Thriving in transitions, Kristen portrait

Thriving in Transitions

My Vanguard career began during a transition. A transition that involved moving to a new town and starting a life together with my now husband, Chris. As I prepared for the move, and for leaving my job, I knew I was looking for a company where I could grow and develop a lifelong career. That goal landed me in a Client Relationship Associate role in Vanguard’s Retail Services group.

As soon as I walked through the door on my first day, and began learning more about Vanguard, I connected with the core values of the company: to enable investors to achieve investment success. I loved talking to a variety of clients about how to invest their hard earned money in hopes they could someday achieve their investment goals—it made me feel like I was making a difference for them. Being new to the investment industry, the support and guidance from my early leaders solidified my interest in giving back the same support to other crew on their Vanguard journey. I’ll never forget contemplating my next career step, just a year or so into my new role one of my colleagues told me, “You should become a team leader–you would be a great leader.” This resonated, because I naturally care for others and want to help them succeed. Who knew a simple compliment could be a turning point for my career?

Thriving in transitions, Vanguard WILS conference

I worked hard the next few years to become a Vanguard leader; I attended trainings, connected with mentors and coaches, and met with crew all over the firm. Then, I was ready to apply for my next role, a leadership role. I felt empowered, excited and ready to take on the challenge. I landed a team leader role in Brokerage Services and was…terrified! I went into the challenge with all I had and luckily came out the other side as a successful leader with a team of high performing crew. Phew. Being a team leader was an awesome journey and it led me to yet another transition in my career…back to an individual contributor role when I least expected it.

I remember the call like it was yesterday, a former colleague from my Brokerage Services days had earned a promotion in a new role. Her role was going to become available and she thought I’d be a great fit. I was super curious to hear why she had thought of me, as I wasn’t actively seeking a new opportunity at that time and didn’t know her very well.  We ended up having lunch to talk about the opportunity and the rest is history. A few weeks later, I was moving on to a new division after 5 years in our Retail division. I cried. I was so overcome with emotion on that last day (also because my team decided to package my 5 year anniversary celebration with my going away celebration), I was feeling so many emotions. Happiness, sadness, gratitude. I was happy, scared and most importantly, I was ready.

On my first day in my new division, Financial Advisor Services, I felt this electric energy and excitement. I made a few quick friends and was assimilating into my new role quite nicely, when suddenly I found out that after 3 months in the job, I was pregnant with our first child. Did I mention that we were in the throes of wedding planning too? “OMG. What am I going to do, how are we going to raise a child!? What about the wedding? How do I tell my boss? How is this all going to play out?” I was in panic mode, a huge life transition was happening at the same time as another huge life transition, at the same time as a career transition. I had to figure out a plan, and fast.

Ultimately, once I had some time to digest this new information, talk with some of my support network, I practiced resiliency and reframed my mind and thought—I can do this, I am grateful for this, this is meant to be. In a recent session I attended, Wharton Professor Adam Grant, talked about resiliency in transitions and how they are means of catapulting into success. When he said this, I reflected back to these days.

Thriving in transitions, Kristen family

Fast forward to the end of my maternity leave, I had been home with our son, Will, for 4 wonderful months. He was the perfect baby, and slept, ate, and traveled well. I was loving my new job as his mom. As I prepared to return to work in the role that I had left, another serendipitous situation arose. A promotional opportunity within my current team. Initially, I thought, “I am so not doing that to myself, I am not ready, I already have no idea how I will juggle work with all my new responsibilities at home…” The excuses were pouring out of me. Quickly, I realized I had to check myself and take a step back to look at the broader picture and think about what I really wanted and could achieve. I decided to go for the job, and it has proved to be one of the best career decisions I have made. That role that helped me to push myself harder than ever before.

Thriving in transitions, Kristen familyAfter a few years in that role, and enrolling in an MBA program, the leadership spark returned and I was ready to get back to my true passion, leading people. Thanks to a vast network of coaches and mentors, and the experience I had gained over the past 5 years, I earned a new role. However, I was due with my second son about 4 weeks later and was in the midst of my MBA program. This time I thought—no big deal. I can handle this! I took 6 months off with Ben and enjoyed every moment with him, knowing that when I returned to my brand new job, I would figure it all out with the help of my amazing husband, classmates, colleagues and managers.

As I reflect on my career, I realize how the moments when the walls felt like they were going to come crashing down have turned into my most memorable and successful moments both in my personal life and in my career. In times of change and transition we can choose to let it break us down or chose to grow with the change and use it as a catapult to success. There have been some tough times during each of the transitions but through those pivotal moments, I’ve learned and grown the most. I am proud to say I have used them as a trajectory for success and look forward to what exciting changes and opportunities are ahead of me.

-Kristen S.

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