In this installment of Women Who Wow, meet Sheryl Odentz. Sheryl is the founder of Progress in Work, an award-winning, career management firm that provides attorneys and other professionals within the legal industry with tools and resources to “progress in work” and maximize career success through business development training and coaching, executive/leadership coaching and outplacement/career transition consulting. Learn more about her.
Why did you choose your profession?
Let’s start with, what is my profession? I am a career management counselor and coach. I specialize in working with lawyers and other types of professionals who are mostly in the legal industry, but not exclusive to that industry.
Specifically, I have three specialties. I help my clients make successful career transitions though my outplacement and career counseling specialty. I help them to build books of business through my business development training and coaching specialty. And I teach them to learn new behaviors through “action learning” to become more effective leaders through my executive and leadership coaching specialty.
How did I choose this profession? Well, it is really an amalgam of my work background, educational background, and DNA – my talents, passions, personality, hopes and dreams of what I wanted to accomplish professionally. Let me briefly take you through my journey.
I received my Bachelors of Music from Boston University’s College of Fine Arts. I trained to be an opera singer.
After graduation, I decided to change fields and moved into various marketing and sales roles at a music production house, a major music cable network, and then a leading advertising agency, which which took me into my late 20s.
At this juncture, I carefully considered what I really enjoyed and what I wanted most out of work. I had always loved counseling my friends and colleagues on work-related issues, so I decided to pivot to another career. I obtained two masters degrees from Columbia University’s Psychological Counseling in Business & Industry’s program.
While I was there, I took a part time job with a legal headhunter recruiting lawyers. There I learned many of the best practices related to legal job search.
After graduation, I networked my way into HR management consulting. There I learned about executive coaching and outplacement. I also became a certified executive coach through i-CoachNY. For the next 10 years, my mentor and I started and created one of the first legal outplacement firms for lawyers in the country.
In the wake of 9/11, I started my own business called Progress in Work LLC. Its mission is to help lawyers and other types of professionals “progress in work” and thrive. It has been almost 19 years since I started Progress in Work. And I am humbled that ALM’s (American Law Media) readers have voted Progress in Work one of the best career management firms in its areas of expertise 30-times since 2013.
I love what I do because I am literally using all of my talents in my work (except for singing). But I still sing for fun. Plus, I feel that I am truly making a difference in the lives of my clients and their organizations.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
I have received some excellent career advice along the way, but it has not been from just one person. Here are a few people who have inspired me:
My husband. He is a former big law firm partner and successful entrepreneur. His career advice to me was “stay the course” when I felt like quitting and “to find where the unmet need is.”
Academic and psychologist Angela Duckworth’s career advice on “grit” has also resonated with me. Grit means having passion for and perseverance toward long term goals. Successful people have this.
And lastly, I have been carrying around Notre Dame Professor Tom Morris’s framework called the 7 C’s of Success in my wallet since I started my business almost two decades ago. They are:
(1) A clear CONCEPTION of what we want, a vivid vision, a goal clearly imagined.
(2) A strong CONFIDENCE that we can attain that goal.
(3) A focused CONCENTRATION on what it takes to reach our goal.
(4) A stubborn CONSISTENCY in pursuing our vision.
(5) An emotional COMMITMENT to the importance of what we are doing.
(6) A good CHARACTER to guide us and keep us on proper course.
(7) A CAPACITY TO ENJOY the process along the way.
How do you achieve work/life balance?
I have achieved some work/life balance, but I am still working on it. I am not going to lie about that. This is what I do. I try to turn off after certain hours. I delegate what I can to others like my technology and graphic arts business colleagues. Plus, I have help at home with certain household chores, since I have a family. I have also ratcheted down my expectations of Progress in Work from when I first started it. I am now content with having created a thriving high-quality private practice instead of creating a bigger company. And lastly, I am able to achieve a certain amount of work/life balance because I am my own boss. In my opinion, there is nothing like being your own boss.
You can reach Sheryl at firstname.lastname@example.org.