Karen Elizaga is the founder of Forward Options, an executive coaching company that helps people put their vocational visions into action.
Her clients include Fortune 500 firms such as the Internet company IAC, Liberty Media, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, and some of the nation’s leading law firms and investment banks.
Before founding her company, Elizaga, 42, started her career as a corporate lawyer for a top New York firm, and then became an executive at a London-based tech start-up, Urban Fetch. She runs a workshop called Sweet Spot Strategies for clients, and also in high schools in Honolulu and New York, to help them define what they want out of life. Her book, “Find Your Sweet Spot,” is due out January 2014 and can be pre-ordered on Amazon. She lives in Midtown East with her husband and two kids.
Why did you switch careers?
I realized that actually what I really love doing is helping people. I had two epiphanies, one was that you needed soft skills that you don’t learn in the classroom to find your success and two is … that you can actually love what you’re doing.
What are some pros and cons of your new job?
I love my job, so that’s a huge pro. I love being able to witness people’s transformations. … Even though I’m an executive-level coach … I look at everything from how are they functioning at work to are they sleeping, are they exercising, that sort of thing. The downside is sort of being on my own in terms of if I want this business to continue to grow, I’m one person at the end of the line and so it’s all down to me.
Do you have any advice for readers who are considering a career 180?
I think the first thing that I always tell people (I work with a lot of people who want to do a 180) … you have to know who you are and what you want and what you’re good at. … It’s hard to get what you want if you don’t know what it is. It’s really important to take a pause, take a breath.
What does executive coaching entail?
I work with clients to help them perform better at work - and so we identify what they’re good at, we identify areas for improvement and we really just kind of attack those and week over week they set goals for the next week and then I hold them accountable for the next week for their actions. I’ve had individuals hire me, I’ve had CEO’s hire me to work with some of their key executives.
How does your experience with getting laid off at Urban Fetch help with that?
I was devastated, so from devastation I learned that you can create something quite amazing and use that devastation as an opportunity as opposed to kind of getting down on yourself. When Urban Fetch went under, I had nothing, and it allowed me to really think OK, what do I want to do ... and really define for myself my next step. … and clearly I created something that I feel super passionate about, I feel lucky to do every day, and had it not been for that layoff I don’t know that I’d be pursuing what I’m doing now.
What direction would you like to take your business in next?
My book’s coming out in January. It's really different going from my private little practice to kind of being out there, so I'm eager to see what that opens up for me.