Prep, Push, Pivot: Career Transitions And Limitless Potential With Octavia Goredema
Your worth is not measured by validation from others; it's discovered by recognizing your own value. Join us in this episode as our guest,Octavia Goredema, author of Prep, Push, Pivot and How to Change Careers talks about the underrepresented women in the workplace and the power of knowing your worth. Octavia shares her journey, showcasing the significance of not imposing limits on your own potential. She reminds us that our potential is limitless, and we often underestimate the power of our unique abilities and passions. Octavia emphasizes the importance of recognizing our value, even when it may not be reflected back at us. From embracing values and shattering self-imposed limits to advocating yourself and paying it forward, Octavia unpacks a lot in this episode. Get ready to step into greatness and live your best life. Tune in now!
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Prep, Push, Pivot: Career Transitions And Limitless Potential With Octavia Goredema
It is my honor to introduce you to my guest for this episode, Octavia Goredema. She is an award-winning coach who guides underrepresented professionals to unleash their full potential in the workplace. She’s a career coach and the Founder of Twenty Ten Agency. She has coached leaders at renowned companies, including Google, American Airlines, Tinder, General Motors, Nike, and the Dow Jones.
An acclaimed career expert, Octavia is the host of the new Audible original series, How to Change Careers with Octavia Goredema. It’s an amazing series. She’s the author of Prep, Push, Pivot: Essential Career Strategies for Underrepresented Women. She lives in LA by the ocean. I'm so thrilled to welcome you and bring you by the campfire on the show.
Tony, thank you so much for the invitation. I'm thrilled to be here.
I'm thrilled to have you. It's going to be great to understand the journey that brought you to making such a huge impact. I love what you're doing in the world. You're a brilliant inspiration for people out there. Thank you. The way we're going to roll on the show is to help you share a bit of your story and journey through what's called Flashpoints. These are points in your journey that have ignited your gifts into the world. We'll pause along the way and see what's showing up. I'm going to turn over to you in a moment, let you share what you're called to share, and start wherever you like. That's a broad spectrum but I know you can handle it.
I'm called to enable others to do their best work. I didn't recognize that early on in my career. I've always been endlessly fascinated by people's journeys, goals, and what people are brilliant at. It’s not necessarily what they're doing now but what they want to do next. I'm a career coach. I have the privilege of working with talented individuals at fantastic companies and organizations across the United States and beyond. There's so much that goes into building your career that will be invisible to anybody else. That's regardless of your level of seniority or industry you are in. I see that consistently.
It was after I coached myself for the first time ever that all the threads that I had as areas of interest and curiosity culminated. I'm like, “This is so powerful.” If you've never been coached before, especially if you have the opportunity to be coached one-on-one, having a space that is only centered on what motivates you, what excites you, what you're curious about, and what you're struggling with no judgment and no preconception of what that should be, the impetus and guidance that person wants to help you get wherever you want to go is so powerful.
I find it endlessly rewarding to have the opportunity to play a part in people's journeys that can be invisible. In addition to one-on-one work, most of the work that I do is group coaching or larger sessions. That never ceases to amaze me either. The conversations that are sparked afterward and the momentum that is driven by them are endlessly rewarding to me.
I want to pause there because what you shared is powerful. It’s the sense that we all starved to be seen. Being coached and having a set moment where people focus on going beneath the surface of superficial conversation but deeply seeing you is the most powerful and beautiful thing that you can ever have. I believe in the power of coaching for that reason because it's the deepest conversation you can have with someone else if you're willing to allow it.
If you're willing to allow it is a good point to reference because if you haven't been coached before, it's going to feel a little weird at first. Often, people say to me, “I've never said that out loud before because there isn't often the space to have that conversation with someone.” It can be powerful. There can be a lot of mini breakthroughs from navigating that process before you even get to the actions that will result in outcomes for somebody because of that shift of having that intentionality and prioritizing what you are thinking about, planning for, or dreaming of, which is incredible.
Alongside that, my natural skill is communication. When I was little, I dreamed of being an author. If you were to say to Octavia back then, “What would you love to do,” it was that because I was constantly telling stories, writing stories, and verbally making up stories. I was telling my fables to others. It was what I dreamed of.
As I got older, I started to let that dream die and diminish. I started to question it. I assumed I wouldn't be able to do it without any foundation or reason as to why I assumed that but I did. Partly because as a middle-aged adult, I know so many authors but when I was younger, I didn't know any. I had my favorites that I read voraciously but I didn't know any. Sometimes, you have to see it to be it.
There's a sense that it seems so far off and unattainable but you start to come closer to it. You start to see it's a possibility, which is something that a lot of us seem to lose sight of. You may see that as an impossibility but what if you create a pathway to that impossibility and it becomes a possibility? I want to take you back to that younger you and explore a bit deeper into the earlier days. What did you study in school? Where were the early incarnations of your career that held you back from being the person you are but eventually brought you into this space?
I went to university in England, which is where I'm originally from. I'm a dual US-UK citizen who lives here in California. I went to school in England, which is where I was living at the time. I went to the University of Leicester and studied a joint honors degree in Politics and Economic and Social History. Politics and History were my favorite subjects going into university. If I were to cast my mind back, I didn't know what type of jobs I'd be targeting when I picked those subjects. I thought I might end up working in politics in some capacity.
I did in my first job but I didn't quite know what it would be. I saw a career counselor while I was at university. I said, “I want to be a writer but I don't think I'm good enough to be a journalist. I don't know what to do.” They suggested public relations as a career. I'd never heard of public relations at that point. I went and did an internship. I was nineteen years old. It was fantastic to learn about what a PR agency does.
I'd done what I needed to graduate. I was able to start thinking about my next steps. Before I left university quite early in advance, I started applying for roles and cold-contacting companies. That tenacity landed me an entry-level role in London, which was about 150 miles from where I was at university. It doesn't sound like a big distance but in England, moving to London is a big thing. It's the capital city. Even though I applied for the job, I didn't think I was going to get it or move. I interviewed and got an offer. I was like, “I can't do that.”
I have a friend who taught sense to me. She was like, “You have to do this.” I did. I had a moving truck. I drove myself with another friend and all my belongings. I danced London to a place that I'd found to rent. I started my career there. Five years later, I transferred to the Los Angeles office of a company that I had joined subsequently. That embarked on my United States adventure. I was certain I'd only be here for one year. That was 2005. That proved not to be the case.
I built a career in communications. I didn't see then what I now see, which was in the work that I do. I'm an author as well as a career coach and host of an Audible original series, which you referenced. That series talks about how I made the pivot from that career in communications to what I do now. That communication would continue to be a thread for me but in so many different and impactful ways. It’s a long story but that's what I did at school and how it contributed to what I do now.
I love it when we go back and look at the little hints at what might transpire but also the pivots that we create end up pushing us in a different direction slightly. Know that we don't have to have it all figured out at a young age either. It's following the passions. Some people don't love the word passion because passion isn't always what we want to follow but it's following interests. I like to call it follow what lights you up. The more you do some of those things, they start to pull you in the right direction. It doesn't mean having it all figured out.
When I moved from my university town to London, that was a monumental move for me. I didn't think I'd be able to do it but I did. I realized that moving internationally was so much easier. I didn't think I'd be able to make it happen but I did. When I made a pivot from saying goodbye to one career to starting another, it was a monumental move. I wasn't sure if I could do it but I did.
When we look back, we start to see patterns of things that we've done that might not have had significance beyond that actual thing at that moment. We realize it can symbolize so much more in terms of what we can do, how we navigate change, and what we learn with the benefit of hindsight. It's hard to have that perspective at the moment but I have it now.
The word that comes to mind for me around this is capacity building. You start building capacity as you go and seeing, “I can work into this.” I'm starting to see that I have the capability to write a book or do a thing. All of a sudden, you're doing it. You realize, “Look at how far I've come. I can see myself doing something else that puts me on my edge and a new comfort zone.”
You can realize that transitions are messy. They're not neat. They're aside from how you feel about doing it. The actual doing and navigating it is messy. Even if you have a great job that you are relocating for or a job offer that you know is a step up for you or a new beginning for you, even when you have the things, navigating the transition is hard.
If you don't have the things and a piece missing, you are trying to figure something crucial out as you are going, learning new skills, or learning how to be in an office as I was with my first job. When we have that first real job, we're like, “How does this work? What do we do? What are the norms?” Becoming an author felt like having a first job all over, except people assumed you would know what you were doing and you didn't.
There's this idea of, “Growth is not easy.” By default, it's this sense that we have to challenge ourselves as we grow. If it feels easy, maybe it's not the right path. It's not meant for you but at the same time, it's our default setting. Whitney Johnson says, “Growth is our default setting.” That's a brilliant way to think about it. We are meant to move forward and grow but that does not mean that it's going to be easy.
It is not even when it's something you want. There's going to be components that are incredibly hard. Becoming an author has felt like the most poignant full-circle moment. It was incredibly hard but I've learned so much from having this first job experience. I'm forever thankful for having the epiphany that pointed me toward I've got to do this.
My next question is a two-parter. You're going to be like, “What?” I know you can take it. First of all, tell me more about the book and the key insights from the book. Tell me why you are under-represented. An elephant in the room maybe was something that came from who you are but I want to know why this is your passion and something that calls you into the room.
When I was maybe about 10 or 15 years into my career in that era, I had a lot of questions like, “What am I doing? What am I meant to be doing?” I’m feeling frustrated but I have a resume that looks great. in theory, I was doing all the right things but there was a lot of unfulfillment and dissatisfaction. I'm a Black woman. When I was looking at friends like me and where they were in their respective fields, and I have friends that do wonderful things, I saw they were all hitting ceilings they didn't see coming.
Once you've been working for about 10 or 15 years, you can start to see what's happening for you, what might not be happening for you, and what your colleagues are doing. I realized that there is so much that goes into building your career. Women of color remain the most underrepresented group in the corporate pipeline. Often, we get to a certain point but as you start to move further and look at more senior ranks, there are fewer of us.
There is so much that goes into building your career, and women of color remain the most underrepresented group in the corporate pipeline.
When I started my career, I knew nothing about the gender pay gap. You start to hear stories about friends learning that they're earning so much less than the people they may be hiring from on the teams. You look at the data and learn that a woman could lose $1 million over the course of a lifetime in lost earnings. That's not many you even thought you had to begin with necessarily but that's what the compounding impact can be if the pay gap persists over the course of a lifetime. This isn't a $1,000 or $3,000 difference. There are compounding factors.
From your work, Tony, about how powerful coaching is, I only discovered coaching when I was in my mid to senior in my career. I had a disposable income where I could engage a coach myself. Coaching is expensive. If you are not earning at a certain level, it's not going to be a resource you might be able to tap into unless you are an employer like many employers I work with. My corporate clients do make that investment in their people but not all employers have the ability to do so. Even if they have the ability to do so, they might not be able to extend coaching as a resource to every person who would benefit from it.
I wanted to write my book Prep, Push, Pivot, which is a career coaching guide for underrepresented women in the workplace. I know what it's like to be the only woman of color on a team, a meeting, and the building. I wanted to share that lived experience but crucially provide actionable career coaching advice for someone who doesn't have the opportunity to sit down one-on-one and have someone be able to be their sounding board, accountability partner, and growth partner, and share the reflective questions, exercises, and strategies that I use when I coach in a book that could help you.
It’s whether you are trying to figure out your next step after a setback, or trying to negotiate your salary or renegotiate your salary where you are, you are striving for a promotion after maybe being passed over or told no, or maybe you are considering taking a career break. I've been there. I have two kids. I took a career break for a couple of years. Maybe you are trying to think about what your options are as a caregiver, whether that's for your family or other people in your family while building your career.
I wanted to share what you can do and where you can find support if you're looking to make a career change, whether that's a shift or a monumental pivot, and also about how to be pivotal to others and how you can pay it forward for peers that are walking alongside you or the professionals that are looking at you and want to follow in your footsteps.
Even when we're not where we want to be yet, there will be someone somewhere who'd be like, “I would love to have that opportunity. I wonder what it was like to go to that school. I wonder how she got that role.” Whatever it is that we've done and perhaps have moved on from, there is someone who is striving for that. It's important to remember that and pay it forward for others as we are looking to elevate and advance ourselves.
There's so much you shared. It's brilliant what you're doing in the world. This idea of putting it in the book and creating a sense of this is a good starting point for people to use it as fuel to get them going and allow them to know that there are other people out there who can support them going forward. This idea of paying it forward is such a great concept because a lot of us are always looking ahead of us.
We have to also be thinking, “Who's behind us? Who's potentially on the side of us? How can we help that?” You help them because it helps us to ensure that we're building a foundation for others to rise. One of the things that's important about that is everyone is always watching who we are and how we're showing up, especially as you get more elevated in your position. It's important to set a good example for others. You're setting a great example for who you are. Thank you.
Sometimes, we think it's mentoring someone officially. That's fantastic. It can be even small things. It can even be asking someone about a goal they have. What is it you want to do next? What are you interested in? We can’t even hold a space for a conversation. We think, “I'm so busy. I don't have time to be a mentor or give back in this way.”
There are intentional and small things that we do that we underestimate but can be incredibly helpful to others, like suggesting a book, a podcast to listen to, an event that might be of interest, and making introductions where it's a good fit. All of those things can be powerful. I'm forever thankful to people who have done that for me and continue to do that for me. People think, “Once you get to a certain point, that person doesn't need help anymore.” We all need help with something.
Nothing on the surface. Everyone thinks on the surface. They see this beautiful image. Look at them. They're knocking it out of the park. I constantly have to allow people to say, “Everyone is struggling with something, no matter who you are.” The most successful people in the world get comfortable with asking for help when they need it. What makes them successful is that they know that they can't do it all and they don't have it all figured out.
Doing what we can as we're growing, building, having conversations with others, and holding that space can be incredibly powerful.
I want to get back into asking some more questions about you and your particular journey. What are some lessons you've learned about yourself along this journey that have been most powerful?
There are two things that stand out. It's knowing your worth, even when it's not reflected in you. That's a concept that I start with in my book Prep, Push, Pivot. Often, validation comes from others. That is the core premise of the dynamic in the workplace. If you want a job, you've got to apply for it, interview for it, and be offered it. If you want a promotion, someone's got to say yes. We get used to the markers being when someone else offers us the opportunity, a salary we want, or a project that we want to lead. It gives us kudos for a job well done.
Know your worth, even when it's not reflected back at you.
There's nothing wrong with those things but it's important to know your worth regardless, even when you are not getting job offers, your boss barely acknowledges what you are doing, or you wanted a promotion and you didn't get it. The most powerful process that I have identified is making it a consistent habit to track my accomplishments no matter what. That's something I share when I'm coaching others. It's something that I stipulate to everyone who works with me. They don't already do that to start if they do it occasionally to make it a daily and weekly habit.
Keep a document where you jot down what has happened to you. Review your week. Even if you haven't got anything to add, look at what you've done before. At the end of each month, reflect on what has mattered most for you. You'll start to see patterns. Even if you feel like the month wasn't amazing, go back and make lists of what you're proud of in your career. If you've been doing this habit for a while, go back and look at previous months. It's important to remember that.
When the time comes when you need to advocate for yourself, whether that's in a performance review, next job interview, a conversation about an opportunity, a project, or what you are doing, you'll have those things in your mind. It's not necessarily just about the validation subsequently from others. It's important to harness that for ourselves. The other thing that has been a key observation for me is not to put a ceiling on my potential. That's something I still consistently have to work on because we can have the tendency to think we can only do so much when our potential is limitless.
We can sometimes have the tendency to think we can only do so much when actually our potential is limitless.
If you think about all the things you've accomplished, it’s some of the things you never imagined. I'm in the same boat. Sometimes, I continue to be amazed when I look back and say, “I can't believe that has happened.” It's a great mindset. I love this idea of having those reflections, capturing them, and not waiting until you need to come together with like, “What have I done this year?” I do this thing called a weekly spark, which is my way of every week coming together and saying, “What was last week? What is next week?”
I’m having some reflection and capturing the learnings but also the great things that have happened. It's important. One of the things that you had me thinking about is it's about taking ownership. You can't just expect all these things to come to you. I had someone tell me a while back, early in my career, that if it is to be, it's up to me. That mantra has stuck with me in the sense that it's great to have people around you who support you. You have a supportive environment but you own that path.
I see that all the time in coaching. We can talk, brainstorm, and identify but what steps and actions are taken after that? That's where the magic is. Also, accountability and support as you're doing those things but it's the actions. A lot of the actions are invisible to anyone else until there's a result. I was talking about how I was working on a book and becoming an author for a couple of years before there was an actual physical hardcover book in a Barnes & Noble that someone could go and see. They were like, “I see what Octavia was talking about.”
That's a wonderful moment but it doesn't invalidate every single step that was taken that was invisible to get to that point. That's why it's important for us to track what we are doing and recognize that before you have that result, whether it's the job offer, the completed project, or the published book, the end game is for you. Every step matters.
I'm going to ask you a question that I don't often ask but I'm inclined to because I see you as someone who can dream big. What is it you would love to see in an ideal world, based on the work that you're doing and what you see on the horizon of the way things are?
I would love for everyone to realize the true power of their potential and to know that you don't have to go it alone to do that. Know that whatever uniquely drives you, pay attention. There's something in your career values. There are things that matter more to you. There are things that motivate you and excite you that won't necessarily make sense to someone else in the same way because it's uniquely yours. Don't underestimate that.
We can often be laser-focused on the things we're not so good at or the things we haven't done yet. There's nothing wrong with that. Development matters but pay attention to the things that make you light up or the things that you get. It could be a trait, a natural hard skill, a component of your personality, or any mix of those things but embrace, harness, reinforce, and protect those things.
I often think about this idea of, “What could you not shut up about? What could you talk all day about?” Even though you don't necessarily always do this, if you get talking about this topic, you find yourself lost in it.
It can be so easy to get busy. I write every single day. For many years, if I was writing, it was on someone else's terms. It’s a little bit of pieces but I was not doing it on my terms in whatever capacity you define that as, even if it's something that's never publicly shared. I realized belatedly that I was put to one side something that I innately wanted to do and enjoy regardless of what the outcome was of it. Making sure to hold space no matter what for whatever your equivalent of that thing is important. Don't underestimate the power in it because it can be transformative.
Everything you're sharing is resonating with me so much. It's going to touch a chord with everyone who's reading. We're going to get to our last question. I wish I didn't have to but this is where we're at. Our last question is, what are 1 or 2 books that have had an impact on you and why?
In my Audible original series, How to Change Careers with Octavia Goredema, I briefly referenced this book that I'm going to share. It's called The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. Have you read it, Tony?
Yes, I have.
You're familiar with it. For anyone who hasn't read it yet, it's a novel. The protagonist is a woman called Nora. I don't want to spoil the story but she's having a very difficult time. She is second-guessing many things that have happened so far in her life. She has the opportunity to do some deep-dive reflecting. I won't spoil the story about what her potential could have been in lots of different spheres.
The book is beautifully written but it echoed with me because we can often think, “If only I had done X, or I wish I'd known Y, or I could have done Z.” We'll think about missed opportunities, jobs we should never have taken, or conversations we wished we'd had or hadn't had. When things aren't going the way that we want in our career, we can compare and contrast ourselves with others in ways that are not empowering and inspiring but make us feel like we're failing or not doing what we're meant to be doing.
The story is told beautifully. It was a reminder to me that your past might be front of mind in your present but it has no bearing on your future. If you want to turn a page, turn a page. If you want to do more of something, do it. If you're ready to stop doing something, drop it but trust yourself and know that whatever you choose to pour yourself into is worthy. I love that book.
It could be a brilliant movie. Netflix, if you're reading. That was great. That's the first time it's been mentioned on the show so far, which is amazing after 200-odd episodes.
There are so many books that I could probably have picked but that was one that immediately sprang to mind.
I'm grateful you shared it. I don't even know where to go from here but to say that this has been such an enjoyable conversation. I'm grateful for you coming on the show and sharing your brilliance and all of your insights. Thank you.
Thank you so much. It's been such a pleasure to talk to you, Tony. Thank you for the invitation.
Maybe someday we'll have you back.
I would love that. Thank you.
Before I let you go, I want to make sure that people who are reading can know where to find you if they want to learn more about you.
If you are on LinkedIn, you can find me. I'm Octavia Goredema. Send me a note and tell me that you read this episode. I'd love to hear that. If you want to learn more about my work, OctaviaGoredema.com is my website. If you want to read the first chapter of my book, go to my website. There's a link there, and you can do that. I also share career advice with my email community every Sunday. Sunday is often a time when we're thinking about the week that lies ahead. If that could be helpful for you, you can access it via my website.
I want to thank the readers for coming on the journey with us. I know you're leaving so inspired and ready to take on the world. Look into what's impossible and make it possible. Thanks again. That's a wrap.