Jil Steinberg: Founder, Bespeak Studios
This past spring I celebrated an anniversary: two years of change bookended by the exact same date: April 10th. Let me explain.
In late winter 2013, I was perusing the event listings for a neighborhood cafe and co-working space that features workshops given by small business owners. A specific listing caught my eye. Distinct from the standard find-your-passion classes that I’d attended sporadically over the years, the Bright Livelihoods intro session described a methodology that was both creative and action-based. I signed up without hesitation.
What impressed me about Laurel’s presentation was the thoughtful blending of different proven paths used to guide people toward discovering meaningful work. I appreciated her real-world approach to helping people through career transitions. Hers was not the standard one urging participants to take a wild leap of faith. Instead, she asked us to embrace (and even enjoy) “bridge work”—something that can sustain career changers as they work on identifying or progressing with their life plan. I was hooked.
On April 10, 2013, I connected online for my first Career Masters class. The experience was challenging and exhilarating, and, while I didn’t come away with a clear vision of what I wanted to be when I grew up, something inside me had definitely shifted.
Jump ahead two years (and two Career Masters programs later). After decades of working in the corporate world, all the time feeling like a fish in a cage and a bird out of water (yes, you read that right), I had finally had enough.
On April 10, 2015, I quit my job with a tech company. When I say I quit my job, what I really mean is, I quit the corporate world of The Man (figuratively, of course) telling me what to do. And I’m never going back.
Between those two April 10ths, it might not have appeared that anything major was going on in my work life. But under the surface, a more authentic “me” was taking shape. This wasn’t an entirely different me; after all, as someone who had dabbled in opera singing, sculpting, and speaking Italian, I had always felt like I had more to offer than just writing and editing skills. This was the post-Career Masters me: someone with a deeper understanding of what I wanted and the faith in my ability to create exactly that. And if I wanted it, then there was a good chance that others wanted it, too.
The idea for Bespeak Studios was born on a walk along a tree-lined street just a block from my house, where I noticed that a commercial space was available for rent. I peered in the window at the lovely wood floor and serene walls and thought to myself, “Oh, I wish I could have my own business there!” I didn’t do anything about it and, of course, the little space was snapped up by someone else.
It might seem a bit random that a long-time tech writer-editor would daydream about being the proprietor of a commercial business. But long-time tech writer-editors periodically get laid off, and during one such event a few years back, three small-business owners contacted me within the space of a couple of weeks, asking if I was available to help them out. One was a friend; the other two I knew from being a frequent visitor to their businesses. I found myself in retail sales shuttling between—get this—a chocolate shop, a jewelry shop, and a women’s resale clothing shop. I was in heaven! But it wasn’t about the truffles, the diamonds, or the Italian designer boots. It was the camaraderie I felt with the customers, the pride I took in managing the shops, and a sense of belonging to the business community that felt absolutely magical to me.
Revisiting those feelings through Career Masters helped me tap into the non-negotiables that I had pushed aside while in tech. In the fall of 2014, when another For Rent sign appeared in the window of a business on that same tree-lined street, I didn’t hesitate. I called the number, signed a lease, and now am busy transforming the space into a place where like-minded people can schedule workshops, brainstorming sessions, coaching sessions and meet-ups in an environment that—I hope!—they’ll enjoy being in as much as I do.
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