to help my clients make this way of narrating their life experience a way of being. So when a client makes a choice not to approach life from this possibility-centered mindset, we usually don’t work together very long.

What’s the most important thing one can do to achieve the career of their dreams?
I don’t want to belabor the whole mindset thing, but it’s so significant that I’m going to wax on about it a bit more. Our thoughts motivate our feelings, which motivate our actions, which lead us to our results. So anytime someone identifies the result he is seeking to reach, I always tell him to work backwards to identify the specific actions that are necessary. Then, take a step back and identify the feelings that will be necessary to perform the actions that will lead to the intended result. And then, most importantly, take yet another step back and identify the thoughts that will be necessary to catalyze the whole process.

And because CAREERpreneurs rarely follow directions, let me offer one more tip. GET OUT FROM BEHIND A COMPUTER SCREEN. I’m a relatively tech savvy gal, and in the book I share ways to maximize online media for building professional relationships. However, your strongest relationships are still going to be cultivated face-to-face. So get out there and meet the people who can help connect you to opportunities!

When you look at successful leaders, what are the three traits they share?
I love leadership questions. Yum! First and foremost, successful leaders are authentic. We may not think of authenticity as a skill or even a trait, but it most definitely is. In a culture that often rewards the newest and flashiest idea, we often make choices that we think others want us to make and we lose more and more of ourselves along the way as a result. Authenticity is attractive and it helps facilitate buy in and enduring trust. I always tell emerging leaders to strip away the people pleasing, the pretense, etc. and show up to opportunities as a slightly more gussied up version of themselves. Second, effective leaders know how to inspire. As Daniel Pink says in his new book Drive, leaders aren’t in the business of motivating. People are either motivated by something or they are not. As a leader, we can inspire people by connecting what inherently motivates our “followers” to our vision of where we are seeking to take them. Finally, great leaders keep their communication audience-centered. They speak in a way that their audience can best listen to and take action from the message.

What can candidates do to get an edge at the job interview?
There are two core things. First, do your best to connect with the hiring manager or your future supervisor at companies you are interested in before a job ever gets listed. Most companies already know the 3-4 candidates they are going to bring in before they post a position. Make sure you get on that shortlist. Second, practice your answers to interview questions out loud. I sat on a recent interviewing panel and 70% of the candidates stumbled on Tell me about yourself. There’s no excuse for this. Learn the major categories of interview questions (which I detail in the book), customize them for your prospective position/company, plan out your answers, and rehearse them orally.

Any other tips for candidates who are currently interviewing for new job opportunities?
I’ve got several hundred of them, so pick up a copy of the book! I kid…. somewhat. One of these tips is to build yourself an All-Star Team (which I outline in the book) with 12 people who have a keen understanding of where you are looking to grow in your career and who are willing and able to do what they can to help you get there. I’ve seen dozens of CAREERpreneurs who have been searching for jobs for 6 months+ have job opportunities show up to them from this subtle shift in how they approach the job search.

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