We recently had the opportunity to speak with Joanne Tombrakos, writer, coach and speaker about her transition from corporate America after over 25 years of work in the media industry.
Joanne grew up in Queens, New York and later moved to Philadelphia. She received her Masters degree from Temple University, and became an English teacher in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. After seven years she grew restless and took a leap and major career change by moving into the corporate work force.
Joanne started out selling advertising space at country music radio station WXTU. She worked for CBS Radio in Philadelphia and Washington, DC and Time Warner Cable in New York. In 2008 Joanne was handed a pink slip, just as her interest and passion for the media industry was dying.
Taking from her childhood passion of reading and writing Joanne took the transition in stride and launched OneWomansEye, a blog centered on leaving behind the corporate world. Now through her blog and coaching Joanne focuses on helping others awaken their inner passion. Read below as we discuss the corporate world, success and transitioning.
HMM: How did growing up in New York prepare you for working professionally?
JT: Growing up in New York you learn street smarts. Something you can’t put a price tag on. This city forces you to learn to be adaptable, no matter your circumstances. That is helpful wherever you go.
HMM: Growing up what did you want to be?
JT: In my heart and soul I always wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t think I was good enough. And nobody ever really asked me what I wanted to do. The assumption at that time was I would get married and have kids and a career would be secondary. So when faced with the question of declaring a major and answering that “Oh my God I’m going to have to do something for the rest of my life” question I chose education. I do love and believe in public education, and I did teach for a while, but most of my professional career was not in education, it was in business.
HMM: You worked in corporate America for a very long time. Did you enjoy it?
JT: When I first started I thought that I had just died and gone to heaven! I couldn’t believe they were paying me to do this job that I liked so much and that was such fun. I loved being in radio and I enjoyed my transition into television too.
HMM: When the economy took a turn and it was time to leave corporate America did you take it in stride?
JT: I definitely took it in stride. When it happened I was working at Time Warner. I knew I did not want to do what I was doing anymore. Going to another company would have been the same situation with different faces. I had already written a novel and my goal was to get it published. Beyond that I was unclear on my specific direction. All I was certain of at that time was that I wanted to like my work again, to get back the kind of passion that I felt when I first started in advertising sales. And I wanted to make money.
HMM: I think that it’s good that you said that you wanted to make money; so many people leave that out of their story.
JT: Absolutely. Money is important. It’s how we pay our rent and buy shoes, and all those things we need to live. But it can’t be just about the money. You have to like what you do or your life gets flat. If you are lucky and have real passion for your work the money will show up. Steve Jobs talks about how he never did what he did for the money, but the money winded up coming because he had extraordinary passion for his work.
HMM: In your bio, there is a line about your third act. Tell me a little about that?
JT: Today so many people talk about the second act. But for me this is really my third act. My first act was teaching school. My second was in the corporate world for 25 years, which was a big chunk of my life, so for me this is now my third act. Coaching, writing and speaking.
HMM: You have an extreme passion for writing?
JT: I love writing, especially fiction. Writing for me is like breathing so whatever I do has to have some form of writing in it.
HMM: Tell me about being a coach?
JT: I call myself a business coach because people like labels and that one is easy to understand, but I really like to think of myself as a “personal agent of change.” As a coach, I help people who want to create change in their life, whether it is starting or growing a business, writing a book or looking for their next gig. That’s the business side. But you can’t manifest real change without the personal stuff coming up. I’m a good resource; I’m really good at keeping people organized and on task. I’m pragmatic but I’m also highly intuitive. And I like to have fun; everyone has this idea that you have to be so serious all the time; fun helps everyone to do a better job.
I got into coaching because I like to help people. Essentially that’s what I’ve been doing all along as a teacher and as a sales director. I was leading people to what they needed to learn and do.
HMM: Is networking important?
JT: I think networking is critical. I’m a big believer in social media. Online networking is really important but at the end of the day people want to be with people. It’s so important to put yourself out there physically, not just virtually. There are so many women, especially in New York City, doing so many fantastic things, and not just behind a computer. Networking helps you generate ideas. The way of the world is changing so much now. People are looking to connect and willing to connect you with other people. Social networking is a first step, but always find ways to get in front of humans.
HMM: What steps would you give someone looking to make a career transition?
- Ask yourself, what if money was not an issue, what would you pursue as your work?
- Hire a Coach: Coaches help direct you. Sometimes you need to be in front of someone who doesn’t know you to say out loud what it is that you want to do. You need someone other than family and friends to bounce ideas off of. Friends and family try to protect and often will not encourage you to take risk.
- Get Direction: Research what it is you want to do to and learn more about it. Find out what others in that field are already doing.
- Make it a Priority: Find time in each day to dedicate to your newfound passion.
- Join a networking group: Find a new group that expands beyond your current industry. Broaden your scope and see what other people are doing.
Joanne Tombrakos is a writer, business coach and speaker, residing in New York City. She blogs on living and working after corporate America at http://onewomanseye.blogspot.com. The Secrets They Kept is her first novel. For more information on how Joanne can be your personal agent of change or to speak to your group please visit www.joannetombrakos.com. Joanne is currently working on her next book about time management.
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