How taking a “wrong” career turn can land you on the right road

In July 2003, Vancouver was chosen as the 2010 Host City for the Winter Olympic and Paralympic games, and I had the distinct honour of working with the team of outstanding people who helped to win the bid.

As VP marketing for the bid, it was generally assumed that I would seek a senior position with the newly formed organizing committee, and stay on for the next seven years, through the Games.  And I did stay, for almost a year, working with transition committee.  And every day, I tried to ignore the small voice inside me that was saying, “It’s time to move on, Linda.”

After all, who leaves a job like this? I loved and respected my colleagues. And working for an Olympic Games is exciting and fun. But the Games are also a huge time commitment and so there is an inevitable sacrifice when it comes to family and friends. And since my best friend had recently died, I was acutely aware of how little time we get with those who mean the most to us.

So I interrogated myself, talked to friends and peers, and agonized over the pros and cons. I had a strong feeling that it was time to do something on my own. As the daughter of a horse dealer, I’d inherited a robust and independent entrepreneurial spirit. And as much as I enjoyed the camaraderie of stimulating colleagues, I loved having to live by my wits and be independent.

The decision to leave the 2010 Vancouver Games and set up my own consulting practice to work with companies that were looking to become sponsors of the event was without a doubt the toughest career decision I have ever made. And even once the decision was made, doubts ensued, and they were persistent.

For the better part of two years I woke up in the middle of the night thinking I had made a huge mistake and was on the wrong path – one from which I would never recover.  Success came early and quickly in my new role as consultant, but I couldn’t shake the idea that I had chosen to leave the best working environment that I had ever had not to mention the best working pals! (This feeling abated over the years but was not fully shaken until the Games were over in 2010.)

So did I make a wrong turn?  No.  It was the right decision for me:  it got me where I want to be, financially and in most other ways.  If I had stayed with the Vancouver organizing committee, I wouldn’t have had a fabulous few years working in London with partners of the London 2012 Games (and making a whole new set of brilliant colleagues!), a stint in a 200-year-old farmhouse in Andalusia Spain with my husband, or as much quality time on our gorgeous Gulf Island.  And I might not have decided to become an executive coach and made the transition to setting up a business coaching and workshop practice that I truly love and gives me the lifestyle I want.

Lessons learned?  LISTEN to that inner voice.  Know when it is time to make a move, and MOVE!  And get help when you need it.  At an Olympic dinner in London in 2007, I happened to be seated next to a wonderful executive coach who not only introduced me to the field but also coached me through <em “mso-bidi-font-style:=”” normal”=””>my career transition!

The other big lesson to note is: When navigating new territory, doubts about whether or not you’ve gone the right way, are inevitable.  Keep the faith and keep going.  Chances are good that it will lead you to exciting new – and profitable – adventures.