Janet Matta, Rock Star Career Coach On The Alternative Paths We Fail To See

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Janet is one of my favorite people. We have a similar belief that people are capable of more than they believe and that alternative paths are more realistic and the reality than people realize.

Not a fan of default paths from an early age, one quote stood out from Janet that she has continuously asked herself throughout her life:

“The conventional path is not going to work for me, what can I do instead?”

Life Hacking From an Early Age

Janet first started “hacking” life in high school when she decided that the standard curriculum wasn’t for her. Despite pushback from parents, teachers and peers, she followed her curiosity and negotiated an alternative path — avoiding things like Math to go deeper with teachers in social studies, religion and politics.

Her next “hack” was to apply to college in Canada. Starting with the constraints that she wanted to avoid debt and that her parents would support the equivalent of in-state tuition she looked for different options and found a way when her uncle convinced her to look at Canadian universities.

Although taking a non-conventional path, she learned a lot about being able to adapt that would help her later on in her career.

But first, a normal job….

In her first job as an oil spill responder, she found she enjoyed the work but felt something was missing. This led her to pursuing a masters degree in education where she learned about the path of career counseling. She felt it would be a perfect job for her because she had often struggled with making sense of her career herself and wondering “how she could do things differently

Paul’s Side Note: In many people I’ve worked with, I’ve found that they often stumble upon work they are passionate about by addressing their own needs, much like Janet did — she wanted to figure out how to navigate a career for herself, which led her to be really valuable to others

Putting her story into the world, aka starting a blog

In college she “decided not to become a teacher” after talking to teachers and realizing that many of them were not as happy or energized as she expected. Yet it was pursuing a masters in Education which led her to her freelance career.

While working in her first job as a career counselor, some colleagues recommended that she start writing and she started a blog. She started a blog, found she had a following and then decided she would start offering career coaching services.

By putting her learnings on navigating her own career and her work with students, she found that it resonated with people and she was able to turn it into a business.

Chaos and Planned Happenstance — Two theories of how careers actually work in the real world

I have to credit Janet with introducing me to two awesome academic theories of careers that seem to address the issue of what actually happens (versus what we pretend careers look like).

They are Planned Happenstance theory and The Chaos Theory of Careers. As Janet summarizes these ideas: “we can only plan so much in our lives and the successful lives come by planning for coincidence — putting yourself in the right place at the right time”

How to make a shift

When working with clients, she starts with helping them think about three main things. The core questions are:

  1. Whats wrong with your current situation?
  2. What’s working with your current situation?
  3. What are your values (she recommends this survey)?

Then, she gets people to think more creatively about what they could bring their skills into the world. Her general advice to people, especially students is “get out of your own head, get out from being under expectation” and connect and create out in the world to see what might happen.

If you want to learn more about her work, check it out here.

How she defines success now

Success for Janet is all about “her energy and her levels of joy.” She knows that when her energy is low, things need to change or she needs to change what she is working on in her business. She finds that doing work that is meaningful and helping other people helps lead to the unintended side effect of being happy, which attracts others to want to be around you and work with you. She finds that people who are happy “see more opportunities” and that this mindset is actually the key that leads to real financial or business success.