From confusion to complete clarity in a brand new portfolio career

Jun 29, 2023

Feeling lost and confused about what you want next in your career?

Find out how this client went from going round in circles for YEARS to having complete clarity on their career direction.

You’ll learn the exact steps they took to move into an executive leadership role — and the benefits of pursuing a portfolio career.

My intention with this ‘Career By Design’ case study series is to show you there isn’t ONE definition of success or clear pathway there. It’s about clarifying what this looks like to YOU.

As with all the case studies in this series, there are 3 things these clients have in common which you can use to create a career by design too:

  • Clarity — Figuring out why you’re unhappy in your current career and what you truly want before attempting to change it
  • Confidence — Shifting your mindset and overcoming the fears and doubts keeping you stuck to build confidence
  • Career Strategy — Focusing on solving the right problem and knowing which strategies to use to get the results you want

In this next case study, I break down a client’s career transformation in detail. You’ll learn exactly how they found clarity, overcame the mindset blocks keeping them stuck — and the specific career strategies which got them these results. 


This individual is an existing leader, who’d already accomplished a lot professionally. She’d recently transitioned out of a toxic work environment into a contract role, was feeling stuck and like she’d taken a step back in her career. Another client referred her as she’d been going round in circles trying to ‘find her passion’ and what she wanted next in her career.

Despite all her success on the outside, on the inside this individual felt lost, a bit hopeless and was starting to question herself. Especially when everyone around her knew exactly what they were working towards.

Through our work together, this client realised she knew WHAT she wanted — not just what she DIDN’T want. Within 6 months, she’d started to move in this direction via an internal secondment and second part-time position. She’s since fulfilled her goal of moving into an executive leadership role with her existing employer.

I caught up with this client 12 months after we concluded working together and she was like a brand new person. She radiated with happiness — and was feeling so much satisfaction and joy in both her career and life. A complete 360° to when we first met!


This client’s biggest underlying challenge was not having clarity on her career direction. She’d never had a ‘dream job’ growing up or career she was passionate about — and the quest to find it had consumed her for years. There was a sense she’d ‘fallen into’ her current role and career path, which was making her miserable and keeping her stuck in indecision.

The first focus of our work together was letting go of the need to identify her ONE ideal job or dream career upfront. She detached from the outcome and expectation it had to happen in a certain timeframe. This immediately removed the pressure for her work to create the happiness she so deeply desired.

My client then redirected her time and energy into the things she enjoyed — even those outside work. Her interests, important relationships and FUN! This reconnected her to her values, what she enjoys and sparked new ideas about what to do next.

One of the biggest AHA moments was unpacking what she didn’t want, as it clarified the opposite — what she did want. Through a simple exercise, she shifted her perspective and found complete clarity on the career she wanted:

A more senior leadership role where she could create real change, make an impact and receive recognition for her contribution.


This client was experiencing a lot of self-judgement which stemmed from perfectionism. Self-doubt stopped her putting herself out there, she’d criticise herself for not taking action — and the cycle continued. In her career, she felt like a failure for not knowing her direction and was beating herself up for not reaching her full potential.

One of her biggest breakthroughs was learning to limit negative self-talk and take action to do the ‘uncomfortable thing’. She started to speak up and contribute to meetings, instead of believing she had nothing of value to say. In doing so, she gave her brain the evidence it needed to rewrite those limiting beliefs — and her confidence grew over time.

In one session, my client began talking herself out of applying for a part-time position in a new field. After addressing the worst case scenario, she realised she had nothing to lose by submitting an application. She got the job — and was then promoted 12 months later!

To this client’s credit, she stepped outside her comfort zone, repeatedly. She took on two new roles with greater responsibilities and successfully managed up to handle a difficult boss. This took a HUGE amount of courage — but she overcame each challenge, completely shifted her mindset and boosted her confidence!


Early on, I encouraged this client to follow their curiosity and keep taking action, despite the discomfort. We brainstormed different career ideas and she found practical ways to test out these potential career paths. Strategies included job shadowing and exploring a part-time position of interest.

Pursuing the part-time leadership role was a smart strategy when the right opportunity wasn’t immediately available in her 9-5. It led her to pursue a portfolio career and develop transferrable skills to support her progression. As a result, she received promotions in both roles within 12-18 months.

Yet when my client first applied to this position, panic set in: What will I do if it doesn’t progress? And once we identified what she wanted next in her career, her mind immediately jumped to: But what specific job is this?

To let go of attachment to a particular position, the strategy I suggested was speaking to people doing work which interested her. The goal was to understand her options and validate ideas from a place of curiosity. It also helped build her network and generate new career opportunities.

But like many of my clients, they felt some initial resistance to reaching out to people to ‘ask for a favour’. So, we reframed these conversations as an opportunity to connect (or reconnect) with her network. She could seek out their insights and advice — and find ways to support them in return.

This client also challenged herself to take on an internal secondment and learnt how to lead authentically, in line with her values. She’s since invested in developing her leadership skills further. All these strategies supported her to step up into the senior leadership positions she wanted.


Here are my top three takeaways from this client’s transformation — and how YOU can apply them to your career!

#1 — Realise change takes time

Release the pressure to identify your ‘ideal job’ upfront — or to ‘figure out your career’ in a certain timeframe. Instead of trying to fit yourself to a particular job, focus on creating a career which ‘works’ for YOU! Trust when you stay in action and let go of attachment to the outcome, you’ll get to where you want to be a whole lot faster.

#2 — Shift your perspective 

To figure out what you want next in your career, ask yourself what you don’t want. Create a ‘don’t’ list — and look at the opposite to clarify what you DO want.

#3 — Do the ‘uncomfortable thing’

Rewrite limiting beliefs and overcome self-doubt by doing the thing you’re most afraid of. When you consider the worst case scenario, you’ll realise it’s unlikely to happen — and if it does, you can handle it. By finding the courage to take action, you’ll shift your mindset and build confidence over time!

So there you have it. How my client went from feeling lost and confused about her direction to having complete clarity on what she wanted in her career. I hope this helps you to develop the clarity, confidence and strategy to create a career by design too.

Ready to create a career on your terms?

I invite you to book a free, no obligation 30 minute conversation with me to discuss your next career steps — and whether working together is right for you! Book here.

Stacey Back is a globally recognised and certified Career + Leadership Coach. She helps high-achievers at a career crossroads find the work that lights them up, increase their income, impact and create a career + life on their terms. Stacey works virtually with individuals and organisations based across the globe.