Michelle Ward | The Declaration of You

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About a month ago, first-time author Michelle Ward reached out to me about her book The Declaration of You. Not only do I love the topic, and that Michelle described herself as part of the “Dreams Can Come True” army, I also like the ‘disruptive' path that her book has taken.  She and co-author Jessica Swift met online through their blogs, created an e-course together, self-published the content, and then were approached by a traditional publisher. Enjoy.

Since I was a little girl of 6 years old, I always wanted to be an actress. Being on stage is where I belonged, and it took me places. It took me to New York City, where I majored in musical theater at NYU, Tisch School of the Arts. It took me on a cruise ship around North America where I sang my heart out for a year. It took me to Studio 8A in Rockefeller Plaza, where I got to be on “Saturday Night Live”. It even took me to The-Closest-Movie-Theater-Is-An-Hour-Away, PA and The-Town-With-A-Gas-Station,-a-Consignment-Shop,-a-Pizzeria,-and-a-Gun-Store, New Hampshire.

And all of a sudden, the life I was pursuing for 20 years wasn’t what I wanted anymore.

I didn’t want to leave my home in New York City. I didn’t want to spend my “days off” sitting at auditions to sing 8 bars of a song and wonder where the day went. I didn’t want to get a job and have to pick up my life with one day’s (or one week’s) notice. I didn’t want to be a 35 year old waitress/ hostess/ temp/office manager.

I wanted my days to mean something, to be valuable, to matter.

So I got a real job. And another one. And another. I had 20 jobs in 7 years, constantly trying to find “the perfect fit.” I’d get restless easily and fairly despondent, thinking that there was nothing else out there for me that I could devote myself to passionately and enthusiastically.

One day I declared, “Enough! I refuse to accept that there is nothing else out there that I’m going to love doing!”

I was going to find My Perfect Career.


I enrolled in a Career Change Workshop at NYU and realized that I wanted to help others find their own path, especially “creative types” that thought they wanted one thing their whole life and now have to rewrite their plans.

I wanted to help them figure out what they wanted to be When They Grow Up.

Instead of enrolling in my life coach certification right away, I decided to get out of my current job – the one with expected 24/7 BlackBerry access, pointless travel, and the verbally abusive boss – and find one without, well, all of that. Within a month or two I landed a cushy gig as an Executive Assistant at a financial consulting company. I know it might seem counterintuitive, but having that consistent paycheck, no Blackberry/overtime/travel, and a boss who didn’t make me psychosomatic allowed me to keep my nights and weekends to myself, get certified, and build my business.

I started that job in August of 2007, which was the very same month I enrolled at the International Coach Academy. It took almost two years (I got engaged and married in that time on top of my full-time corporate gig!), but I graduated in June of 2009  and set my sights on building my business with a professionally designed website, a few months of severance in the bank, and enough consultation calls coming in that made me think people out there knew that I existed.

March 19, 2010 was my last day in Corporate America, and I have been a Woman of the World (my phrase for “full-time entrepreneur”) ever since. I think, actually, I’ve been training my whole life to be a creative career coach. I’ve set the stage for my ideal clients to know that I’ve been there, done that, walked away from it, lived through it, found something new to love, built that, and am currently thriving in the career that was my Prince Charming all along – a career that wouldn’t be such a perfect fit without all the pavement-pounding that came before it.

Now, I get to use both my coaching skills and my personality and experiences so that clients of mine like Alexandra Franzen (not-so-jubilant 9-to-5-er to published author / sold-out workshop leader / communication expert), Megan Collins (advertising agency drone turned founder/editor of men’s style site) and Tiffany Han (retail associate to artist & studio owner – and now a certified coach & speaker) can take center stage.

My communication skills, my enthusiasm and sense of humor, my desire to help people find their passionate career, my creative experiences and my people-loving-personality makes this the role that I was born to play.

Are you ready to declare you?


Michelle Ward, aka The When I Grow Up Coach, helps creative women get out of their soul-sucking jobs and into work that feels like play (while still being a grown-up). She’s a Professional Certified Coach by the International Coach Federation, a musical theater actress with her BFA from NYU/Tisch, and a Corporate America escapee. Her first book (co-written with artist & designer Jessica Swift), The Declaration of You, will be published by North Light Craft Books this summer.

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