"How Did You Get That Job?!" is a series of interviews with professionals who have parlayed their university degrees and unique skill sets into successful careers.
Each featured guest will explain, in his or her own words, how they chose a course of study, how their professional interests evolved over time, and provide informed advice for students still trying to discern their academic and professional paths.
Stephanie Owens - Life & Business Coach
"Evolving from therapist to business owner to coach/author/speaker was a natural outpouring of putting my innate gifts in service of my desire for happiness, prosperity and satisfaction."
I attended Western Washington University for my under graduate degree. I temporarily majored in business (ended up with a Business minor), but ended up switching to a degree in Psychology. I then moved on to Pacific Lutheran University to get a Master’s degree in Marriage & Family Therapy.
I originally picked a business major because I wanted a degree that could land me a job where I could expect to earn a lucrative salary. This was important to me because having grown up in a low income family I was deeply motivated to break the cycle of poverty. I ended up switching because I felt called to be a counselor and do something more people/helping oriented. This is aligned with my true purpose.
2. Did you know what you wanted to be when you were in college / grad school? If so, did this change over time? If not, did you take any measures to discern what career you wanted to pursue?
I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I initially started undergrad. I did switch from business to psychology as I connected more with my true passion and purpose to become a therapist. I knew a Bachelor’s degree alone wouldn’t be enough and started to explore what specialty I wanted to pursue with a Masters. I thought hard about the type of work that I would enjoy and be inspired by for a life time. By the time I started grad school I knew I wanted to study Marriage & Family Therapy. This field spoke to me because I felt a strong pull to have a career that would leave the world a better place than when I arrived. In my view, the family is the smallest unit of society, so the idea of effecting positive change on families felt right.
3. How did you find your way to your current career?
I enjoyed much of the work as I studied and practiced as a marriage and family therapist. Watching troubled individual and families find new solutions was a fun and worthy challenge. I also had the great fortune to work at an agency after graduation that served at risk teens. These special kids taught me the strength of the human spirit and continue to be a source of inspiration for me to this day.
At the same time, I was surprised to find that my chosen field was more frustrating and less satisfying than I expected. I didn’t realize my desire to create change wasn’t always going to be enough. I began to notice that I often craved results more than my clients did. Also, early in my career I made the mistake of working harder than my clients to get results, putting me at risk for burnout and frustration.
I was fortunate early in my career to get to take on administrative and consulting roles working with and training case managers and other professionals in my field. This work was energizing, rather than depleting, and balanced direct client service work. These experiences showed me how much I enjoyed and had a talent for public speaking, as well as, working with professionals seeking support and change who arrived to the process invested in creating results.
An unexpected twist in my career occurred when my husband and I decided to start our own business. It was ironic that after shifting from a degree in business to psychology that I’d end up shifting back again from a career in psychology to business. After pursuing a career that spoke to my passion and purpose, I was surprised how much I enjoyed work that was decidedly dispassionate. The business was much more a means to an end (providing for our family with flexibility to be home and present for our kids).
Shortly, the business grew to a size that required my attention full time, so I left the social services field to manage our new business. A pleasant and unexpected surprise was the discovery that the management, communication and relationship building skills I’d learned as a therapist, trainer, consultant and administrator were extraordinarily effective in the business world. Also, work that required less of me emotionally allowed me the time and energy to pursue an important personal development journey that unlocked a fuller expression of my true self. It also afforded my husband and me the ability to make our family our highest priority.
Over the years that our business, our family and I were growing, I continued to amass a body of knowledge and systems for building a great life and business. All the while, I had a sense I’d return to a career that revolved around working closely with people to help them create change in their lives.
As our kids grew older and the time was right in the business, I decided to return to the helping professions. However, I knew that being a therapist wouldn’t be the right fit. I was looking for a career that both helped others achieve their potential through deep connection and satisfied my desire for mastery and creating results. It turns out life and business coaching was the perfect fit. Coaching, unlike therapy, is focused on guiding motivated people to achieve meaningful results they’re blocked from creating on their own.
It was amazing to see how each stone along the career path had prepared me perfectly for this ideal role. In fact, my training as a therapist was couched in philosophies and techniques perfectly suited for the results-driven coaching model. My experience in growing our own business provided the experience needed to relate to and support business owners. My own personal journey also served as a valuable set of tools and systems that became the signature program I based my book on, as well as teach private clients and present to audiences as a motivational speaker.
Evolving from therapist to business owner to coach/author/speaker was a natural outpouring of putting my innate gifts in service of my desire for happiness, prosperity and satisfaction.
4. What do you attribute to your success (can be a personal characteristic, supportive person(s), tool or skill set, etc.)?
I attribute my success to a couple key factors:
1. Willingness to work hard
2. Seeing obstacles as opportunities
3. Staying cool under pressure
4. Mean what I say, say what I mean, do what I say I’m going to do
5. Mastering high quality communication skills
6. Honoring my gifts and putting them in service of myself and others.
7. Find quotes and teachers who motivate you.
8. The measure of your success and happiness is directly proportional to the number of people you serve selflessly.
9. Require balance. Never sacrifice your joy and passion on the altar of the world’s definition of success.
10. Get great coaching from people a little further down the path
11. Learn how to see vulnerability as strength not weakness
5. What do you suggest for students interested in pursuing a career in your field?
The average life coach makes $20,000/year. If you need coaching to be a way of making a living (vs. just a hobby) be sure you have a great authentic marketing plan and clear plan to monetize your message before you set out to grow your practice. It’s easy to presume that because you’re pursuing your passion it should all fall into place. In truth, you must have a way to communicate your message so others can easily see the brilliance you have to offer.
You can find out more about Stephanie's work and reach her at: