Looking for work can be hard enough when you know what you want, but for some, the real challenge is figuring out just what their life’s wish is. Luckily, overwhelmed and frustrated individuals can now check out Careergasm, an online course and recently published book by its’ creator and founder, Sarah Vermunt. Unlike many other courses, online outlets or publications which promise success and fulfillment through more traditional practices, Vermunt uses her own unique style and experience to present a more approachable method to individuals who are looking to find a more fulfilling career and life.
We recently enjoyed a conversation with Ms. Vermunt, who sat down to explain her work and some useful insight into how it is possible to overcome universal obstacles in order to take the right steps forward in your desire for change.
Her Faith: Can you explain a little about yourself and your background?
Sarah Vermunt: I used to be a professor at a business school. I taught organizational behavior which is basically workplace psychology and I hated conducting research, which is a huge part of academia. About four years ago, I made a change and instead of researching and working on workplace psychology, I became a career coach helping people actually get happier at work and life in general. I’m helping actual people with real problems now.
Her Faith: What is Careergasm and how is it different from what we’re used to?
Sarah Vermunt: Careergasm is the name of my company and it is also the name of my book that helps people realize what they want and how to go after it. At both my online course and in my book, I like to offer a very special kind of career support that’s meant to help people specifically who don’t know what they want. Other career coaches help people with strategy – which is awesome for people who know exactly what they want. They just maybe need a little bit of resume, LinkedIn or interviewing help. My work is a little bit different. Instead of focusing on strategy, I specialize in focus and clarity so that people can actually figure out what they want to do, so that they can finally quit the job that they hate.
Her Faith: I’m sure that’s a pretty common issue.
Sarah Vermunt: Yes, there are so many people trapped in jobs that they hate because they just don’t know what they want. Instead, people feel trapped for years because it’s really hard to make a change if you’re not sure what you’re pursuing and that’s okay. I help people get the clarity that they need, so they can take a leap of faith and make a change.
Her Faith: What do you think are some of the common mistakes people are making when it comes to pursuing their dream careers or careers in general?
Sarah Vermunt: One of the biggest mistakes people make is that they focus on the skills alone. I think it’s really important to look at your skills and also your desire – not only what you are good at, but what you actually want because there are a lot of people who are really good at jobs that they don’t enjoy. If you focus on a skill, it’s likely to point you in the direction of something similar to a job which you already don’t enjoy. If you just take into account your desire and what you actually want, it is more likely to lead you in a different direction towards something that’s going to be different and probably more for fulfilling for you.
Her Faith: What do you think are some of the items or tools that people should have in their career arsenal that can help them as they move forward? For example, whether it’s an online presence or essentials on their resume, is there anything that you think people often ignore that they should take into account or use to their advantage?
Sarah Vermunt: A lot of people who don’t enjoy their jobs panic and immediately start doing a job search. This isn’t actually effective. I really believe in clarity first, strategy second. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, it’s actually impossible to write a really good resume or do a great job search because you’re not quite sure how to customize what you’re looking for or what you’re trying to promote about yourself. As hard as it is, I think the best thing people can do is press pause on the strategy side (job searching and interviewing) and spend the time that they need to do some introspective work and look inward to see what really matters to them. That’s what the book is all about. There’s also a free online course to get people thinking about that.
Another thing that is very helpful is that sometimes people think of making a career change as a logical, rational decision making process only. I like to think of making a career change as two parallel tracks that you have to look at at the same time. On one track is figuring out what you want. On the other track is doing some personal development work so that you can get out of your own way because a lot of us have different ways of committing self sabotage. There are probably some thoughts, beliefs and behaviors you have that are obviously preventing you from moving forward. I think it’s important to work on that second track, as well as becoming a little more self-aware and developing a contingency plan to help you with some of the ways that you typically self sabotage. This is something we all do, we just all do it in different ways. For example, one of the ways that I self sabotage is I care too much what other people think, so I tend to get really caught up trying to work out what people are going to think about the decisions I make in my life. There are things that I have to constantly troubleshoot and that’s a really common problem that a lot of people have to deal with too. There are plenty of other self sabotaging things that people struggle with like procrastination, being overly sensitive to feedback or risk aversion. There’s an entire chapter in the book all about this because it’s so important.
Her Faith: I thoroughly enjoyed what you referred to as the ‘Boa Constrictor’. Can you explain what you mean by that and address a few steps on how people can avoid falling victim to it?
Sarah Vermunt: We like to think of decision-making as this logical, rational problem or process right? Intuition is actually our body giving us biological feedback about various decisions, so if you’re trying to force yourself down a path that feels bad or maybe if you’re in a job right now that feels bad, you might have an injury. For example, if your back always goes out or you’re constantly getting sick. For a lot of people that I work with, these are actually signs that you’re moving in the wrong direction. You are getting actual biological feedback from your body that things are out of alignment. If you can start to notice what your body is trying to tell you a little bit more, it will actually help you navigate your life.
Of course we want to make strong logical decisions, but intuition is also a very important part of it. Your intuition should be the thing that helps you make the decision and logic should be the thing that helps you execute the decision. So if you’re pointed in the right direction, your head should help you actually execute your plan. The way to avoid having those feelings is to turn away from the things that make you feel bad. Sometimes navigating your career is a lot like playing hot and cold – you don’t really know what’s going to feel good or bad until you start turning away from the things that feel bad.
Her Faith: Do you have any positive daily rituals that you do or that you would suggest other people start doing in order to help them stay focused on trying to figure things out?
Sarah Vermunt: I started doing 10 minute self-guided meditation session in the morning. I’m finding that it is really is amazing. It makes quite a difference for the rest of my day and helps me make better decisions. I feel more calm as I go through the day and I actually do think this is especially important for women because we are so busy and very often, we are so busy taking care of other people’s needs. Finding some time in the morning that’s just for you, I have found, is a really positive thing. I do find it important to take short pauses between things. I think having a little break or pulling yourself out of what could be a chaotic day for a few minutes actually helps you think a lot more clear and it actually makes you more productive. Giving yourself some downtime away from the problem counterintuitively might be the moment that you actually solve it.
Her Faith: (laughs) I understand, I’m a fan of taking breaks myself even though it means sometimes being laughed at.
Sarah Vermunt: Yes, you come back from a 10 minute break thinking more clearly, you’re more energized, you have better ideas and you’re more creative. Brakes are incredible for people and I know that I find them very valuable too.
Her Faith: Do you mostly work with individual clients or do you work with groups, organizations or companies?
Sarah Vermunt: I mostly work with individuals. The way I help a lot of people is through a very popular online course that people around the world can take to help them figure out what they want.
Her Faith: Can you walk me through your process when you have a new client? What would you say is your unique, signature speciality that you use or incorporate during this process and how do you approach your clients?
Sarah Vermunt: Well, one thing about my course that they’ll notice is that it’s very playful and very unconventional. That’s definitely my signature – it’s a playful approach to getting work and finding work that makes you happy.
Unlike other books that tackle this field with a more serious and traditional approach, Sarah’s is more playful and welcoming. Even her website features pleasant cartoons and incorporates fun elements throughout the lessons that allow Careergasm to stand out from it’s more traditional contemporaries.
Sarah Vermunt: It uses the power of play to help people get the clarity that they need. If you think playfully, it triggers the part of your brain that you don’t get to use where you almost return to a childlike state and we are able to come up with better, more innovative and unconventional ideas. That’s what helps you to break out of a rut.
Her Faith: I really appreciated the Jim Carrey story that was included in the book. You address a lot of subjects, but is there anything that you wish that you had known at an earlier point in your life? Is there anything that you wish someone had sat down and said to you earlier that you now feel comfortable sharing with others?
Sarah Vermunt: I wish I had known that I would feel better the minute I let go. I did not know how soon release would come once I changed my mind. For example, in the book I talk about a breakdown and how I went in the next day and gave notice. I felt instantly better even though the rest of my future was still fairly uncertain and I wasn’t entirely sure where it was going to next. I didn’t know that and what I would love to tell people is that release and freedom comes quickly once you really decide to make a change. I didn’t know it would come so swiftly and it was beautiful feeling.
Her Faith: I was doing something very similar which I was also very unhappy with and it just led to dead end after dead end. After awhile, you just can’t do it anymore.
Sarah Vermunt: This would also be something helpful for people to know. Sometimes a breakdown is exactly what you need. It’s not a pleasant way to go about making a change, but often it is a path to freedom and as uncomfortable as it is, it often leads to some really beautiful things. I can imagine that some of your readers are struggling with things right now with trying to really hold it together and sometimes falling apart is exactly what you need.
Her Faith: That always reminds me of the philosophy regarding how sometimes you have to lose everything and hit absolute bottom in order to realize what’s really important or what you really want and then get fired up enough to do something about it. That’s a great point to touch on. Is there anything else that you hope your readers and students can take away from the new book? Are there any favorite parts of the book that you are excited about or struggled with?
Sarah Vermunt: I’d love for people to walk away feeling like they’re not alone and that there’s not something wrong with them. Feeling lost isn’t a feeling we often talk about very often in society. If you think about it, we live in a world that tells us just to follow her dreams – which is really a lot of pressure when you don’t know what your dreams are. So many people who feel lost very often don’t talk about it. This book is for people who feel lost. My hope is that they realize feeling lost is part of the human experience, you can work through it and get to the other side. If you feel lost, there’s nothing wrong with you.
Her Faith: I totally agree with you in that there’s so much emphasis on having the blueprint to know exactly what you want and how to get it. There’s a lot of pressure to begin with. People have a lot of pressure being put on top of them by other people, so adding that to the pre-existing amount of self induced pressure that you have already deal with is just a recipe for disaster.
Sarah Vermunt: I think so too. Wanting a change is actually a really wonderful signal that your evolving and growing as a person. What you thought was going to be great for you when you were 17 and forced to pick what you wanted to do for school, a career etc.– well, you’re no longer that person. It’s actually very natural that your interests change and evolve as you grow.
In addition to her new book, Vermunt is launching a brand new course specifically for new grads in September. You can check out Careergasm at her official site.