Personal Growth

Changing Careers to Understand Holistic Success: Part 2

Person in business attire sitting on sofa with laptop
Person in business attire sitting on sofa with laptop

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 shared about my own career change and introduced the stories of hotelier Omari Head and human resources professional Matthew Kirby.

In Part 2, 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.

Matthew Kirby has been a human resources professional for ten years. Studying psychology in undergrad helped him understand how much he cares about people. Before discussing his career change, Matthew shares a bit about himself. “Before I describe how my career transition has impacted my health and wellness. I have an identity of being a parent. I have a three-year-old girl and a one-year-old boy. They keep me busy. I also go by the very important identity of being a husband. I am also going by the identity of being a Black man.”

He goes on to discuss how career change has also given him greater focus on health. “This particular transition has improved my health and wellness. Number one, this opportunity is fully remote. I know the world is slowly reopening but I can pick and choose my interactions from a COVID perspective,” he says joyously.

Reinvigorating the Spirit

When Matthew discusses health, he speaks about it holistically. "I think about it spiritually, physically, and emotionally.” Matthew’s career transition from being a human resources leader at a small nonprofit to a being a human resources leader at Netflix has reinvigorated his spirit. “Working at Netflix has provided me the flexibility I’ve been yearning for as a professional. I am part of a culture that says ‘If you need time for yourself go ahead, take the time. Take care of yourself.’ I’ve been in different roles where you had to fight for a mental health day,” he shares.

Matthew’s holistic health is getting a boost by transitioning to a role at a new company. “I am grateful to be in the position to begin to build wealth, generational wealth. In terms of physically, if I want to go for a walk, go to the gym, go outside, I am empowered. That sense of freedom and responsibility says ‘yo you’re the captain of your ship, steer it any way you want to,’” he shares. “In terms of spirituality, there is a group or a Slack channel for everyone. This transition has allowed me to find my communities. Race, gender, faith—there’s always that community.”

Human Resources is more than just a paycheck to Matthew Kirby. It’s something he does outside of work as he hosts a podcast called YNG BLK HR. “It’s a place where people can let down their hair and have conversations that help people understand how they are a human resource.” When asked how he defined holistic success, Matthew replies, “Ikigai. The Japanese principle that intersects what you love with what you’re good at, what the world needs, and what you can get paid for. I did an episode of my podcast on this topic in Season 1.” Matthew’s career change reaffirms for him that health is wealth. “No job, no thing, no person is worth compromising yourself for—children are different but don’t let the little ones stress you out too much either. Don’t trade mental health for tenure. It’s not worth it.”

Aligning With Purpose

So, what about my career transition? Well, just as I left the enterprise software world, I found myself welcomed with open arms by the literary and film/tv world in Hollywood.

During the last days leading up to my separation from the software company, I met a literary and talent manager, Robert Tisdale, in a Clubhouse room focused on actors with autism (I have Asperger’s). We instantly connected and just like that, I got representation—a huge deal in the industry. Knowing that I have a manager who invests in me eased some of the stress and anxiety I was experiencing. What once felt unknown and uncertain, felt steady and solid.

There’s a key moment when I knew that this manager is someone aligned with purpose. He said to me, “Positivity is our birthright,” as we both answered questions about our immediate and long-term goals. At that moment it struck me that we were on the same vibration.

During this career change, I have truly relied on my support system in family and friends. I spent countless hours on the phone with my mom, dad, and siblings who each coached the stress and anxiety out of me in their own ways. I spoke with a tv/film producer and mentor of mine, Dayo Ogunyemi, who continues to be an incredibly kind intentional listener, and sometimes that makes all the difference.

As always, yoga and mindfulness meditation, a clean diet, and taking walks in nature are key ways to keep myself centered. As an artist, simply being art is what elevates my vibrations even higher. Everything from the makeup and colors I wear to showing up for acting class to shooting photography and getting in some graphic design—these are the activities that take my health and wellness from good to great.

When Matthew spoke about Ikigai, I was happy because it’s the very principle that opened the portal for me from “woman to works at a tech company” to “Janessa existing at her highest potential.” My friend Joanne Pasternack gave me a journal with the word “Ikigai” and its symbol on the front. Months before I left software for Hollywood, I spent night after night workshopping what’s at the center of the Venn diagram for me until one night I finally found the answer: art. I called Joanne to thank her and she offered me a volunteer role strategist role on the advisory council of her organization called Athletes’ Voices—I said yes. The next week I went from a work-related meeting to an Athletes’ Voices meeting and felt my vibrations shift from downward to upward. That’s when I was reminded that I exist in God’s grace. That’s when the fear of career change dissipated and joy sprung inside because I felt it—something incredible was happening.

What is holistic success for me? It’s joy and peace. Simply experiencing these two things lets me know that I am doing something right. It gives me faith that something great is happening now and next.

Thank you for reading this article series on Changing Careers to Understand Holistic Success, which highlighted the stories of three professionals undergoing career change while growing exponentially and defining holistic success. If you are experiencing your own career change, hopefully, there are some insights that help you make the experience meaningful for your own holistic success. May grace be extended to you on your journey and may you accept grace into your heart.


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