Career Courage

In our last blog about Planning Your Career Pivot, we discussed the two things that keep people in jobs they aren’t happy with: the urgency to leave where they are and find something (anything) else and the fear and “what-ifs” that come with significant career changes. Trying new things, discovering your strengths, fleshing out your career vision, and taking steps to make it happen all require a ton of courage.

We are big fans of Katie Kelly’s book Career Courage, a guide to conquering your fears, shedding misguided ideas, and mustering the strength to let go of a safe job and stage your next act. Katie is a seasoned people-strategist leader and development enthusiast who serves as a Senior Vice President of Talent Development Solutions for the US Western region at Lee Hect Harrison, a global talent management firm. We invited her to join us for a Mulberry Career Conversation last fall, and she shared how her search for career courage led to the insights that became her incredible book.

This chapter of Katie’s life started when she relocated from New York City to Portland, Oregon. She was starting a family with her new husband and starting a business. During this time, she felt like her “well of wisdom was dry,” so she was “looking for some mindsets and some rich guidance for navigating all those massive life shifts at once.” Katie conducted 80 interviews with men and women all over the world in all different types of industries, which became her book Career Courage.

Your Motivational Game Plan

According to Katie’s model, three areas combine to make up your Motivational Game Plan for courageous career moves: choice, inspiration, and storytelling.


If you’re feeling anxious or stressed about where you are in your career, taking a step back to recognize and appreciate your choices can make things feel lighter. Approaching your next steps from a place of gratitude will help with the motivation step. What resources do you have, and what opportunities are in front of you?

If you’re not noticing your choices, remember you have small daily choices, including the option to do your best and make time for career exploration. Once you have the tiniest spark of a vision to motivate you, you can focus on the drive, which is the energy, resources, and emphasis you can invest into the journey of exploring your next career move. You can also choose who you surround yourself with, though this can be hard if you’re working full-time on-site. Ask the people you trust what they’re observing about you when they see you come to life, most excited, most energized.


It can be overwhelming to think about the wide world of possibilities. Asking “If not this, then what?” oversimplifies a very complex personal exploration that takes time. You won’t figure it out all at once. Put aside the title or the organization for just a moment and return to your core values. Did you have any revelations during the pandemic about what you feel you should be doing with your time or what qualities are most important to you? What energizes you? Is your employer or role genuinely making you unhappy, or do you need to shift into a new industry? Would a relocation or a lifestyle change satisfy you?

After you’ve identified a few fundamental values or qualities to look for, you can start listening to podcasts, reading books, and connecting with people that are a bit closer to your new direction. This might also involve weeding out some influences that are no longer aligned. The idea is to surround yourself with support so that you grow as a person, allow yourself to move into new space, and break through some of the cobwebs you’ve built up from staying in the same place. Taking the time to get inspired is action, even if it feels like you’re not going anywhere!


A continuous thread that weaves throughout your career journey works like a movie plot with exposition, rising action, an exciting climax, and plenty of transformation. Storytelling is about understanding that thread and taking hold of it to reset who we are and want to become. When you take hold of your story, you can easily see where each chapter ends and when it’s time to move on to another opportunity to get your plot going again. When you share your story with others, they will be captivated and want to become invested in what happens next.

Your Relationship with Risk

Thinking about “risk” may make you feel uneasy, but stepping outside what you typically know of yourself and others you know is critical to moving forward. Katie has found that a few core considerations determine an individual’s relationship with risk. Reflecting on these questions will help you see patterns in your life, identify what might be keeping you from taking more significant career risks, come to conclusions, and make more intentional decisions.

  • Did your family of origin take any significant risks in your early life? Did you? How did they turn out?
  • When you think about the risks you have not taken, do you feel regret? Do you wonder what might have happened if you had accepted rather than avoided taking a chance on making a major or minor change?
  • Can you identify two excellent outcomes that might result from taking a greater risk in your life? What rewards would you reap from a successful change in your work or personal life?

Our thoughts and perceptions are often limited because they are informed by past experiences and fear, which can be very different from our reality. So when you open yourself up to find out what your boss thinks of you or how people get into the roles you want, you’ll likely find yourself taking more significant risks than you thought possible.

Risk by Invitation Game

Making any movement in your relationship with risk is a victory, and it’s even better if you’re moving into spaces where you haven’t been in a while. Katie’s friend Claire found that she could raise in rank at her job faster by finding out about essential meetings to learn or contribute to, whether it was listening, prepping, or being proactive. Of course, she had to ask around to find those opportunities; they created a simple risk-by-invitation game.

Ask yourself these questions, and then ask your supervisors and mentors:

  • Where can you learn something that will contribute to your career evolution?
  • Where can you share something that will benefit other people’s careers?
  • Where can you ensure your voice is heard?

It’s vital to discover your voice and point of view and get comfortable contributing to conversations in your organization, community, and anywhere you might find career growth.

Feeling Courageous?

Making career transitions is less difficult than in the days of linear careers. Remember that most people will hold up to at least ten different jobs in their professional life. That means employers are more open to candidates making career changes. However, don’t discount the opportunities that may be present in your current company. Employers are also creating stretch roles and career paths for talented employees who want to keep on their team. Overall, people are the most innovative and make the most extraordinary contributions to their organizations when they have the richest background, which comes from various skills and experiences.

Watch the replay of this career conversation for more great advice from Katie, and look at our upcoming events to find out about more live webinars coming soon!

Mulberry Musings

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