Career Transitions – My Story

Lisa Plain (Petkovsek)Blog

In my experience, careers are not often a straight line. I don’t know many people who can say they graduated high school, landed their dream job and are still as happy as the day they started work. A lot seems to happen in between the dream and the reality of the working world. Even if we take all of the right steps, it doesn’t mean we’ll reach the point of happiness and fulfillment. This is where my story starts.

The Early Years

As a teenager, I didn’t think too much about what work would look like. I come from a family with a long line of entrepreneurs. I knew I had to work, that I had to work hard, and that work was going to last a while. At 16 years old though, when I got my first job, a while was an unknown amount of time. Throughout my teens and early 20s, I chose jobs that interested me. This included: barista, pet store sales associate, record store sales associate, house painter, odd job small business owner, office admin/receptionist through a temp agency, conference bartender, winery tasting room associate, and assistant to the VP of sales at the same winery.

As you can see, my expertise in career changes started early as I was interested in a lot of different things. This led me to choose business in university because it was practical and applicable to many industries. Plus, I couldn’t figure out anything else that I wanted to do forever. I am so happy I did, as this decision laid the foundation for everything I’ve done, including my coaching business. I consider this to be Chapter 1.

Undergraduate & Graduate Degrees

I majored in Human Resources because I enjoyed learning about human behaviour, but when I graduated, I didn’t connect with the available jobs. Through my parents’ neighbour’s friend, I landed a job working as an office manager. I was a jack-of-all-office-trades so to speak, and after some exposure to accounting, I decided this was my new path. I started taking night school classes to learn more about debits and credits. Then Iquit my job to go back to school full time to complete an MBA with a concentration in Accounting. This next leg of the adventure lasted almost 10 years; we’ll call this Chapter 2.

The Working World

I worked hard to also achieve my CPA, CMA accounting designation while working full time. I felt proud of the recognition that came with the job and the designation. Initially, friends and family told me that I didn’t fit the mold of an accountant, but I was determined to prove them wrong. Plus, there was a sense of prestige and status that came with being able to tell people I am a CPA.

I gave up my social life during this time; I missed wedding showers and birthdays because I was working or studying. The jobs were tough, with long hours, tight deadlines, and making a mistake was usually disastrous (although I had some amazing managers who often softened the fall). I fed off of the increasing responsibility that I had and the access to confidential strategy and business information. It felt like I was part of an elite club and was exciting and interesting. At one point, at 27 years old and 6 months into a job, I presented as part of a team of directors and business heads to the CFO of one of the largest banks in Canada.

The Shift

I rode that feeling for a few years, but underneath something was shifting. I was experiencing panic attacks on the train on my way to work and was irritable at home, which meant getting into fights with my family and friends. There was nothing outwardly wrong either; I was getting promotions, recognition, making great money and I had great support at work from my superiors. I “should” have been happy.

So, what was the problem? After some soul searching I discovered that accounting wasn’t my calling. It taught me so many amazing things and allowed me to take the next steps in my career, but it wasn’t my forever job. I have a deep curiosity in human nature but was working independently most of the time with Excel files. This wrong fit caused a misalignment in what I valued internally leading to a very external response.


This leads me to Chapter 3. In May 2017, I was working as the Manager, Financial Strategy, Technology & Operations full time when I decided it was time to start thinking about my next steps. I went for dinner with my mom one night and she helped brainstorm a bunch of seemingly random careers to help me think outside of the box. She mentioned a life coach and I initially brushed it off. By the end of dinner, however, I came back to it because it sparked my interest. I did some research and in July 2017 I hired a career coach myself. I wanted to get some clarity on what my next steps would be but also to see what coaching was like first-hand. What I experienced seemed like magic and I was hooked.

I distinctly remember having a conversation with my boyfriend (now fiancé) about the fact that I was going to leave my high-paying accounting job to become a career coach and feeling very nervous about saying it out loud. I think it took 3 or 4 days to bring it up, but that was one of the first real conversations that helped me move forward. I’m not sure he took it very seriously at the time, but he was supportive nonetheless.

By August 2017 I had enrolled in a coach training program. I was back to full time work with part-time schooling at iPEC from September 2017 to June 2018. I held off on telling my employer, as I wasn’t sure how it was all going to work out. Worst case scenario I would have a new set of skills that would help me as a manager. Plus, I was still nervous about what my colleagues would think, and I wanted to do this for me. The program was transformational, and within a few months I knew this was what I wanted long-term. So, I started taking steps to make it official. Here’s a timeline of my next steps:

  • Aug 2017 – Joined iPEC
  • Dec 2017 – started coaching friends and family to gain experience
  • Mar 2018 – Registered Career Balance Coaching as a business; gave notice at work
  • May 2018 – left my full-time job to work part-time as a teller at the bank and part-time financial reporting support to an old boss; client base was growing
  • Sept 2018 – left the teller job to focus on my coaching clients
  • Oct 2018 – joined SV Academy as a Career Readiness Coach part-time
  • Apr 2019 – left the part-time financial reporting role to coach full-time

When I look back at the last 2 years, it seems like a lot of change and it was a lot of long hours. At the time, I remember feeling pulled in a lot of different directions, but I didn’t mind because it was exciting and each step brought me closer to my dream of helping others make their own transition to a happier career. I did what needed to be done to make it happen and I’m so glad I did. Throughout the transition I experienced skepticism from a few people. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of positive support from colleagues, family, and friends who told me that they saw my leap as inspirational and brave. And through those who questioned it, I learned how to explain my why and built greater conviction in my choices.

I still have a long journey ahead in my business and I know it won’t be easy. I also know that I love working hard for something I believe in. For me, that is what makes all the difference.


Are you feeling a similar misalignment at work? If so, click the link on my home page to schedule a free career consultation and start taking steps toward a career you can be proud of.


Career Balance Coaching has been helping corporate professionals find career happiness since 2018.

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