My name is Laura. I am a 25-year-old Master’s graduate looking for a job. My first encounter with Lisa Virtue happened through FLIK, a feminist platform that connects women are all around the world. I had signed in because the concept (being mentored by a female founder/leader) intrigued me. Lisa reached out to me, saying that she was looking for someone to help her with some copywriting for her blog.
It was only during our first Zoom call that I fully grasped the distinctiveness of Lisa and how the different aspects of her identity (mother, author, self-employed career coach) played a part in her uniqueness. The connection was immediate and she joked about how she tended to somehow attract alike people: fluent in different languages, nature lovers, globe-trotters, and generally into sports; the latter being true for her and her 15+ years of practicing aquatic sports.
Being at the very beginning of my professional career, I had never benefited from the advice of a career coach, nor had I felt the need for it. I was, however, curious to learn more about Lisa’s approach to coaching as well as what she liked and what motivated her in being a mentor.
So we (virtually) sat down together – given that I am in the Netherlands while she lives in Portland, Oregon, United States – for a chat, which quickly aroused my interest.
Lisa left her executive job in the midst of the pandemic. She juggled starting up a business in those difficult times while caring for her young daughter and mother. Yet, her perseverance and motivation have enabled her to get through and obtain a career coach certification accredited by the International Association of Career Coaches via Ready, Reset, Go. She reveals that her daughter was a major source of inspiration. “Women empowering women begins at home”, she said, adding that this phrase (almost a motto) has been accompanying her all along the journey.
So what exactly did I learn that sparked my enthusiasm and made me think “Yes, I absolutely want to be mentored by this woman!”?
That is probably the first adjective that came to my mind when we first talked. When she expresses herself, when she talks about helping out clients, polishing their CVs, or helping them prepare for an interview, you can sense her full commitment. That she wants it as much as you want it. “Having someone that truly cares about you, that has made the difference for my clients”, she told me. “I love having a personal impact. I just love seeing people grow and finding it within themselves!”
That has been a repeating theme over Lisa’s life, from teaching babies how to swim to coaching athletic coaches, to teaching aging people aerobics. In fact, back in 2009, Lisa intentionally began to create professional development and mentoring programs for her professional teams. “That included helping others with résumés, interview prep and salary negotiations”, she says. She then realized that it was simply something she loved doing, it seemed to be her passion.
There are plenty of career coaches out there so what makes Lisa special?
To me, her comprehensive method is what stands out. If I had to describe her approach, I would say that it’s midway between personal coaching and career coaching. Specialized in change management, she pays attention to personal things that are both important and relevant to people’s careers. For example, the grief people go through after a layoff or losing their business, as so many did in 2020.
“Sometimes people have a hard time seeing things themselves”, she told me. “All the pieces can be in front of them but they cannot put them together and see that it is part of the same puzzle. And, as people say: ‘It is so much easier to clean someone else’s house than our own‘”.
Lisa’s goal is not to change people so that they fit some terms of reference; it’s about bringing people clarity and helping them focus on their strengths. She does this always with kindness, one of Lisa’s values, alongside inclusion and women’s empowerment.
I just got started but I can feel that this is going to be very beneficial for my career. Lisa has opened my eyes about multiple little things that are yet very important.
Hiring Lisa will embark you on a journey that will not only benefit your career; it will be revelatory about yourself. You might discover that your self-confidence is the obstacle you must overcome to get a raise; that your workplace is a toxic environment; that you’re still grieving your layoff and are not ready for a new job yet until you get unstuck.
Laura Bernard, contributing editor