Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Liz Cohen, Founder of Next Step Careers, located in Somers Point, NJ, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I am a career clarity and job search coach, which means I work with professionals to help them figure out what they want to do, and then go out and make it happen. I work with everyone from recent graduates finding their first or second job, to mid-career professionals interested in pivoting their careers in new directions, to job seekers of all ages who are struggling to gain traction or feel confident as they put themselves out there in an overwhelming job market.
Tell us about yourself
Eight years ago, I was working for LinkedIn, building and leading social impact and training programs across the globe. From the outside my career looked like a success story -- I was working at a big, brand-name company, leading social impact programs, and traveling the world. But on the flip side, I hadn't seen my family in months, I felt stressed out walking into the office every day, and I realized I felt more energized the few days of each month I got to coach job seekers than I did meeting with executives about program budgets and plans. I had one of those actual a-ha moments. And for the first time in my career, I paused and said, "What do I really want? What's most important to me, what energizes me, and what does that mean about the job I should be doing every day?"
Once I answered these questions, it became clear to me that, yes, I was in the right business, but that my ideal role looked very different than what I was doing. I deeply wanted to work 1:1 with individuals. I wanted to not just coach job seekers on best practices and how to use technology but also how to build the soft and emotional skills required to navigate big, scary career transitions. I wanted a less-frenetic, more-balanced role that would allow time for family, my health, and other sources of joy beyond work. And I wanted to help other people build careers and lives that aligned with their own values and definitions of success as well.
That's why I created my business, Next Step Careers, and I'm so happy I did. I now get to spend every day with amazing individuals who want to approach their careers with more authenticity, courage, and joy. I literally love nothing more than helping someone give themselves permission to pursue the life and career they really want and to go out and make it happen. It's an honor and a privilege I appreciate every day.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
When I first started out, I had a handful of clients. It takes time to build a business from scratch! Now 7, 8 years in, I feel so proud to have worked with hundreds of professionals across the globe, and to often have a waitlist for new clients. I also created an online course, "Land Your Dream Job," that helps more people access the techniques I teach my clients, and makes coaching more accessible and affordable. The response from the people I work with and the referrals they send my way tell me that what I'm offering is really helping people while bringing me great joy as well. What could be better?
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
No one builds it but you! The vision, the program, the values, the clients, the systems, and the confidence in yourself -- you have to build all of these for yourself. It's terrifying and filled with second-guessing, and also incredibly rewarding at the same time.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- First, when first getting started, don't start with a business name, logo, or brand! Test run your business first - with a few clients or projects - so you can figure out whether you enjoy the work, whether you enjoy running your own business, and what the market needs most. Once you've validated these things, building a website and launching your business will be that much easier (and necessary).
- The second thing that comes to mind is, co-create with the people you want to serve. The more input you receive from the people you want to serve, the stronger your offerings will be, the stronger your client relationships will be, and the easier it will all be to brand and grow! I've seen so many business owners launch a product or service that flounders in the beginning because they built something in a vacuum and never got real input about what people were struggling with or needed. They then think they're doomed to fail in business leadership when in fact, all they need to do is listen a little more and build from there.
- The third thing that comes to mind is around prioritization. As a new business owner, there's this temptation to say 'yes' to everything. And while you're early on, experimenting with different projects, partners, and offerings can help you learn, build strong relationships, and find your niche. But as a solo businesswoman, I've found it's incredibly helpful to get really good at the one or few things you do best (for me, that's coaching). At least for me, someone who cares deeply about balance at this phase of my life, focus allows me to serve people better and maintain that balance more easily.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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