by Hayley Bohart
Life Coaching. For me these two words conjure images of sitting in a circle, talking about feelings, and leaving a session even more confused about my future than when it started. When I found out that our first group activity would be a life and career coaching session with Patty Leeper, I was hoping that this experience would be something different.
We arrived at noon on July 2nd at Stanford University and gathered in a shady spot on the beautiful lawns of the campus. The night before we had been asked to fill out questionnaires about our interests and aspirations. With these completed papers in hand and nametags on our shirts, we were introduced to Patty. A petite, yet spunky, woman, she exuded a warmth that made it clear that she was truly there to help us. Within minutes, I knew that this session would be something different than the typical self-help exercises I had been through in the past.
Patty began by explaining how careers and interests do not have to be mutually exclusive; in today’s job market, there are endless combinations of professions that can be found or even created. We also discussed the controversial topic of money and how that fits into our aspirations. Patty started the workshop by asking for a volunteer to share their questionnaire responses with the group. Shannon agreed, and proceeded to share her interests in politics, current events, education, and her desire to work in a challenging environment with people who are smarter than her. The rest of us were then instructed to toss out ideas of potential careers for Shannon. This brainstorming process turned out to be nothing short of incredible. We mentioned political advising, social media news, political education, and speechwriting. Shannon sat in awe as eighteen other students shared career ideas that seemed to match her diverse interests perfectly. We then generated a list of specific companies for her to explore that fit these careers in order to give Shannon an idea of which contacts to make during our time in the Valley.
Next, we formed groups of four and completed this brainstorming process for each person in the group. This process helped us learn about our classmates, and it also got us to think creatively and objectively and to give each other advice from an outside perspective. I personally had an “aha” moment after I shared my interests in law, analytical thinking, creativity, fitting parts together into a whole, and my preference to work independently. A member of my group immediately shouted, “Crisis Manager! Like Olivia Pope!” This was certainly not a career I had considered before, but it was one that I could actually envision for myself (minus the scandal of Pope’s life)!
Finally, we re-gathered as a group for concluding thoughts and it was evident that I was not the only one who had had an eye-opening experience. All nineteen of us felt a sense of inspiration and clarity that we will carry with us throughout the program. We would like to thank Patty for her guidance, expertise, and wisdom and we look forward to meeting with her again for a second session.