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How Burnout Led to a New Path: A CareerCircle Career Journey

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CareerCircle’s Head of Product, Cecily Guggisberg, is sharing her story of taking a career break, investing in transferable skills, managing anxiety, and ultimately, finding a career path that she loves. 

On a day-to-day basis Cecily is working alongside developers to define the work that needs to be done in their next sprint, reviewing marketing materials, brainstorming with our member experience team to design new features, and more…and that’s just before lunch.

Starting a Career Journey Fresh Out of College

When Cecily had to figure out what she wanted to study in college, she realized that helping people and solving problems was really what drove her.

“I’ve always tried to be the friend that people come to for advice, so when I went to college I decided to explore psychology and communications. Ultimately, I did my undergrad in psychology and didn’t realize that what I was interested in translated to human resources and organizational development,” Cecily shared when asked how her education has shaped her career.

In college, she was on a scholarship program that kept her busy working. She also carved out the time for an internship at the Boston Museum of Science. It was during her internship that she first gained experience in recruiting and sourcing.

“Looking back, I can see that my internship gave me the chance to explore my skills in a professional setting. Whenever you can, I always recommend finding an internship, temporary job, or pro bono work if it’s a chance to explore an area of interest. You never know what you’ll end up learning about what you’re good at and how it aligns with your goals. It’s great for resume building, too!

As she neared the end of her college era, she set a goal to have a job lined up before graduation. At a college career fair, she was introduced to a life-changing recruiter from Aerotek. With the guidance of that recruiter, and after impressing in the interview process, she started a job as a recruiter.

The Power of a Career Break

Cecily spent the next ten years at Aerotek working in recruiting, sales, and national program management roles. She excelled at building out systems for the unknown and solving problems at scale.

“I was the person who got called in with the idea that, ‘Well, we’ve never done this before, but I wonder if someone could help figure it out.’ I was the one who figured it out.”

That experience at Aerotek would end up building the foundation for the rest of her career. But with all that learning, and a decade of effort, she realized something else: she was burned out.

If there was a checklist of, ‘Here’s what burnout looks like,’ I had every box checked. As much as I loved what I was doing, I struggled with perfectionism and found myself struggling to delegate or set boundaries.”

That’s what led her to what she now calls the best decision of her career: she took a break.

Instead of pushing through burnout, she took a full career break. During which, she got married, started a passion project designing apparel, and explored what it is that she really wanted to do.

A tip for you: A career break, if it’s available to you, could be a great way to develop your career journey. It can give you time to discover your skills and space to align your career goals to an action plan. If a career break isn’t feasible, you consider finding a lower stress temporary position or something that allows you the time you deserve to invest in yourself.

Cecily realized she wanted to continue working in recruiting, but wanted to gain experience working internally at an organization versus at a third party. She decided to hit the books to make sure she stood out in the hiring process and started working to get her Sr. Professional in HR (SPHR) certification.

“Taking on that certification process was worth every moment, but it was really hard. That’s why I have such respect for everyone who joins the CareerCircle community because they’re coming in knowing that they want to change their life and it will be hard, but they do the work because it paves the way for a new chapter.

Many hours of studying, quizzes, and a grueling certification test later, she passed and accepted a job that aligned with her goals as the Manager of Convention Staffing for Visit Orlando.

After two years in that position, she gave birth to her first child, Sadie, and took maternity leave with a plan to head back to work after a few months. That return to work date came and she realized she wanted to spend more time at home with her daughter. “I was so lucky to be able to take that time to learn how to be a new mom. I ended up taking 6 months off of work and it will always be one of the most special times in my life.”

It was this second career break that led Cecily to question what she was looking for in the next part of her journey. It was important to her to work somewhere where she didn’t just love the day-to-day work she was doing, but that she was able to bring all of the skills she learned through her internships, her time at Aerotek and Visit Orlando, as well as her new skills as a mom. She wanted to bring her whole self to work, on her terms.

A tip for you: When exploring the next stage in your career, try building out a list with the things you loved and those you don’t love for each of the roles you’ve had. Then bring that list as you start your job search to find a role that encompasses more of the things you love and less of the things you don’t.

What To Do When Opportunity Comes Knocking

When CareerCircle called, she was ready.

Kim Sneeder, CareerCircle’s Managing Director and past colleague of Cecily from her Allegis days, was building a team for this new platform and needed people who were willing to dive headfirst into a totally new company. After building her reputation at Aerotek as someone always willing to take on a new challenge, Kim thought of Cecily first.

“Cecily was the first name that came to my mind. Her deep sense of integrity and compassion is fundamental to who she is. She’s also brilliant and what she didn't know, I knew she would learn. She is a lifelong learner and I knew she would find mentors and industry experts to get us where we needed to go. She is a problem solver and always brings others with her. I also knew she would give me feedback and challenge me which is so important to me as a leader. Being equal parts heart and results, I knew Cecily would be my partner and, with her, we would never fail,” Kim shared when asked why she chose Cecily.

A tip for you: Never underestimate the importance of maintaining your connections throughout your career journey. Even if a role doesn’t work out long-term, those connections could pave the way for a new future working together.

While she was ready to return to work, she also wanted flexibility. She joined CareerCircle as a part-time contractor allowing her to ease back into the work world postpartum. Before long, she had moved through the ranks to become the Business Operations Manager.

Since the team was small at the time, she took the chance to better understand different departments that she was interested in including sales, product, marketing, and more. 

“The best career advice I ever got was, ‘Do the job before you get the job.’ You need to find someone who has the job you want or find the area of business where you see a deficit, raise your hand for stretch assignments to gain experience.Then when an opportunity comes up in that area, you can advocate for yourself. If you see a gap that is affecting the business and a new position is needed, don’t be afraid to share your thoughts - that has created a lot of my opportunities in the past,” Cecily shared. She took that advice when the chance came up to cover for the product owner.

When she became pregnant with her second child, she sat down with her boss, Kim, to define what she wanted when she came back from maternity leave. 

After chatting, she realized just how much she loved working in product. It let her use her logical problem-solving skills to build processes, but also scratched the desire for a creative role by supporting UX design and marketing.

Taking on the product role meant a lot of on-the-job learning. “While I had a passion for product development and I was able to bring in my existing skills, like communication from my recruiting and sales days, project management from being a mom, and my natural desire to build processes out of the unknown, I still needed support and a community as I learned.” Cecily reached out and found internal and external mentors and became intentional about mastering the skills while doing the work.

A tip for you: If you’re not sure what you want to do, joining community groups on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. can help you to explore new professions in a low-pressure way. 

A Career Journey Built on Community

When Cecily first started feeling burnout earlier in her career, she felt a lot of shame because she thought she was alone. It felt like no one else felt like that, or at least talked about it openly. When she started working with a therapist and sharing what she was feeling with her friends and family, she learned that everyone had experienced what she had in some way. When Cecily started having those conversations, it even ended up inspiring others around her to re-evaluate their own careers. “I realized I had this whole community of people around me that I could lean on for support when days were hard or to celebrate with on the good days.”

That feeling of community is what drives Cecily in her career today to make sure that CareerCircle isn’t just a tool to build a resume or prepare for an interview, but rather a place where people feel empowered to build a community for their own unique career journey.

Beyond building that community, Cecily also suggests keeping a kudos folder in your inbox or on your desktop filled with all of the times that someone has complimented the work you do or some incredible results from a particular project. It’s a great resource to pull from when you’re asked for some of your achievements on a job application or just when you need to battle imposter syndrome.

One of the most important things to remember when it comes to your own career journey is that every part of yourself deserves to be represented in your goals. It’s never too late to evaluate what brings you joy in your work and take the risk of making a career switch. Your skills, experience, personality, and dreams are what make you you and those things deserve to be celebrated.

When you’re ready to get started on your own career journey, you can sign up for CareerCircle here.