PIVOT is a series of interviews with inspiring individuals who made major career shifts and decided to start LIVING instead of just making a living. We’re talking to engineers who became comedians, lawyers who became entrepreneurs, and everyone in between. These career chameleons are proof that your wildest job aspirations are possible- and that there is never just one path that will take you there. For a weekly dose of inspiration in your inbox, subscribe to our mailing list: https://mailchi.mp/83e53e22830f/vienna
Kelsey Komorowski studied political science in undergrad and went on to receive a master’s in Global Affairs with the intention of pursuing a career in the government sector. She went all in, taking an internship at the Canadian Embassy in Cuba and conducting research at NATO headquarters, only to get into her “dream” field and realize she hated it. During her time in the government, she started tutoring on the side and eventually founded Komo Consulting, a revolutionary education consulting company that not only equips students with study strategies but also transferable life skills.
At what point did you decide to pursue your tutoring/consulting business full-time?
I’d put up a tutoring ad in the fall of 2013 and within a few weeks, I had more clients than I could handle. It got to the point where I was working full-time at my government job and almost a second full-time job tutoring on nights and weekends. The reactions and referrals I was getting from my clients told me I was on to something; I didn’t know what exactly but I loved it (and was increasingly disenchanted with government work). I quit my government job to pursue my own business full-time in December 2013.
What skills from your college education and/or former career, if any, do you use now when managing your business?
Love this question, especially as my work focuses on building the core skills needed to succeed on the high school — college — career continuum (and it IS a continuum — how you show up in school is a great indicator of how you’ll show up at work, and the skills you need to succeed in both are the same).
The main skills that enabled me to succeed in school, at work and that I use every day managing my business are critical thinking, communication, and time management. These have become so “buzzwordy” that I think they’ve lost meaning to a lot of people, but when you know what these skills actually look like in practice, in your day-to-day life, it makes a world of difference.
I also traveled extensively throughout school up through my Master’s, which is arguably the best way of developing adaptability, resourcefulness, problem-solving, empathy and curiosity (all essential for running a business, or at least the kind of business I want to run).
Do you ever feel like you “wasted” your education?
Not at all. I love learning and was always good at school, and find it slightly ironic that I’ve made a business out of showing others how to like learning and be good at school.
Sidebar: “waste” and “education” to me are oxymorons.
What advice do you have for others looking to make a major career change?
1. Focus on what you want and know that you can make it happen. It’s really easy to go down the rabbit hole of fear and doubt, but the truth is we get to create our realities. We get results where we focus our energy, so choose yourself and the reality you want, enthusiastically and unapologetically, over everything else (fear, doubt, insecurity, naysayers, etc.).
2. It will be hard, but staying in a career you know isn’t right for you will be much harder. Promise.
Do you think it is the responsibility of the traditional education system to teach practical skills?
Absolutely. And the fact that this isn’t happening is a travesty. There are tons of depressing data about how high school grads aren’t prepared for college, and how college grads simply don’t have the skills to meet employers’ needs.
Some schools point out that they have “study skills” or “learning strategies” classes, but this doesn’t do it — skills can’t be “taught” siloed out from the contexts in which they’re meant to be applied. Skill-building has to be integrated into each class and explicitly embedded in the student journey but generally, this isn’t the case (this is one of the main gaps we bridge).
I wrote a post (here) on how critical thinking skills lead to more positive life outcomes but aren’t being taught. Here’s a snippet:
“Unlike intelligence, which is largely genetic, critical thinking can be taught. And yet “only 5% of of the K-12 schools in the United States teach critical thinking.”
Do you work with kids to develop strategies for excelling in a career even if they don’t plan on completing a four-year degree?
Absolutely. We use their existing school work (which students often find boring or irrelevant) to explicitly develop the skills, mindsets and attributes they need to succeed regardless of which post-secondary or career path they choose. Whether a student wants to pursue a traditional 4-year degree, trade school, the arts etc., doesn’t change the fact that they’ll have better lives (including greater professional success) with strong critical thinking, communication, time management skills and advanced executive functioning and metacognition.
Our favorite nugget of career wisdom:
Focus on what you want and know that you can make it happen. It’s really easy to go down the rabbit hole of fear and doubt, but the truth is we get to create our realities. We get results where we focus our energy, so choose yourself and the reality you want, enthusiastically and unapologetically, over everything else (fear, doubt, insecurity, naysayers, etc.).