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How Sarah’s Scary Layoff Became A Personal Growth Triumph (Interview)

Are you choosing to live a happy, fulfilled life?

That’s right, studies have proven that ninety percent of the factors that make the difference between a happy life and an unhappy life are factors within your control. One life hack proven to help unlock your best life is setting, pursuing, and achieving goals.

Yes, you can choose a happy life, but don’t take my word for it! Here’s an example of how other people – people just like you – are choosing to achieve happiness through their goals.

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How Sarah’s Scary Layoff Became A Personal Growth Triumph (Interview)

Welcome to this week’s Interview with a Goal-Crusher. In these interviews, I sit down with someone accomplishing big things by setting and achieving their goals to learn their secrets. Then I share those secrets with you. It’s like free mentoring from someone already on the road to success. Who doesn’t want that?!

Picture it, corporate America, 2013. I was introduced to a new employee named Sarah.

This wouldn’t usually be a notable story, but Sarah was a different kind of person. She was super high-energy and fun, confident yet humble, remarkably passionate yet practical and absolutely brilliant. I could tell from our first few meetings that she was destined for big things. I enjoyed our interactions so much that I stayed close to Sarah whenever possible.

Fast-forward a decade, and Sarah and I grew from colleagues to friends. She is still one of my favorite human beings; watching her progress through life has been fun. She has had many accomplishments and a few setbacks and handled them all with grace and confidence.

While there are many stories I could share about Sarah’s goal-crushing, a recent accomplishment of hers jumped out as a story that needs to be told. Sarah recently faced a career setback in the form of a layoff. As scary and uncomfortable as this situation was, Sarah didn’t let fear drive her. She did what she needed to do to start looking for her next role, but then she took it a step further.

Sarah viewed the time between jobs as an opportunity – a break we high-achievers seldom get. She used this opportunity to invest in her own development. She set a goal of achieving her Project Management Professional (PMP) certification and crushed it!

I am excited to share Sarah’s story in this week’s Interview with a Goal-Crusher.

Please introduce yourself and tell my readers about you and what you do.

I’m Sarah King, a 35-year-old wife and mom of two girls, Iris (4) and Maren (1). 

Sidenote: I never thought I’d introduce myself like that because my professional accomplishments were always most important to me. But, honestly, I’m so proud of my little family.  

I went to undergrad at Miami University and earned my MBA from Ohio State University. I’m so proud of and grateful for the connections I made at both institutions, and those will come back into play in a strong way later in my career.

My career started in HR, but I pivoted a few years ago – that’s a story for another blog post. Now, I bring cross-functional people together to solve big, juicy business problems.

What motivated you to pursue your PMP certification? What was your vision? Can you share some/all of your story?

In February 2024, I was laid off from my job as an Innovation Program Manager. It wasn’t a surprise; when business gets tough, the Innovation team is an easy cut to make. We’re not directly driving immediate revenue, and we don’t quite belong in any specific functional area. It happened to me when COVID hit in 2020, though I was lucky to be reorganized to a different team during that cut. 

I knew it would take a little while to find another job, and I got to work applying and leveraging my network immediately. Then, after about 6 weeks, I felt tapped out. I had saturated the open job market with my resume and found myself feeling helpless.

While the roles I was looking for didn’t typically require a PMP, they often either listed the certification as a preferred qualification or listed many of the skills needed of a great project manager. Though I considered myself pretty well-pedigreed with degrees from two top public business schools, I thought it couldn’t hurt to have those three extra letters on my resume. In order to take some control over my destiny, I decided to study for my PMP certification.

Having a specific goal to strive for gave me a sense of purpose in my day-to-day life, and it was especially important for me to have something 100% within my control during such an uncertain period.

What was the first step you took to get started with your goal?

Stepping into accomplishing the goal was pretty simple: sign up to be a PMI member and purchase a course.

I also wanted to give myself some accountability, so I made my effort public. I posted on LinkedIn that I started studying for a few reasons. First, I wanted to get some tips or encouragement from those who’ve done it before. Also, publicly announcing my goal would pressure me to complete it so I didn’t seem foolish to my network. Finally, I hoped a future employer would see that I was making the most of my time between jobs!

What were your biggest challenges in achieving your goals? How did you overcome them?

I had an initial burst of energy to start studying but lost momentum after a few weeks. My kids were sick, we had some family events, just life things that got in the way and drained me.  I knew I needed a little boost.

Once again, I went public to keep myself accountable. On all of my job applications, I started putting “PMP certification in progress, expected May 2024” to let employers know of my intent. What if I was offered a job and never ended up accomplishing my goal? How embarrassing. I knew I had to do it.

Setting that clear deadline inspired me to schedule my exam, forcing me to sprint to the finish since there was a financial penalty for rescheduling it. Now, I was firmly committed.

I had some ground to cover in my last two weeks of studying, so I deprioritized my job search to make more time for studying. 

What goal success tips and techniques have worked well for you that you would like to share with my readers?

Once you make a goal public, there’s pressure to complete it. It’s especially hard when working toward a goal that only impacts you. There’s no penalty if you don’t meet the deadline! No one else is impacted; no one else is hurt if you push the date. Once other people know about your goal, they can help hold you accountable.

Set a firm date. It was mid-May, and I wasn’t passing my practice exams. I considered scheduling my test in early June to give myself a little more time to study. However, I told my potential future employers I expected my certification in May. I didn’t let that date slide and pushed hard to the finish. 

Use free resources. I watched YouTube videos and checked out books from the library. When was the last time you’ve been in a library? Seriously, a gold mine, folks!

By the way, I took my exam on May 29th and passed Above Target in all categories!

What is one big goal you are pursuing now?

I’m grateful to be able to say that I’ve just accepted a job at a local brand creation company that’s still in its early stages. I’ll be starting up their Project Management Organization, so it’s a good thing I have that PMP toolkit to lean on!

After six intense months of job-hunting, soul-searching, and goal-crushing, I’m taking a bit of a break from tackling any major challenges. I’m focused on getting my professional feet back under me, adjusting to a new routine, and killing it in my new role.  

What else would you like my Operation Melt readers to know about you, your PMP journey, or about goal success in general?

My network has been crucial to my success. I’ve had folks reach out that I haven’t spoken to in literal decades offering to help, old bosses writing rave recommendations, and even friends-of-friends jumping in.

The world is such a small place, and the relationships you build along the way will come in handy.

Being laid off sucks. It’s scary and awful, but it’s not humiliating. It’s normal, and most people completely understand that. If they don’t understand, you don’t want them helping you anyway. The kindness that I’ve received has brought me to tears at points. I will continue to remember this feeling and pay it forward in any way I can.

You never know how you may be able to help someone accomplish their goal!

How can people learn more about you?

You can find me virtually on LinkedIn and Instagram (@thisissarahking).

Find me in person at Trader Joe’s, Antrim Park, or any Clintonville restaurant.

What did I tell you? Isn’t Sarah great?!

Her story has so many gems that it is hard to focus on just a few to highlight. Before digging into how Sarah’s story demonstrates the Project Manage Your Life principles, I want to highlight one critical sentence.

“Having a specific goal to strive for gave me a sense of purpose in my day-to-day life, and it was especially important for me to have something 100% within my control during such an uncertain period.”

This is a phenomenal statement! I couldn’t describe the power of goals any better. Goals give you a focus and the ability to take a driver’s seat in your own life. No, you can’t control every wave that smashes into your boat, but you can steer the ship. Goals give you that steering wheel.

Now, let’s take a look at Sarah’s application of the Project Manage Your Life principles:

  • Set SMART Goals: Sarah had a specific goal, a strong why and a timeline.
  • Build a plan that works for you: High-achievers tend to deprioritize commitments to themselves and focus on commitments to other people. Sarah employed one of my favorite goal success hacks to avoid this trap. She went public with her goal. By publicly committing to her goal, she was able to keep focused on it even when it became easy to deprioritize it.
  • Measure progress every day: Sarah used practice tests to measure her progress and identified when her target date might be at risk. This allowed her to make the immediate course corrections needed to crush her goal.
  • Don’t go it alone: Sarah talked several times about the value of leveraging her professional network to help her achieve her goals.

Moreover, Sarah didn’t let her layoff bring her down. As she said, “Being laid off sucks. It’s scary and awful.” But, as she demonstrated, a layoff can also be a unique opportunity for a break, a time to invest in yourself and a pivot point in your life. If the layoff monster comes for you, slay it with some goals.

Are you ready to follow in Sarah’s footsteps and take control of your life through your goals? Do you need a partner to help you get started? I am a certified Master Life Coach, and my specialty is helping you use your goals to build the life of your dreams. I would be honored to help you take the wheel and steer your life toward happiness.

I believe in you; let me help YOU believe in you!

Meet Coach Tony

My name is Coach Tony, and I am a coach, author and project manager on a mission. I am working to build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness.

I almost allowed one of my biggest life goals to die without ever being attempted for forty years. My goal almost died, not of failure but of loneliness. But, I took a risk and leveraged a simple, logical process that helped me wildly exceed my goal. 

I transformed my life, and you can do the same with the help of Operation Melt. 

Operation Melt provides engaging, practical content and hands-on coaching to inspire, motivate and equip project managers and other left-brained high-achievers to pursue and accomplish their biggest goals. 

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Published inDon't Take My Word For ItInterview with a Goal-Crusher