Chicago-based career coach Sara Young Wang has taken a non-traditional approach to building a thriving career-coaching business. Instead of touting the standard “hustle mentality” of many career coaches, Sara focuses on the impact of personal psychology on each individual’s job search. She helps her clients to identify and conquer the internal forces that may be blocking their true calling so they can begin to carve out a more successful and fulfilling career.
After her own struggle with burnout and a scary bout of chronic illness, Sara discovered her unique ability to guide others through massive life changes. Her ability to connect the personal with the professional has led her to build a successful career coaching business. You can also find Sara’s unique insights in the articles she has written for Forbes.com, Thrive Global, Bustle, and more.
Name: Sara Young Wang
Company: Sara Young Wang Career Coaching
Title: Career Coach
Current home base: Chicago, IL
Originally from: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Your superpower: Intuition. I’m quite good at using my intuition to tune into people (how they’re feeling, what they need) and in discussion, helping them get to the heart of the matter.
One thing on your bucket list:
To have more dogs. I have one dog now and would love to have another (or more). It may sound funny as a life goal, but dogs (all animals really) bring so much joy and love into our lives. I find having them around me is similar to meditation or yoga — they have a centering and calming influence.
A woman in history you admire & why:
Anne Morrow Lindbergh and Mary Oliver. Their writing articulates so many truths about our inner worlds and experiences – often things you read and say, “Yes, that’s so true”. I’m inspired by them and aspire to do the same in my own writing. A favorite quote from Anne is, “The most exhausting thing in life is being insincere.” This is something I’ve learned. Now I try to be as authentic as possible in how I live my life, and want to help others give voice and action to their own true selves, especially in their work/careers.
A (current) woman you admire & why:
Martha Beck. Martha is a life coach and author. Her books are one of the reasons I became a career coach. I love her work so much that I completed her life coach training program. If you’ve never read Finding Your Own North Star, add it to your reading list.
Quote/piece of advice that you live by:
One of my spiritual teachers, Kiran Trace, teaches to follow effortlessness — to always follow the path of ease and let whatever is effortless lead the way. I’m done with the energy of pushing and forcing and trying to make something happen. It just exhausts and never really works out the way you want (at least not in the long-term). Instead, I’m finding it’s much more effective, sustainable, and fulfilling to follow and build from a place of ease.
What inspired you to start (or get involved with) your current venture?
In 2012 I developed chronic Lyme disease. Prior to getting sick, I was chasing achievement to prove my worth and doing things because I “should”. I was living very much out of alignment with who I am, and by an externally defined notion of “success”. I was unhappy and stressed all the time and it affected my immune system as well as my health. When I got sick, I had to quit working and was practically bedridden for 2+ years. It was scary. Facing your own mortality will bring a lot of lessons to the forefront pretty quickly; what’s really important and things I think you might not realize until later in life.
During that time I did a lot of inner work and soul searching. It made me look deeper into myself to see what was underneath all the pushing and striving for success. I could see how I had never really had a chance to be myself or know who I am. I was too busy trying to be what I thought the world wanted me to be and who I thought I needed to be in order to be “good enough” and feel safe.
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New post up on Forbes.com! It's all about work-home boundaries. I feel like society and sometimes employers seem to send the message that they'd rather we not have any boundaries at all and just work work work all the time. But, that's not going to serve you and your overall life happiness. In the post, I talk about why work-home boundaries are soooooo important and give some pointers on how to identify what your own boundaries are and how to approach communicating them. I completely get that it's often hard and super stressful for us to speak up for ourselves. It's a skill to learn over time. And the more you do, not only will it get easier, but you will enjoy life a whole lot more. Nothing is more stressful than feeling you don't have a say. But the thing is that if you want to feel heard, you have to start by actually speaking up! 🙌 Click the link in my bio to read the post ✨
Getting sick was scary and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but it did catalyze a transformation in me that has drastically improved my life. I’m more in touch with myself, can see that my worthiness is inherent, can give myself the love and care I previously sought from pleasing others, and am living a life that honors my needs and desires. Through my inner work, I also regained my health (and am now a firm believer in the mind-body connection).
This part of my life was so transformative, [that] I am now working as a career coach to help others through their own personal transformations. Our career is often the linchpin that holds everything together in our mind — our identity, self-worth etc. It’s where we do the most striving, pushing for achievement and an unsustainable amount of effort is involved. This was true for me. If we want a career (and life) that brings us joy and is in alignment with who we are, we need to start by looking at this deeper layer of things that led us to be out of alignment in the first place.
What are you/your company doing to make history today?
I really think the world is ready for a paradigm shift in how we think about our lives and careers. I think I’m a strong voice contributing to making this shift happen. Too many are spending their lives feeling trapped and unhappy in their work. Cultural beliefs around success and how we “should” spend our lives need to be examined. I want to help people see more possibilities for themselves to walk their own authentic path and live life on their own terms. I do this through my coaching, but also in doing my own inner work and living true to myself.
What is one thing you and/or your company have accomplished that you are most proud of?
I’m proud of all the inner changes I’ve made. I’m quite different now than I was before I got sick and began all this inner work. I’ve had to work on discovering who I really am and what I want for my life, and developing the courage to make choices that are aligned with my authentic self. These inner changes have transformed my life and now I’m proud I get to help others do the same for themselves.
What is one project you are currently working on that you are most excited about?
In addition to coaching, I write on topics at the intersection of careers and well-being, mindfulness, stress management, and happiness. My writing is published regularly by various media outlets including Forbes.com, and also on my own website. I’ve discovered a passion for writing and my writing seems to resonate with others so I’d like to explore also writing a book. That’s pretty exciting to think about!
What is a trend in your industry that you foresee becoming popular in the future?
In the past several years we’ve seen the rise of mindfulness. I think this focus on what’s happening in our inner world will continue and expand as we see the positive impact it has on our lives. As a result, while coaching is already a huge industry, I think it will be even more common for people to see what it can do for them and seek it out.
What is one of the greatest challenges you have personally faced at this job?
Helping clients through their resistance to change can be a challenge. I call it dealing with all the “yeah, buts”. There are a million thoughts that come up to argue with change and refute why it can’t happen and why one’s current way of looking at the world is correct, even if it’s making them miserable. I’m offering people new ways of thinking and approaches to life, but it’s not always easy to just let go of the old ways. I used to think the way many of my new clients think, so I really get it and have a lot of understanding and compassion for it.
What were you doing before your current role?
Prior to being a coach, I ran a social impact startup company, worked for a management consulting firm, and the United Nations. I hold a master’s degree from The London School of Economics and am a Fellow of the School for Social Entrepreneurs. I’ve done a lot of different things!
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give to other female founders & change-makers?
Be true to yourself. Always. Just show up as you. Build from authenticity.
Fun fact about yourself:
I’m an INFJ (Introversion, Intuition, Feeling, Judging) in Myers-Briggs.
For more from Sara Young Wang —