Ep 48 // I Graduated 12 Years Ago: Here are the 5 Top Lessons I've Learned Building My Career

Ep 48

Since it's the end of the school year in many places in the world, Akua is talking about the things she's learned since graduating 12 years ago and starting her own business as an executive and leadership coach. 

If you are fresh out of school or you've been out for a while and find yourself questioning your major or career choice, this episode will help put things into perspective and guide you in the direction of your joy. 

Remember, you are not what you studied in college. You are complex, multi-talented, and multi-passionate; you are not ONE thing. To find fulfillment as a leader or business owner, it's important to deeply understand yourself, your strengths, preferences, and values. Listen in for ways to leverage the things that make you happy in your career so you can stay motivated and fulfilled!

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What's Covered in this Episode About Business Sustainability 

  • Realize you are not what you study, so don't get hung up on whether or not you're doing what you went to school for. 
  • Akua talks about her post-graduate studies. You might be surprised by what she studied!
  • Accept that we are evolving beings, and opportunities that exist today may not have been there when we were in college. 
  • Gone are the days when people stayed in one career until retirement. Remember, you don't have to do one thing forever. 
  • Situations change, but core values are consistent.
  • Akua talks about using core values to make decisions and how her three core values are manifested in her coaching style.
  • Be creative about putting your multiple talents to work both inside and outside of work.
  • Learn how to be more self-aware and focus on energy and what gives you life. 
  • Build your business so you can tap into the things you enjoy, and as you can, delegate the rest. 
  • Why rethinking engagement and showing up for yourself can lead to productivity and profit. 

Quotes from this Episode of Open Door Conversations

  • "You are not what you studied." - Akua Nyame-Mensah
  • "You don't have to do one thing forever." - Akua Nyame-Mensah
  • "Use your values to make decisions." - Akua Nyame-Mensah
  • "You can use your multiple talents and interests in your work and outside of your work." - Akua Nyame-Mensah
  • "Focus your energy on what gives you life." - Akua Nyame-Mensah

Get to Know the Host of the Open Door Conversations Podcast

Learn more about your host, Akua Nyame-Mensah.

Akua is a certified executive and leadership coach, recognized learning and organizational development facilitator, speaker, and former startup executive. 

Since 2018, she has had the opportunity to partner with amazing organizations, from high-growth startups to multinational brands all around the world, to maximize people, performance, and profit.  Outside of her coaching and corporate speaking engagements, she is a regular mentor, coach, and judge for various entrepreneurship-focused organizations.

Stay in touch with Akua Nyame-Mensah, Leadership & Culture Advisor:

  • Read about Akua’s services if you’d like to learn more about how you can hire her to help you strengthen your organization’s culture.

  • Complete her contact form to jump on a call.

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Here’s the transcript for episode 48 about Lessons Learnt While Building My Career

NOTE: Please excuse any errors in this transcript; it was created using an AI tool. Akua Nyame-Mensah 0:07 Welcome to the open door podcast. My name is Akua Nyame-Mensah. I also respond to Aqua and I'm a certified executive and leadership coach recognised facilitator and former sort of leader that loves supporting reluctant buyer fighting and overwhelmed leaders. I've worked with them to help them clarify where they should focus their time and energy each and every day so that they can love themselves, love their work, and ultimately love their life. If you're looking to learn leadership information and hear different perspectives, you are in the right place. My aim in this podcast is to help you see that one of the most productive and profitable things you can do is deeply understand yourself. Understand how you show up, understand how you thrive, and allow yourself to align everything in your work in your life, and in your business to support that think of this podcast as your weekly opportunity to receive leadership support. And remember, there is no one right way to lead yourself or others. Thank you so much for taking the time to join me today. Let's get started. Hello, and welcome to this week's open door conversations podcast episode. I'm really excited about what I'm sharing today. It actually is from a live I did a few weeks ago. But I thought it'd be something that would be interesting to a lot of my podcast listeners. So in today's episode, I share the top five things I've learned since graduating from college and launching my own business. And because it's the end of the school year, in many places in the world, I thought that this was the perfect topic to release. So I talk about that I am not what I studied. Another thing I talk a bit about is you don't have to do one thing forever. And the last thing I just wanted to mention that I do cover also in this podcast episode is that focus on what gives you life because that's at least what I use to help guide my interest and my focused. So if you're interested in learning a little bit more about my background, and hearing some thoughts I have from things that I've been able to both achieve, and things that maybe didn't go as well take a listen to this episode. So the five things I wanted to share, let me just share them upfront all five, and then I'll go through them step by step. So the first thing here that I put here, and I always try and remind myself of this. And I find myself also doing this with my clients as well is remembering that you are not what you studied. So that's my lesson number one. Lesson number two, is you don't have to do one thing forever. That was definitely something that used to scare me. But you don't have to do one thing forever. Lesson number three is use your values to make decisions. And I think this is such a core piece of what I do as a coach and a lot of people that support others with their decision making process, what they do is really just recognising that our situations might change, what we want even may change, but a lot of times our core values might stay consistent. So taking the time creating space to get very clear on those can be very helpful as you move forward. And as you are selecting opportunities, as well. Alright, number four. So this is a big one, for those of you who are multi talented, multi passionate, multi hyphenate, like me. And I know many of you listening to this probably are just really recognising that you can use your multiple talents, you can use your multiple interest both inside of your work and also outside, right. So one of the things I also love doing with my clients is helping them recognise that if there are certain things that you're looking for that you maybe can't get from your nine to five or what you do for the majority of your time, that doesn't mean that you can't do it in other ways. Alright, and I'm gonna share a little bit more about my own experience doing that and how I've set up my business. I'm making sure that I'm really able to leverage the things that bring me joy that really challenged me because one of the things I do enjoy is being challenged. And then the last one I have on here, and this probably relates a little bit more to what I do day to day, but is really focusing on energy and focusing on what gives me life is the last lesson that I have on here. So that's lesson number five. All right, so let's get into these. I have notes for each of them. But let's let's really start at the top. You are not what you studied. So for those of you who know me from before I started working for myself and before I started becoming a coach, you may or may not know that my background actually is in city planning. So I went to school to be a city planner, my first degrees actually in growth in structure cities. I also have a master's in city planning as well, but I have never practised as a planner. And I know that there was a point in time where I felt very upset at myself that I couldn't find an opportunity that had to do with what I went to school for right I spent about I think in total maybe about six, five or six years studying city planning I really enjoy city planning can still talk about Today at length, but I've never practised as a planner, and I'm okay with it because I recognise that there's a lot of things that I may be learned through my work right through my city planning education that I can leverage in other ways. And that can translate to other opportunities. And I think that if you just get so focused on thinking that there's only one right path, that there's only one right way to do something, or show up or be, it's gonna be really difficult for you to be successful, especially in this world that we now live in. Because every single day, I feel like there's a new type of opportunity that's created, there's a new profession that's maybe even created, right, what I do now, as a coach, I had no idea existed when I first went to school and even decided to invest time and energy into city planning. So for me that lesson, right? I don't have to do what I went to school for, right? There's nothing wrong with doing something different that I studied. It's such an important lesson and something that I always love to share with others, especially if they get really stuck on the fact that maybe they're not doing what they initially went to school for. And I think that a lot of entrepreneurs, a lot of people also within the startup space, right? They tend to come from other spaces, right, other industries, other majors, and that's absolutely fine. If anything, it's really that diversity of thought that leads to the best products, the best businesses, right, and the most sustainable and profitable businesses at the end of the day. All right. So that's Lesson number one. Lesson number two, is you don't have to do one thing forever. So I think this particular lesson just comes from maybe seeing my parents and seeing the fact that my parents really stayed for the most part in positions at the same organisation. My father specifically stayed at the same organisation, for many, many years, maybe close to 20. My mom did work at different places, but she pretty much did the same thing. school administration, my mom was actually my high school principal, which is really interesting, but just really just recognising that there was potentially a time, right. So there was a time maybe where you could have one job, and you were okay, potentially doing that one job, or that made the most sense. But I feel like we very much live in a different world. And I think, as you know, the world is evolving as opportunities are evolving, as people have access to different ways of doing work. I also think that our perception of what we should be doing with our time and energy, because at the end of the day, when we're working, that's probably where most of our time and energy over the week is going. And it can look different, right, we are allowed to evolve. And so what we do with the majority of our time can also evolve as well. And we can also decide that we don't want to work right, and that looks different for everybody. So I think the second lesson that I've learned over the last 12 years since graduating from college is that I don't have to do one thing forever. And once again, as it relates to that first lesson that I shared about going to school for one thing and doing something completely different. Now, that's definitely something that I live and breathe every single day. And a lot of the people that I support, also have had, this progression might have also shifted and evolved and have decided that they want to do other things with their time. And there's nothing wrong with that. All right, the third lesson I have on here, and I think can be incredibly helpful for those of you who look at yourself or feel like you're very multi passionate, or multi talented, or multi hyphenated is leveraging your values to make decisions, right. So rather than potentially saying, and this is honestly what I do when I'm looking at other opportunities, and I'll share a bit more about my business and how it's structured in a seconds to really help capture the different parts of me, but really just recognising that if you feel like you know, I can't find one opportunity that captures everything, a good thing to potentially rely on are your core values, okay? And your core values really will help to dictate how you show up in the world. And so one of the things that we teach or we leverage or framework that we leverage within coaching, is this really simple formula or concept, and this concept is that our thoughts and our beliefs, right, and you can say that the two are somewhat separate. But in the case of this conversation, just to keep it simple, our thoughts and beliefs, right will lead to specific actions or behaviours, and those behaviours will direct our results. So at the end of the day, our values are what is directing, right, our thoughts and our beliefs. And so the things that I want to hold, right, so that I know that I'm showing up in a certain way are three basic values. And I'd recommend that you take a second to reflect on this, you can actually also find a really simple worksheet. I think, on my website, if you search like values, you might be able to find a worksheet to help you with this. You can also go into Google search, you can find so many different ways to help you figure out your values. And also having a thought partner or an accountability partner to support you with this can also be incredibly helpful as well because they can help you by asking challenging questions and really help you reflect on are you showing up as what you're suggesting you want to show up as Okay, so my three main values that I leverage to make decisions and I have been leveraging to make decisions for a really long time. The first is the concept of intentionality. And I'm just gonna read this off because I think that the way in which I've described it here is probably a lot better than what I would do just off the top of my head. So this first one intentionality and intentionality is knowing yourself and understanding your direction not to say that you know everything about yourself, but that you are open to learning about yourself, right? So that self awareness piece. And this means right as a coach, what does this mean? Right? And so I use this in both my personal life and also as a coach and in running my business. But as a coach, this means that I will constantly ask you so what, for specifics and why, and this is something that I also do to myself as well, right? I'll always ask myself why I always try and check in to really build that self awareness. Right. And I know this can be incredibly annoying to some people, I actually even annoying myself. Sometimes I ask myself this, but this is really the only way to make sure that you're on the right track. Right. So intentionality involves right cultivating your self awareness and constantly asking yourself, Am I on the right track. And I think that when I leverage write that value, when I'm thinking about my opportunities, it allows me one to try new things, right. And that's something that's really important to me. And you'll see that even becomes more important as I get into my second value, but also leave things or quit, if necessary, as well, right? So if I feel like I'm not being intentional, or I can't be intentional, that might not be the best space for me. But notice how I haven't talked about what are the specific responsibilities? What are the specific tasks? I'm talking more about? What's that thought or feeling that comes up? Do I feel like I'm being intentional in that role? Do I feel like I'm being intentional with that project that I'm working on the second value that I typically use to help make decisions and help me think about am I spending time in the right spaces or around the right people is growth. And for me, growth is having a constant focus on your evolution and expanding opportunities. And so as a coach, what does this mean? This means that I will challenge and push you, I love playing devil's advocate, I also do this to myself as well. And I won't accept just because or I can't as a valid response, this specific value very much just comes from me reflecting on how much growth and how many opportunities have come from just being open to trying new things. And for me, a lot of times that looks like living different places, trying different projects, working at different places as well, that might be different from what I actually went to school for. Right. So that's really the second value when it comes to write this third sort of lesson around using my values to make decisions. So this third one is commitment. So commitment for me is showing up for yourself fully taking action. I think this one is really key, but taking action. And I think for me, that's one of the reasons why I love leveraging coaching as a primary way to support others, because coaching is about taking action and moving forward and being at choice. So most importantly, is about you deciding for yourself, not society, not your mom, not your dad, not your sister, not your brother, right? Not what you wrote in your journal 10 years ago, but you at this point in time being present, deciding what you want to do moving forward and what action you want to take, right. And so this is something that I expect for myself, and also those who support me, and I support I expect everyone I work with to make the most of our time by asking questions and supporting others by sharing their experience, right? If you don't show up for yourself, why should anybody else show up for you. So really just recognising that, you know, at the end of the day, it's so important for you to sort of focus on you first, right, it's really hard to show up as a leader and to support others, if you're not able to do that for yourself. So those are my three values, my three core values that I really use in my business, and I also use in my life. And that really, I think speaks to once again, that third lesson here around okay, I graduated 12 years ago, what are some things I've learned, I've learned really to tap into my values and see whether or not once again, the opportunities that are coming my way, the things that I'm doing, really are allowing me to live those values and show up in a way right, with behaviours and actions that align with those specific values. Alright, so that was number three, let's get into number four. Alright, so number four is just, you know, recognising, right. So at the end of the day, we all make assumptions, we all have our stories we tell ourselves, the story I tell myself now is that I can use my multiple talents and interest in my work and also outside of my work, if anything, because of how my business is now built. And I'll share a little bit more about that in a second, I get to use all my interest. And I have lots of different interests and a lot of different things that I think that I'm somewhat good at, right, the things I'm not very good at I try and delegate are things that are very time consuming, and I don't enjoy it also try and delegate and that's also something that I love to teach, but really just recognising that, you know, if you took a second right to take stock at what you're good at and what you're not good at, right? And then you looked at where you're spending the majority of your time. So for those of you who are working full time, do you feel like you're constantly tapping into the things that you're good at and the things that you enjoy? Or are you constantly having to do things that sort of make you feel bad or make you feel less than and I think that's always a very interesting exercise. For me, I know that it's really a spectrum and it really just depends on how I'm feeling and sometimes how much sleep I have, how I feel towards certain things. But when I'm thinking about this idea of you can use multiple interest and multiple talents within your career. What comes up for me of course, is how I build my or how I built my business, right and so there are three basic parts to my business. The first part is really that one on one coaching. So with that, what it does is it forces me to get outside my comfort zone to have challenging conversations where it right where it's not my opinion that matters. And I love that a part of that also is building frameworks and worksheets, and really being able to help people think through their process of coming to a decision, and also holding them accountable. And I love that piece, right. There's a challenging piece to it. But there's also a piece that I really enjoy doing. And I think I'm somewhat good at the second part of my business is also quite challenging, and something that I'm constantly getting better at. And that's the speaking in workshops. And so for me, that speaking and and really workshop piece, I think is so interesting, because I used to be terrified of public speaking, and every single time I even get on to do alive or I get on to speak, I still get a little bit of that anxiety. And I try and use that right. And just for me, it's just such a, I think an interesting thing to overcome, because I love being challenged. And I love also overcoming that challenge. And there's a bit of a high that I get from it, right. So there is a benefit to doing it to a certain extent. But that's really the second part of my business. And, and with both those pieces, that first piece I shared, right, that one on one and the workshops, that's actually where I typically am generating revenue for myself, and ultimately, right, it's about supporting leaders, so they can go from being very reactive to being a lot more proactive, right. And so what that means typically, for a lot of leaders I support in the businesses I support is really rethinking engagement and rethinking how, you know, showing up for yourself, engaging with yourself and others can lead to what can be described as productivity. And you know, I have an interesting relationship with productivity, even though I talk about it a lot. And of course, profits, right, because you can't have a business without profits. But recognising that that typically comes from engaging with yourself and also engaging with others. So that's really the first two parts of my business and the last part of my business, which I actually love spending a lot of time in, but I don't typically make any revenue from it. I mean, sometimes I'll get a stipend, or small little bonus or a cool little swag bag from it. But it is mentoring, advising, judging for various initiatives, typically on the startup space. So I've done work with seedstars, after a business heroes, who goals for startups, the coaching fellowship is actually one of my favourite things to do. And then recently joined Stanford see their consulting programme where you support people pro bono in their consulting programme. And so I love doing all those things. And there are elements of that, that I really enjoy that I can't actually get from my one on one work, and, of course, my workshops and speaking. And so that's just, I think, one just quick example of how you can think very creatively about how to incorporate right, your multiple talents, and your multiple interest. And you don't have to just think to yourself, oh, man, I could only do one thing for my entire life. And I can't figure out how to get these other pieces in there. Because you can do it right. It's really about one becoming aware of the fact that this is something important to you. And that's something that you want to value, and then creating time and space for it, right, whether that's within your schedule, or however you decide to monitor right, and manage your time, but it's something that I've been able to do. And it's also something that I teach as well, because I am not one thing. And if you listen to this or not one thing, and you probably need different things in your life, to keep you energised, and to keep you motivated. And I think this is a really great segue for number five, right? So we're getting through it just to recap for those who maybe who just joined, right, number one is you are not what you studied, right? That is probably one of the first lessons that I learned when I couldn't find an opportunity and what I went to school for, which is city planning. Number two is you don't have to do one thing forever, which I think can be very scary for some people. And number three is use your values to make decisions. So taking the time to get clear on what are your core values and how you can leverage those to decide how you show up in the actions that you take. And then number four, you can use your multiple talents and interest, right? In your business or in your career, right. And you don't have to be paid for all of it. Right? So I just shared right, the three parts of my business, I get paid, typically for the first two parts. And the last part, sometimes I get excited, sometimes usually I don't. So this last one, right. And I feel like this is a really good segue because this is where I really love to focus. When I'm supporting my clients, I'm also thinking about building my schedule, or building what I do, or deciding on what I do with my time. And number five is focus on energy and what gives you life. Okay. And as I say this, not everyone, right? And I'm not saying that all the time, everything I do gives me life or gives me energy or I'm excited about. But I do think it's really important that we get clear on what excites us what we get energy from, and also reflect on how we can create more time and space for that right? What can we do? And what can we tap into? And who can we leverage so that we can create more time and space for that. Right? So as I mentioned before, and maybe those of you who know me and a bit of what I do, right? I'm a productivity focused executive and leadership coach, but what I'm actually really doing is teaching my clients to tap into that feeling because at the end of the day, productivity is a feeling. So if you're aware of what you value, what your purpose is, it's so much easier for you to constantly right tap into that feeling of feeling productive. That feeling of oh, I'm going somewhere I'm doing some thing, if that's important to you, right? So really just recognising that as a leader, as an entrepreneur, if you take the time, right to cultivate your self awareness, and then build a schedule or build a timeline that allows you right to really focus your time and energy on what gives you life. And if I'm reflecting a good example, is actually doing these types of lives. So I'm really aware that it takes me quite a bit of time to pump myself up to do these lives. And so I've actually cut out a period of time on my calendar, I cut out about a about an hour, but my lives never go an hour because I know that I have to pump myself up, right? There's a little routine I have to do in order to do this. And after I'm done with my life, I typically will treat myself right, and I get you know, I'll do something that's a lot of fun or something that doesn't involve me having to be on the camera or speak a lot, right? So that's one thing that I recognise, but I do these lives, because one, it's a great way to challenge myself, I love the challenge after this, I'll get a bit of a rush to it's great for my business, right. So when I'm thinking about making sure that I have a sustainable business, this is a great way to connect with people share my thoughts, right. And I think most importantly, it's very genuine, right? So if I tap back into some of my values, right, I'm committed to making sure that I have a sustainable business. I'm doing this because it's challenged me I grow every single time I do a live, and I'm really intentional about it. Right. So I'm setting myself up for success by using certain frameworks and building certain routines. So I can do this effectively. And like I mentioned before, it's also authentic, right, so I'm speaking off the cuff. Yes, I do have a bit of notes, but I make mistakes. And that's okay. All right. So I think that's all I wanted to share in today's live. If you have any questions for me, any thoughts for me any topics you want me to share? Please feel free to reach out I'd love to create some content around it. So thank you all so very much once again for taking the time to join. I really do appreciate it and stay safe instead. Enjoy the rest of your day. Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to today's episode. If you enjoyed what you heard today, please share it with your friends. We can continue this conversation on social media the links to my socials so that is LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. You can find them in the show notes. If you tagged me in a story and include the hashtag hashtag ask Akua I will share a special little gift with you. Thank you so much once again for your time and I cannot wait to share my next episode with you stay safe and sane.


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