Name: Jenny Shih
Title: Coach and Consultant for Creative Entrepreneurs
What is it that you do on a day to day basis?
I am a coach and consultant for creative, solo entrepreneurs. My clients are coaches, designers, writers, teachers, healers, artists, and freelancers. They are idea factories. They have big plans for their business and realize they can’t make it happen all by themselves.
I help new entrepreneurs define their niche, learn the basics of marketing, and start making money. I help entrepreneurs with big ideas create a solid plan and make their big ideas happen. And I help experienced entrepreneurs set up systems so they can get out of the daily grind and spend more time on growing their businesses or enjoying life.
What are your favorite parts of your job?
I LOVE when clients create the results they’ve been dreaming about. They send me an email saying, “I did it! I did it!” That lights me up more than anything.
I also love helping people learn to look at their businesses from a new perspective. Often what holds someone backing from taking the next step in their business is not knowing what that next step is. I love filling in that gap for them and then watching their genius take over from there.
How did you get into your field? Was it something you always wanted to do or something you discovered bit by bit?
I went to college for an engineering degree, not because I was excited about engineering, but because I had no better idea what to do. I was good at math and engineers got jobs, so it was my best plan. From there, my professional career began in high-tech corporate America, where I managed multi-million dollar, multi-continent projects and large teams of engineers. From the looks of it, I had a near-perfect job. I had a reasonably flexible job, great pay, and people I enjoyed working with. But I wasn’t happy and the company’s products didn’t ignite my passion.
I did a lot of soul searching and decided I wanted to work more directly with people. I decided to take life coaching training, quit my job, and build a coaching business. To support myself financially and feed my love for learning while building my coaching practice, I also worked as a virtual assistant for some experienced life coaches. In doing this, I learned about the wonders of online technology and how my corporate background could help others. I began coaching my virtual assistant clients on their business. I eventually realized that not only did I enjoy that more than life coaching, I was pretty good at it! Eventually I realized I enjoyed the business aspects more than general life coaching and made that switch in my business.
I launched my business coaching business in March 2011 and have been thrilled about the switch. My business allows me to use both my left-brain, corporate, project management and technical expertise and my soft, right-brained, life coaching skills. I have found it to be the perfect combination for creating a career and business I love. I’m also able to shift my business as my interests shift which keeps things fun and exciting for me.
What aspect of your work most surprised you? (Either in a good way or a bad way.)
I’m finding that I’m surprised at how much I love owning my own business and learning what it means to be a business owner. I had a glimpse into the world of entrepreneurship because I helped my husband quit his job to start a business 6 years before I took the plunge. However, witnessing it and doing it are two very different things.
Although being self-employed certainly comes with its own set of challenges, I’m finding I LOVE IT. I love the challenges and the freedom. I love having to figure it all out and getting to decide exactly what happens next. I have no plans to go back to having a job. It’s not for everyone, but I’m so glad I took the leap.
Does your education (high school, college or graduate degree) matter in terms of the work that you do today?
Not really. I don’t use engineering in anything that I do right now. However, engineering school was one of the most difficult intellectual endeavors I’ve attempted and succeeded. It’s given me the confidence that “if I can learn that, I can learn anything.”
I’m a big believer in seeing that we got “here” based on all of the places we’ve been. Although circuitous, engineering school got me to where I am now with the husband I have and the business I enjoy. In that regard, my degree does matter.
What environmental factors have the greatest impact on your job satisfaction? (For example: co-workers, compensation, company culture, flexibility, work/life balance, etc.)
One of my biggest personal values is time freedom, the ability to decide what my schedule is and when I do what. Having my own business means I can take full responsibility for my schedule and how I spend my time.
My previous job in corporate was highly flexible compared to most jobs, which was great, and I felt like I was still required to be in the office 40 hours a week, no matter how efficient I was at accomplishing my work. Leaping to entrepreneurship has helped me live out more of my values.
Any career advice you’d like to pass along to others? (My audience is comprised mainly of adults in their twenties and thirties.)
Although most people chuckle at this question, the number one question that got me started on my “what do I want to do with my life” path was this: “When I was a child, what did I want to do before anyone told me what I should or shouldn’t do?”
I had a lot of external influences that drove me into engineering school. That question stripped away all of the social and parental pressures around my career and refocused me on what I wanted. Hint: What YOU want will always bring you ultimate satisfaction, not what others want for you.