Many people are finding themselves changing careers during the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery period. This two-part article series explores how three professionals prioritize health, wellness, and spiritual development as their careers transform from what was to what is.
In Part 1 of Changing Careers to Understand Holistic Success, I share about my own career change and introduce the stories of hotelier Omari Head and human resources professional Matthew Kirby.
I opened my company laptop and logged into Zoom for the last time. The day was May 11, 2021, and it was my final day at a Silicon Valley-based software company where I spent three years leading teams in creative content development, culture change, and program management. I hosted two goodbye calls—one with my diversity, inclusion, and equity colleagues and another with my leadership team for the Black employee resource group which I founded. After the calls, I posted a written and video goodbye message on the internal communication platform telling my colleagues that my career was changing as I left the company to focus on my literary and acting career. It was a heartfelt goodbye, one that ended with a commitment to living my purpose in this life: being a living testament of God’s grace.
“Grace is the state of freedom that exists within every action and moment of existence. It is a state of consciousness in which the constant pull of God’s loving presence overrides our attachment to the laws of cause and effect.” - Deepak Chopra
Surrendering to Grace
Grace is an energy that God extends to us which defies logic and expectations by delivering us to pathways of love and compassion in conditions where the ego may feel such that gifts are undeserved. My name—Janessa—means “God is Gracious” and therefore I take this meaning as my life’s purpose. When my separation from the tech company began, I already knew I was moving to Los Angeles but I didn’t exactly have a plan.
Before COVID-19 hit, Omari Head was living the bustling life of a hotelier as he jet-setted around the country touring hotels and brokering deals. When the pandemic hit hotels shuttered causing business to suddenly stop, Omari didn’t have an alternate plan for his career. When Matthew Kirby took a job as an HR leader at a small charitable organization, he negotiated a delayed relocation for his family from the Bay Area to Seattle. When he started work at the new company, he found that his wisdom and patience were being tested and he, too, did not have a backup plan.
Accessing a Calling from Within
Omari’s professional life took a backseat when COVID-19 began to spread as he became a more involved dad and played a different role in his partnership with his wife. “When the public health crisis hit, I lost full-time childcare and stepped in to be the primary caregiver for his children. I’m blessed with two little girls,” he says. “It was rough. It was absolutely rough. That’s a lot to digest and take in. I was the primary earner for so long but I pushed my partner because I know these things might happen. It was the plan and the plan got executed. We kept our quality of life but there is a change in my quality of contribution.” Omari says this prompted a range of emotions. Emotions he’s still wading through.
Going from primary earner to primary caregiver required Omari to focus on managing his emotions and communicating to his partner. It also led him to deeper reflection on what happiness means to him. “I spoke with some close friends and they helped me see it’s my turn to figure out what’s going to bring me happiness other than income. I am starting to resonate with understanding what legacy means,” Omari shares. “It comes down to impact. It’s something that’s more so been tugging at my spirit. It’s something definitely from a within.”
The pandemic called Omari to spend more time at home with his family and this tugging at his spirit called him to found the National Institute for Lodging Education, an organization focused on building and sustaining inter-generational wealth through hotel ownership. “I was looking at my daughters, knowing they are my legacy. I also feel a responsibility to my siblings’ children and to my community. How are African American people going to be a in better position?”
How does the National Institute of Lodging Education build Omari’s legacy? He says, “I am formalizing my efforts in the pursuit of equity and inclusion in the area of hotel ownership—that’s my battle, that’s my front.”
The Connection to Health
So how has this career and life transition impacted Omari’s health? “It was a rollercoaster of emotions. When it first happened a lot of people were like this is a good time to slow down. Then about four weeks later it hit me, we were supposed to be home for two weeks. It was a lot more anxiety. ‘When does this end? When do we get back to business as usual?’” By the time the sixth month of quarantine hit, Omari became more focused on stabilizing his life and household to withstand whatever comes next. This career change is not easy for Omari Head. He’s evolving his relationship with his ego as he connects with his partner and daughters in new ways.
When asked how he defines holistic success Omari says, “A big piece of holistically living is learning how to take all the things you know about yourself and advance them to their highest use without adding stress. It’s about finding that balance. Mental, physical health, and leisure are all moving targets. It’s encouraging to be part of a conversation about what happiness and holistic health look like.”
Thank you for reading Part 1 of Changing Careers to Understand Holistic Success. In Part 2 of the series, learn more about Matthew Kirby’s career change from relocating to lead human resources at a small non-profit to being an HR leader at Netflix, as well as how my own career change activates my highest potential.