The Pivot – From HR to Health Coach

Today we talk with Joanna Shurety……

Joanna Shurety (43) from Hertfordshire found that her fast-paced career in HR was impacting her wellbeing and home life. Although she was at the top of her game, and with a salary to match, her sleep, diet and general health were suffering. After making some improvements to her own wellbeing, she was inspired to retrain as a health coach. This has led to increased happiness and health not just for Joanna but for her family too. This is how she pivoted from human resources to health coach….

Everything on paper was looking great for me. I was the HR and Operations Director for a software company, I had enough disposable income to contribute to all aspects of family life, and from a career point of view, I had reached the top of my game. I loved the challenge of working for a small, growing company where I could impact its future.

However, like many seemingly perfect lives, there were some downsides. My 9-5 job meant a lack of flexibility during school-time and the holidays. The pace was fast, the workload demanding and I struggled to switch off. More often than not, I didn’t take annual leave without checking in with colleagues or working at some point during my leave.

I often felt overwhelmed and out of my depth – there was so much to do and then I had the added pressure of being home to collect my son from after school club. Home life was equally as busy and in the evenings I always had a sense there was stuff to do at work. I found myself retreating into myself rather than asking for help. My health suffered, I found sleep difficult and I was over-exercising to compensate for the pressure. I’d lost a fair amount of weight and looked great but I started to feel that it was unsustainable. I felt physically shattered.

Needless to say, this eventually wore me down. I was less present with my family and there was always an added a layer of pressure that was hard to sustain. I felt tired, de-motivated and out of love with the role I was doing. Something had to give.

I decided to give myself a break and start focusing on what made me feel good. I began by cutting back the exercise and eating better – these two things helped my sleep enormously.  The transformation over a period of time inspired me to explore nutrition and wellness and I studied some related topics before I discovered health coaching. I really liked the idea of supporting others to find their path to wellness rather than prescribing. So I took the leap and signed up to a 6-month course.

I didn’t really have any fears or apprehensions, it felt like ‘home’.  It felt like something I should be doing. Obviously my guaranteed income would no longer be there but I was determined to make a success of it and therefore there was no Plan B.  My husband and I discussed and planned the transition. I soon realised that the money pressure was coming from me wanting to earn, rather than him.

While I was studying, it felt like the most natural thing in the world, to leave the career I’d built for 20 years and do something different. I was clearly ready for the change and it didn’t scare me. Initially I was interested in one-to-one coaching but I had always really enjoyed talking and running workshops in my HR role, so I added in a corporate offering.

I’ve really thrived since I started my business. Working with clients and seeing them transform their health and wellbeing is so rewarding. It’s different for everyone, they all have their own wants, needs and challenges and so no coaching client is the same.

Now, I have more downtime and I manage my diary to work around school and the holidays. Other great changes have happened too. These days, I’m here to cook a nice meal so we can all sit and eat together as a family. We’ve adopted a rescue dog and I enjoy walking her in the day. I’ve met so many new friends and business owners as part of networking, its opened up my support network tremendously.

Obviously building the business, getting my service out there and attracting clients is a constant challenge, but I’m OK with that. I’m happy to put the effort in and I love talking about what I do so it doesn’t really feel like work.

My advice to others would be simple. Be prepared to fund yourself for longer than you think. Speak to other people who have changed career completely or set up their own business. I did this through my own network of contacts and I discovered so many tips from social media, marketing and websites. Plan for things that you are going to need to outsource, although I tried to do everything myself to save money.

I certainly don’t miss the rigid structure of 9-5, having tasks and responsibilities that I didn’t really like doing. Nor do I miss the time pressures, attempting to balance work and home (I still get this on occasion but it’s not every day!) Since my ‘pivot’ I’m happier, more excited and I have a wonderful sense of freedom. I feel like the master, or rather mistress, of my own future.


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