Career Change Success Stories... with Jayeon Hong
Jay had a passion for writing, but didn’t really believe she could transform it into a career. After years of working in education and before that, hospitality, Jay began her coaching journey. She quickly realised that writing was what she truly cared about and that it must be prioritised. Resetting her focus, she started to build a long-term action plan and set relevant goals so she could turn her passion into a full-time career as a writer. This is her story of how coaching helped her to begin this process of career change and what she has been up to since.
What job were you doing when you started career change coaching?
When we began coaching last year I was teaching English full-time based here in South Korea.
And what are you doing now?
I’d like to call myself a writer, who also teaches English part-time, although that is set to change soon!
How did you feel when we first met?
I was actually a bit nervous before meeting you for the first time as I was worried I wouldn’t be right for career coaching. You had been recommended by my husband after he had worked with you, but I wasn’t confident that my passion for writing was necessarily a career or that I qualified for career coaching in that sense!
After we had an initial introductory call though, I felt much more comfortable and absolutely loved our very first coaching conversation. I remember it so clearly and that I excitedly journaled about it afterwards.
I’m glad the nerves subsided and it’s a thrill to hear that you still remember the initial impact that coaching had on you when we first met. I’m intrigued to hear about how you progressed with your career change after we finished coaching together. Where to begin?
Well, quite a lot has changed since then and there have been a few surprises too! The most recent development in my career is that I’ve just finished an ebook in the last few days, inspired by the four years I’ve been working as an English teacher, which I started writing towards the end of last year.
That’s fantastic news – well done! How did this come about?
Well, I’ve been teaching English to hundreds of adults for many years and I came to realise last year what a great topic it would be to write about. I really wanted to explore the Korean attitude towards learning the English language, and how so many of the adults I have taught have been learning English since their childhood but have been too afraid or self-conscious to speak English in front of others. They were seeking perfection and just wanted to wait until they sounded like a native English speaker! So I really wanted to highlight this in my book and draw on my insights as a teacher. It was really important to me that I’ve been able to share my own learning journey and the joy I’ve experienced of speaking it as a second language.
That is such a huge achievement in such a short space of time. How did you manage this so quickly?
Well, it’s actually been quite a journey to get to this point and there have been some challenging moments. But the most pressing development in my life right now is that I’m about to become a mum for the first time, so the due date has been pretty powerful!
Oh wow - what wonderful news! Congratulations to you and Alfie. I can see that is definitely one heck of a deadline. So, tell me more about the journey you went on to get to this point.
So before I fell pregnant, and while I was still working with you, I started to refocus my attention on becoming a writer and I identified that my first step was to reduce my hours as a teacher. I had the confidence of having a book published a few years ago, and when you coached me, I realised that I already had quite a lot of material for a new recipe book concept.
I began setting myself goals to refine the material for this book and then started reaching out to publishers. Unfortunately, after a lot of hard work, none of the publishers I spoke to wanted to run with it. The rejection was tough as it had taken a lot of energy to get it that far, but I now see it as an important learning experience. With my last book, the publisher had actually approached me to write it, so this most recent experience was definitely a learning curve.
Despite these obstacles, it evidently didn’t deter you from picking yourself back up and pursuing your writing career. So how did you move forwards after that?
Well after that, I took the lessons I had learned from coaching and moved forwards. First of all, I remembered to set myself clear goals which continued to build on my identity as a writer. I reflected on what was most important to me and focused on small, achievable actions which would support me as a writer. As a recent example, I entered a small competition for blog writers, which was an enjoyable process and quite a manageable goal to work towards. But what’s interesting is that because I’m focused on being a writer more than anything else, the outcome is less important and just submitting my writing really feels like a win.
It’s so great to hear that the insights you gained from coaching have helped you through some of those moments over the past year. What would you say was your biggest learning from your coaching experience?
During our sessions you would always ask me what I could realistically achieve by the next time we met. Because we met weekly, this really encouraged me to break down my goal into a realistic set of short-term actions.
This sounds simple, but before being coached, I had a tendency of overwhelming myself with huge goals and then giving up during the process. I’d then keep thinking about the goals I hadn’t achieved. So working with you really helped me adjust my approach and made me realise that in order to become a writer, I needed to build a habit of writing every day, even if it wasn’t much.
Was there a standout experience from coaching?
The guided meditation you took me through was very impactful and has really stayed with me. Creating that image of her in my own mind and being able to connect with the most powerful version of myself was so effective and I made sure to write about it after the session so I could always revisit it in times of self-doubt. Knowing that I can always go to her to ask questions has really helped me.
And as you are still in the process of changing career, what advice would you give to someone who is thinking about changing or redefining their career?
I was actually asked this question by someone recently and so fortunately I have a well-rehearsed answer to this! The first practical advice I would share is to give yourself time and not to rush.
The second piece of advice I’d give is that there’s probably never going to be a time where you feel perfectly ready to make that change and I think it’s important to be mindful that none of us know what is ahead of us. A great example of this is the person who asked me for my advice. He works for a huge tech company which is currently making a lot of people redundant and there may well be a future risk to his employment. Yet it’s the kind of role that until recently would have been considered much more secure than working as a freelancer like I am. So it just goes to show that the safety net of leaving traditional employment shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your dreams, because there’ll probably never be a perfect time and you also never know what’s around the corner!
And just to add to that, while reflecting on my own experience, I never cancelled or postponed a session with you, but I didn’t always feel completely ready. And yet after completing the programme with you, it felt like a huge accomplishment and an experience I learnt a lot from.
I think that’s excellent advice. As a coach, all I can ever ask for from a client is commitment to the process. Progress not perfection is what I say.
So an area I think always worries career changers is money. What has been your approach so far in managing your finances?
I think my finances are something I’m still figuring out. When we started working together, I wanted to reduce my teaching hours so I could focus more on writing, but I still had to keep some of my teaching work to pay the bills.
To make up for some of that lost income, I’ve actually found myself at times enjoying the creative challenge of discovering new ways to generate income. An example I can give is that I created and sold a package of online English tutorial classes on a learning platform, which is something I set out to do while we were still working together. This made use of both my teaching knowledge and video-making skills, so that was quite rewarding. There’s definitely still more to do in this area, but probably for now my focus will be on having my baby in the immediate short-term!
That’s incredibly insightful and thank you for being so open. So has it all been worth it?
Definitely! I would say that the flexibility of being a freelancer and doing what I love is worth everything to me. I love that I don’t have to report to anyone, I can manage my own time, travel when I like, and take full responsibility for my work. The other upside is that with my impending motherhood, I’m hopeful this will give me the flexibility I want as a mum.
Looking back on my pregnancy, throughout I’ve been able to go at the pace I feel comfortable with and I don’t have anxiety about leaving a position at a company and coming back after a break. It’s honestly very empowering to think I can pick things back up after having my baby when I’m ready, and that I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing anything.
Jay, I think that is a really positive note to end on. What a difference a year makes and I’m so thrilled that you’ve been able to continue pursuing your career as a writer since we met and to hear about your many achievements and multiple books that you’ve written! Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to hearing all about your future writing endeavours. Of course in the meantime, I wish you all the very best as you begin your next chapter as a mum.
To find out more about how you can purchase Jay's new ebook and hear about her updates, you can follow her on Instagram.
If you’re inspired by Jay's story and would like to seek out coaching to help support your transition, please schedule in an exploratory call via the Get In Touch page.