Start something new. Maintaining a productive mindset can help you through challenging times. When folks find themselves dwelling on what’s not going well, creativity and productivity dip. I like to help folks explore something new they can start doing to raise their overall energy. For example, I’ve helped multiple clients unfulfilled in their day job start a side business and another client start the nonprofit of her dreams. These passion projects raised their overall energy, which carried over into their day jobs.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Emily Hirsekorn of Hirsekorn Coaching, LLC.
Emily Hirsekorn is a career confidence coach helping lawyers and other ambitious professionals navigate their careers, develop as conscious leaders, and live more balanced lives for faster success and greater fulfillment. She is certified by The Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC), is a former lawyer, and has worked in career development since 2014. Emily is on a unique mission to fill the existing gap in coaching support for early career professionals, most commonly addressing their imposter syndrome, self-advocacy at work, and work-life balance challenges to boost confidence from the very beginning of their careers. She has made two successful career changes herself, launched a thriving business during COVID while working another job with two young kids at home, and regularly exemplifies taking conscious risks for a more rewarding life.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
Of course! I always knew I was meant to be a coach. In undergrad, I contributed to research under Positive Psychology pioneer C.R. Snyder, who developed hope theory (goals, pathways to achieve your goals, and motivation to make goal achievement a reality). At the ripe age of 19, I felt a strong desire to become a hope practitioner one day, but my financial concerns drove me instead to pursue a career in law. This was 2007, and we all know what happened in 2008: The Great Recession. I excelled in law school and ultimately secured a killer job after graduation, but it was no small feat. On top of searching for work in a new city during a recession, the loans were looming, and the onset of an autoimmune disease left me in chronic pain. On top of it all, I was lonely without an established social group and failing my intimate relationship. My career, however, had always been a serious driving force for me, and this period was no exception. I became a networking machine and secured my ultimate position through ongoing effort, persistence, and focus. After practicing defense law for just two years, I concluded it wasn’t for me.
I then worked in anti-bias programming for a nonprofit for one year, which was very fulfilling and value-aligned work, but I missed working with lawyers. So I moved over to the University of San Diego School of Law, where I worked as a career and professional development advisor and adjunct professor for seven years. The work was a blast — -an awesome fit for my interests, strengths, and desired schedule, but something was missing. There was a cap on advancement, limited leadership opportunities, and I knew I had so much more to offer in terms of deeper client support with a focus on long-term career success and holistic well-being.
Multiple friends had told me about coaching, and when I finally looked into it in 2019, I realized it was perfect for me. Coaching professionals puts to use every aspect of my background and gives me the freedom to be myself 100% of the time in the leadership role I was ready to take on! I completed iPEC’s comprehensive coach training program and shortly thereafter left my university job to run my coaching practice full-time. Because energy is contagious, while I was on my own journey to independence and career fulfillment, my husband and I also started thinking about how we could live a more intentional life as a family. We ultimately made the radical decision to uproot our San Diego family and return to my hometown of Kansas City to slow down, socialize more, and give our children and dogs more space. We bought our dream home and returned to a community of love, support, and energy that we just couldn’t manufacture in San Diego. I started taking risks, letting go of the comfort of a traditional 9–5 job, and leaning fully into creating the life of my dreams.
I now coach early career and mid-career professionals, mostly lawyers, when they’re looking for change — -whether they want to build up confidence for self-promotion at work or in their job search or they’re bored, overwhelmed, or downright unhappy and ready to move on. In addition to a trusted partner, I offer my clients tools to fully explore their options, make difficult decisions, shift their energy level up so they can get more done while enjoying the process, then hold them accountable for doing whatever they set their mind to do.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I had been running my coaching practice for just a few months when I decided to launch my Career Confidence Club for entry-level women lawyers. I had been thinking about a group program for this demographic for quite some time but had no idea how to market a group program! So I invested in a course to help me launch and literally overnight booked discovery calls with interested lawyers around the world, from Sydney to Mumbai to New York to Los Angeles, and plenty of places in between. I remember saying to my husband, “Oh shit! I think I need to quit my day job tomorrow!” I just couldn’t believe it. The lessons learned were loud and clear: (1) When you don’t know how to do something, get resourceful and figure it out; there is always someone who can help! (2) Maximizing your success requires risk, vulnerability, courage, and action. (3) People will believe you once you start fully believing in yourself.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Executive coaching focuses on executives. In fact, coaching is pretty common for higher ups at large companies these days. But advising graduate students and recent grads for several years highlighted how badly these folks need ongoing support too! Recognizing the huge void in services led me to pursue professional coach training and commit to filling that void over time. In addition to working with clients one-on-one, my one-of-a-kind group program for entry-level women lawyers helps group members build career confidence through personal exercises, group coaching, and commitment to action. They love the support and shared experiences only a group like this could provide. For example, one cohort member came to the program wanting to move into a big firm as soon as possible, something that’s actually quite rare straight out of law school. Just two months after the group coaching program ended, she was deciding between two big firm offers and attributed much of her success to the confidence she built in the program.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Yes, of course! My dear friend Sarra Ziari approached me years ago to share information about a coaching certification program she was completing. I not only credit her with sparking the idea to pursue a coaching career, she also coached and mentored me as I prepared for the shift. But that wasn’t the first time she served as my mentor; she was my associate mentor in my very first law firm job about ten years prior, and we stayed in touch over the years as we moved into similar roles in law school career development. There was something magical about her calming, yet powerfully supportive presence that I just knew I wanted to embody and share with my own clients one day. One particular coaching call stands out, as I recall her asking, “What would you do with your career if there were no limitations?” That single question empowered me to take the risk of starting my own business, going full force from the very beginning, and ultimately leaving my day job to coach full-time. It took a full year, but it felt like all of this happened overnight.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Resilience is the skill of handling challenging circumstances and/or bouncing back thereafter. I use the word “skill” because resilience can be learned and developed with effort. I want to focus on three key traits resilient people possess. First, adaptability — they recognize that challenges are inevitable and don’t expend a lot of energy fighting that fact. Second, they have strong energy management skills, enabling them to pause and choose a calculated response, which helps them maintain productivity and avoid getting stuck in a rut. Third, they have a strong sense of self and a strong support system. They know who they are at their core and that they belong to something greater than themselves. This deep knowing motivates them to keep going day in, day out and helps them keep sight of the bigger picture to avoid getting bogged down in the details of the day.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Courage and resilience are both useful in handling challenges. Courage is an action-oriented trait, where resilience doesn’t necessarily require action. In fact, resilience literally means bouncing back to where you were before the challenge, not necessarily growing beyond your prior state. When courageous, folks may be fearful of the challenge, but they find opportunities in the challenge, focus on solutions, and muster up the motivation to propel themselves forward. In other words, courage requires a higher level of energy.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Easy: my husband. Seriously, I have never met a more resilient person. First of all, he has the most intense support system, connecting with everyone in his immediate family and his best friends every single day. He knows he will be fine no matter what difficulties come his way because he has so many people who love him dearly and would help him out if needed, reducing worry while increasing healthy risk taking. He is solution-focused when it comes to career challenges, he sees new opportunities literally everywhere, and loves making new connections. In other words, he never gives up or believes there are business problems that can’t be solved. He’s incredibly resourceful and shamelessly seeks out support whenever needed and calls on his high-level energy to come up with creative solutions where others might only see problems.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
There is plenty of literature on the internet (and also people out there) warning folks against starting a coaching career. When I initially looked into the change, I remember hearing something like only 10% of coaches are able to successfully replace their day job salary and coach full-time. The stats, concerns from loved ones, and general questioning of the life coaching industry did not deter me for a second. When I heard the 10% figure, I thought to myself, “Good thing I’ll be in that 10%.” I knew intuitively that this was the path for me. That I could pour my heart and soul into this business, blossom it to limitless heights, and finally give early career professionals the support they so badly want. The shift also felt perfectly calculated, despite the fact that I decided to pursue the career only recently. Looking back on my professional path, I always knew I was meant to be a coach, took a detour into the law, which led me to law career development, and ultimately coaching was an extension of that work. So I knew I was making a very conscious decision based in (i) logic: there’s a need, and I have the experience and skill set for it; (ii) intuition: I’ve always known deep down I was meant to coach; and (iii) emotion: supporting professionals one-on-one with their career development brings me great joy and fulfillment. So, the fear of failure never had a chance.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
When I was practicing law, I struggled. Despite graduating towards the top of my law school class and fully committing to my career, I was not taking care of myself, had not built up a strong support system, and failed to explore all of my options before leaving the law. Symptoms of an undiagnosed autoimmune disease worsened during that time period, and coping with chronic illness compounded the career challenges. At some point, I felt out of control and left law practice instead of exploring how I could make things better. My long-standing drive for professional success kept me motivated through the career shift, despite my embarrassment and disappointment in myself. So, I forged on, committed to finding that next best job, networked like crazy, and quickly secured a position in law career development, where I started to find myself again. Supporting ambitious professionals one-on-one has always been my wheelhouse, and my career confidence quickly started bouncing back once in a position that put my talents, interests, and values to work. During that time, I shifted my mindset away from believing I had failed in my law career to recognizing that but for that experience, I wouldn’t be able to support law students and lawyers as empathetically as I do now. Fully accepting the past also eliminated regrets, opening up space for me to think more optimistically about my future.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
I had a pretty staggering fixed mindset throughout childhood because academic success came easy to me; I didn’t struggle much, so the few challenges I did face always felt like failure. I greatly attribute my learned resilience to my 30’s, after empowering others for years in career development work, completing intensive psychotherapy for a year, intensive couples’ therapy for a year, reading personal development literature, and ultimately experiencing a year-long intensive coaching program. These experiences collectively helped me understand fully who I am and how my mind influences my behavior, shift my energy to identify solutions more quickly in all aspects of my life and focus far less on problems, and ultimately take personal responsibility for my life outcomes.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. Start something new. Maintaining a productive mindset can help you through challenging times. When folks find themselves dwelling on what’s not going well, creativity and productivity dip. I like to help folks explore something new they can start doing to raise their overall energy. For example, I’ve helped multiple clients unfulfilled in their day job start a side business and another client start the nonprofit of her dreams. These passion projects raised their overall energy, which carried over into their day jobs.
2. Use both your head and your heart when making decisions. Challenging times often require difficult decision making. And when emotions are running high, we may make decisions in haste, without checking our logic. On the other hand, if you tend to analyze every detail and overthink things, analysis paralysis may lead you to completely avoid making decisions. I like to help folks check both their logic and emotions to inform their decisions. For example, professionals often approach for help deciding whether to stay in their current job or leave. Some folks are so miserable they just want to run, while others stay put and completely avoid change because they work hard to identify every possible negative outcome of leaving. To facilitate a more conscious decision-making process, I help these folks assess the pros and cons of both choices, check in with their gut, and explore how they can reduce the cons of their ultimate choice.
3. Set meaningful boundaries. I primarily support professionals with career-related challenges, and almost everyone these days is looking to improve work-life integration! Boundary setting quickly becomes a primary focus to ensure work isn’t interfering with their personal time. I think boundary setting also helps build resilience because it makes folks feel more in control of their schedule, their day, and their entire life. For example, I have a client who is a corporate mid-level manager and feels like work stress is bleeding into her personal life. There’s a big change going on with her employer, so resilience is more important now more than ever. While we will certainly address specific issues that pop up for her over time, we are currently focused on setting meaningful boundaries for her to separate work and life and carve out time for self-care. The idea here is that by raising her general energy level, she will be better equipped to handle all of the changes at work.
4. Re-align your work and life with your values. When you’re living out of alignment, fulfillment and joy are likely down, while stress is up. For this reason, I like to help my unfulfilled clients identify their top values, assess where they may be out of alignment, then work to fill those gaps. One particular client recognized that she’s not experiencing nearly as much adventure in her life as she would like, so we explored all the possible activities she could start doing to change things and what she would need to make change happen. This process has helped many clients recognize that while we tend to focus on seeking fulfillment at work, increasing fulfillment in our personal lives can in turn raise our general energy level, helping you manage challenges more easily.
5. Build up your support network. Having support is crucial for long-term career and personal success. When things get tough, you have people to consult and hold you up. You can also see the bigger picture and focus on what matters most, minimizing the challenges you’re facing in the moment. For example, I helped a lawyer client recognize the gap between how much he values a social network and how he’s actually living out that value. We came up with ways he could start bridging that gap, and he left our session feeling more energized with less worry about the workplace.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would love to inspire a complete shift in how we think about working hours in traditional professions like law. Many of us have been conditioned all these years to believe that professional success requires working long hours in an office, wearing business attire, and modifying our behavior to fit old school norms. My hope is that professionals can start showing up as they wish, designing their workday based on their personal needs and desires, and having a hell of a lot more fun along the way. I believe this shift could increase professional engagement, overall life satisfaction and joy, and workplace collaboration, creativity, and productivity.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)
May not be what you’d expect, but 100% Lady Gaga! Yes, I consider her a “prominent leader” because I believe leadership simply means influencing others. And we all know she has some serious influence. I’d love to talk confidence with her, explore how she’s tapped into her personal strengths to overcome life’s challenges, and ask how she has maintained stamina, motivation, and hustle all these years to create her massive success while staying true to her quirky self.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can join my community and explore career confidence coaching at hirsekorncoaching.com. I also host the podcast The Career Confidence Coach, where I partner with industry experts to help ambitious, busy-brained professionals navigate their careers, develop as conscious leaders, and integrate work and life once and for all. Lastly, you can find me on LinkedIn and Instagram for regular inspiration. Thanks so much for this opportunity!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!