My Career Journey

Janet Birgenheier
Janet Birgenheier
Master of Science, Organization Development
Certified Career Transformation Coach

My own career journey has been one of relentless change and growth.

I have made multiple job and career changes – newspaper journalism, corporate communication and training, organizational change management/transformation, and now career transformation coaching. My employers have included such organizations as Citigroup, Charles Schwab, Kaiser Permanente, and Symantec; large, international consulting firms, like PwC; and smaller, boutique consulting firms. I have worked in a wide range of industries as a vice president, an individual contributor, and everything in between. And, I have run my own independent, consulting practice. 

Rich Experiences

 Along this journey, certain memorable, rich experiences have stood out:

  • Steering a towboat pushing 25 barges down the Mississippi River (as a corporate journalist!)
  • Speaking to an audience of 400+ people at a stock option industry conference
  • Meeting Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan
  • Conducting asset-based finance training conferences in the U.S.; London; and Santa Margherita, Italy
  • Helping clients in England and Switzerland transform the business model for their global medical products organization
  • Interviewing a blind painter
  • Coaching and mentoring amazing colleagues

I’ve had wonderful managers, mentors, and colleagues who have become lifelong friends, developed a wide array of skills, gained recognition for my achievements, and completed a master’s degree in organization development after decades in corporate life.

The VUCA Challenge

My journey has also been marked by significant challenges. I was laid off three times for budgetary reasons. One organization split into two companies, resulting in three managers in two months and separation from colleagues with whom I had deeply bonded.

Over the years, corporate environments where I have worked have become increasingly more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (known as “VUCA,” a U.S. Army War College acronym that was adopted in the 1990s to describe organizations1). VUCA conditions require that executives take an entirely new approach to organizational transformation because the context in which they lead has shifted.2 A number of leaders in organizations where I have worked were simply not up to the VUCA challenge. They were unable to respond to external changes with urgency and agility in a world of uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.

Such organizations, where leaders struggle to respond effectively to VUCA conditions, are often characterized by:

  • Lack of clear direction from the top
  • Constantly shifting, unclear, conflicting priorities
  • Slow, ineffective decision making
  • Repeated reorganizations and layoffs
  • Internal competitiveness and politics
  • Poor people management practices
  • Unreasonable workloads and unrealistic expectations
  • Low employee engagement
  • Obstacles preventing employees from contributing their best work
  • Lack of employee recognition/appreciation
  • Lack of career development opportunities

The Light Bulb Moment

In my role as a change manager, I have witnessed the impact of such environments on people in terms of work performance, job satisfaction, stress/health, and personal life. Then one day the light bulb lit up for me. I realized that in these environments, employees struggle to find meaning in their work because they are often unable to connect the dots between their desire to make valuable contributions and concrete organizational results. I saw the need to help employees explore their values, passions, and innate strengths; articulate their work vision and mission; and reconcile their vision and mission with the realities of organizational life.

So, I decided to leverage my decades of experience with organizational transformation to offer my services as a career transformation coach. I wanted to help people embrace the necessary change to find meaning in their work. I built a model that I call “the inner-driven journey to meaningful work.”

My new career goal was a natural extension of the informal coaching and mentoring I have done with colleagues over many years.

Transformational Coaching

Once I was clear on my new career goal, I became certified through the Essential Coach Training program of Portland, Oregon. I took my coaching skills to a new level. More importantly, I gained invaluable personal insights that have made me a better career transformation coach. A significant part of my experiential learning was the coaching I received from my instructor and fellow students. I became a passionate believer in the value of transformational coaching.

Today I am finding that my model deeply resonates with my clients. It is exciting to witness them overcome fear of change and muster courage to move forward with their career transformations. Helping others realize meaningful work is the most rewarding work I have done!

I invite you to sign up for a free discovery session. I’d love to explore how career transformation coaching can guide you to realize your vision for meaningful life’s work. I can help!

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  1. Stiehm, Judith Hicks and Nicholas W. Townsend (2002). The U.S. Army War College: Military Education in a Democracy. Temple University Press. p. 6.
  2. http://www.georgeambler.com/vuca-leading-in-turbulent-times/