Alison Colin-Thome spent years jumping from one job to another, searching for work that felt meaningful. After working in Human Resources, a career that “felt safe”, for nearly a decade she was feeling burnt out and started to lose hope of finding her dream career. So, she decided to design her own career and become a Career Coach.
Alison has combined her experience in HR with the Coach Training she received through CTI (the largest coach training institute in the world) to start her own Career Coaching business – Career Off Script.
Today, Alison helps women identify the career path that is right for them so they can start doing work they love and work that matters. During this process Alison helps women move past ‘real-world’ expectations and focus on what matters most to them.
Note: At the time of this publishing Alison as been running her own business for 6 months.
I grew up in a pretty ‘normal’ traditional family in Toronto. My parents both immigrated from Sri Lanka in the 60’s and although they were both fairly young, the brought with them the mentality of ‘a job is meant to pay the bills and give you your pension’ kind of thing. I didn’t really see tons of examples outside of that norm. I mean year, I started hearing rumblings of ‘do what you love’ and ‘find your purpose’ in high school, but I thought that was reserved for the Oprah’s of the world!
It wasn’t until I moved abroad after University and started traveling that I started getting this insatiable hunger for more. While abroad I worked as a Receptionist in a Property Surveyor Firm and that was my first biggest lesson. All of the secretaries were miserable when they came in on a Monday. By Friday though they were jumping for joy! I just remember thinking ‘I never want to be wishing the week away like that’, because you are literally wishing your life away.
I came home, went back to school for HR and started working in the field. I wanted to help people and I believed that if they were happy in their work they would be happy in their lives. And I still believe that! But, after 8+ years in HR I’ve realized that I much prefer helping people in their careers without the bureaucracy and guidelines that comes with Human Resources and other people’s processes. My business allows me to apply learnings from my HR background, as well as self development principles that are constantly being expanded. It’s the intersection of so many of my interests. And, working for myself as an online entrepreneur gives me the freedom and flexibility that my traveler heart craves. I have truly found my personal sweet spot.
What was the driving force behind starting your business?
Because I was where my clients were once! I came to a point where I just wasn’t finding ‘it’ and I was tired of bouncing from one job to the next trying to find it. I finally hit the pause button, did some serious self-reflection, researched a billion different avenues, poured through all the resource I could find and identified exactly what I needed in my life and career in order to be happy. Then, I wanted to do the same thing for other women! I realized that this is why I got into HR. This is how I’ll be able to help people be happier in their careers, so they can be happier in their lives.
Why have you dedicated your business to helping others find a career they love?
Because I know it’s possible, and I know how to find it!! A ton of people don’t think it’s even a thing that is achievable, so they don’t even try. Or, they have no idea where to start and are so overwhelmed by it that they don’t even take a step forward. Meanwhile they are at best not living their lives to their full potential and at worst choosing to stay miserable. It’s not completely their fault though. On the one hand we have been fed these lies of ‘follow your passion’ and ‘find your purpose’ that make this idea of some dream life sound within grasps as long as you just want it enough. But then on the other hand traditional society pushes the whole 9-5 lifestyle complete with pensions and benefits and ‘golden years’ so hard. People just need simple direction. They need to be shown what is available out there, but then told how they can achieve it.
Are you running your business as a side hustle while still working a “day job”, or have you quit the corporate world and gone full-time in your business?
Yes, I still have a 9-5 and am learning how to run my business as a side hustle. It’s a work in progress. I’m still learning the right balance between my 9-5, my side hustle and my downtime. For the first bit I was working on my business every minute I was outside of my day job. I ran into burnout pretty quick. When that happens, you’re no longer enjoying this thing you are building. It’s far easier to want to give up at that point. I’m still working on settling into a good balance.
Are you DIY’ing everything in your business or have you hired out?
I definitely hired out. I hired someone to build my website, someone else to set up my email list and a third person to make my opt in look pretty. I’m not techy and I hate wasting time on stuff when I know someone else can zip through it.
What was the biggest fear you had to overcome so you could move forward with getting your business off the ground?
Wow, great question. I don’t think there is any one fear. As soon as you manage one, a brand new fear comes up because you are confronted with something new in your business. Initially it was the fear of selling everything and giving up my life in Toronto to move to Colombia for those 6 months. Having to tell my family, giving up the security of my condo, so many unknowns. Now it’s the fear of putting myself out there, posting on Instagram, guesting on podcasts. I just did my first Facebook Live which made me feel suuuper vulnerable and naked. I’m trying to come to grips with not being perfect and doing it anyways.
How did you overcome this fear?
For me the best way to wrangle with fear is to not think about the entire picture. I tend to go right to the absolute end point, but because I’m at my starting point I feel completely incompetent about getting there. How am I going to do Z? When at A I don’t have any of the experience or tools or confidence. And then I completely freak myself out. It’s really helpful for me to stay focused on the present moment and just that very next step I need to accomplish in my process. For my FB Live, it was ‘what do I want to talk about?’ Then it became ‘what do I want to say about this topic?’ Small steps keeps me moving!
In moments of self-doubt what do you do to overcome these thoughts and keep pushing forward?
I don’t know that I have a good answer for this. I definitely have days and moments where I don’t know what the f I’m doing. But the new mantra I’m trying to adopt is ‘I have no idea what I’m doing but I’m doing it anyways.’ haha At the end of the day I may not always have the confidence, but I have a lot of faith in myself. I know I can push through, I know I can figure it out. Because I always have. I’ve always gotten everything I’ve wanted, but that’s because I made it happen. So someway I will figure this out. So in the moments of self-doubt, I just put my head down and keep plugging away.
What has been your biggest struggle since starting your business?
Definitely trying to get over my perfectionist tendencies. I’ve wasted a TON of time and energy stalling on things because I wanted them to be just perfect before I put them out there. And I’m sure I’ll continue to struggle with it. But I think I’m getting better at it. It starts with the awareness that you’re letting this thing, which is actually fear, hold you back. Once I recognize that I’m able to start working through it.
What lights you up when working with a client?
When it clicks for them! I’ll work with a client and through the work and the conversations they come to this moment where everything just hits on the right spot for them. And they’re able to take that next step forward because of it. I get so much joy out of knowing I’ve helped move them forward in their journey.
How has your lifestyle changed since starting your own business?
I have less free time! Haha I’ve had to re-prioritize what I do with my time and who I spend it with to be honest. Starting a business really makes you see the preciousness of every single moment you have. And I’m just not as keen to spend it with people who frankly were just time servers. I’m now much more selective with how I spend my time and who I spend it with. And if the potential past time is not going to serve me in a productive and positive way, I don’t have time for it.
What is most satisfying about running your own business?
Right now I would say it’s all the mini accomplishments. I was totally new to business, I still hear words thrown around in this online world that I have no idea the meaning of! Everything you do, you are doing it for the first time. And it can be really frickin hard! But it is never impossible. And eventually you do get a super teeny tiny payoff from all that work but that is enough to keep you going because you are headed in the right direction.
Do you have any daily practices to keep you focused and motivated when working solo?
These aren’t daily practices but I love working in cafes on the weekends. Being able to work but still being surrounded by people. It’s also helps me to set little goals and rewards, like when I decided to do my first FB Live. I told myself I couldn’t eat breakfast until I put that damn thing out. And eventually I just got so hungry that I was like ‘screw it!’ and recorded it.
What advice would you give to other women who are in the early stages of starting a business?
Get an entrepreneur support network! Most women do not have other entrepreneur friends when they first start out and most people cannot relate to the highs and lows of this online roller coaster. You need people to support you through it!
What are you reading right now?
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I just started but it’s a course in book form that sets out tools and exercises for you to complete to help you in take down your barriers and allowing your creative energy to flow more freely.