Life is never about choosing one or the other. Our career does not define who we are and what we strive for – our values and actions do.
~ Maria Lehtman
Are you looking to insert more of your authenticity in your career? I am dedicating this post to all digital leaders who are making courageous career choices to learn new fields and be true to themselves.
Last year I had the pleasure of publishing a book, The Dreaming Doors, in collaboration with a talented and energetic artist, writer and reflexology therapist Caroline Cunningham. Caroline’s initial experience in Science and Maths later transferring to her authentic path has been a great inspiration. I am sharing in this post an exclusive interview with Caroline about her valuable career insights.
How do you benefit from a stem oriented career?
Everyone works hard in STEM specialized fields, the question is, what are we doing to ensure people can stay in them?
~ Maria Lehtman
- Question: Caroline, would you describe in a few words your educational background?
Answer: I originally qualified with Science Degree and followed with a Graduate Diploma in Toxicology and returned to college to complete a Higher Diploma in Education a few years later. My most important education, however, has been in the arts at the Bel Canto School of Singing in Dublin, Ireland.
- Question: What inspired you to seek your initial field of study and work?
Answer: I cannot say I was particularly inspired to study science. I knew very little about the job prospects that science would deliver in those early days. I simply showed an aptitude for the subjects of Science and Maths, and that was what was offered to me after my school final exams.
- Question: What did you enjoy about your career, and what would you have wished was different?
Answer: I enjoyed teaching Science and Maths for a few years, although I did find it exhausting and stressful. At that time class sizes were high, time was not allowed for the preparation of experiments before classes and teachers had to move from room to room after every class. Younger/new teachers tended to be given the most difficult classes to teach. After five years I was burnt out as I used to do quite a lot of preparatory work outside of school hours also.
- Question: How do you feel about the current business environment and the demand for women to educate themselves in the STEM areas?
Answer: It is great to see more women becoming leaders and up-takers of STEM education and careers.
Takeaway #1: Employers out there looking for more women in STEM fields, you have a chance to make a difference. What are you doing to accommodate your vision? An opportunity for a change? Definitely. Use your influence to increase delegation, flexibility, coaching, mentoring, and collaboration as some of the means. Everyone works hard in STEM specialized fields, the question is, what we are doing to ensure people can stay in them?
Let us continue to the next interesting twist in Caroline Cunningham’s career path.
What is an authentic path?
“I have sold my home more than once to keep funding my dream! -Tenacity and self-belief will need to be strong.” ~ Caroline Cunningham, Authentic Path
The stringent requirements in teaching made Caroline Cunningham evaluate her life choices and her best options to lead a healthy and balanced life. She began to pursue what she calls her Authentic Path and study healing with now an impressive resume in Reflexology.
- Question: Describe what the Authentic Path means to you and what prompted you to start on that path?
Answer: Nature forced me to stop and take a look at my life. I had not been taking proper care of my own needs until then. A career coach helped me to uncover the fact that my real talents and interest were arts-related. This is when I discovered The Bel Canto School of Singing.
- Question: How much investment did it take to start your dream?
Answer: I am continually investing in my dream. Most significant investments have been time and financing my creative education and healing. Travel has also served me. I worked in the corporate field some years while attending classes at night (often five nights a week). Later, I up-skilled and became self-employed as a reflexology therapist. With confidence and knowledge building and gaining more momentum I soon started painting and exhibiting my work, and in recent years I also began publishing my books along with blogging. I have sold my home more than once to keep funding my dream!
- Question: How would you advise other people who are thinking about moving to their authentic paths?
Answer: To follow your authentic path it is vital to learn from the best teachers and guides, especially if you are acquiring new skills. Look for someone who can provide inspiration and support – change is not easy. Self-care is of utmost importance. Tenacity and self-belief will need to be strong. You must be very honest with yourself and continuously assess and acknowledge your progress or achievements. Your goals may change along the way, so stay flexible and be open and prepared for opportunities that may spring up unexpectedly. It is a very worthwhile journey.
- Question: Do you have tools or methodologies you would advise people to look into?
Answer: Everyone’s journey is different, some may need more healing than others. Some may find it is necessary to travel to find the right circumstances for fulfilling their dream. I can only emphasize the importance of self-care on this path.
Takeaway #2: The path to self-discovery and authentic path is unique to everyone. People should not have to choose between corporate and entrepreneurship by force, but by natural choice. We will also need an increasing level of creativity to support innovation in all workplaces and careers, a combination of different career types.
The question in my mind was: How does Caroline manage the different fields she is pursuing?
Finding success in healing empowered with digital skills
I wish there could also be more emphasis placed on the link between mental health and how human beings interact and treat each other. This is where we could possibly make the most significant shift in our society in becoming creative.
~ Caroline Cunningham, Authentic Path
- Question: How do you support people seeking your help in reflexology? Also, how do you combine your therapy and other creative areas, i.e., painting, blogging, writing/poetry?
Answer: All my work is aligned with supporting others through relaxation and inspiration for change and well-being. My artwork reveals nature and travel themes that link closely with well-being. My written works serve to inspire others to take a closer look at the world around them and be more self-aware.
- Question: Where do you feel society should invest and make changes to help people think and act more creatively?
Answer: Learning to keep positive mental health is the most essential factor for creativity to flourish. I wish there could also be more emphasis placed on the link between mental health and how human beings interact and treat each other. This is where we could possibly make the most significant shift in our society in becoming creative. I have a feeling that robots are going to spell that out to us. However, it will be us humans who will need to input that information more consciously.