Finding our Why with Belma McCaffrey
I met up with a wonderfully creative and energized entrepreneur who is helping others grow in bold ways. She is on a mission to create big changes in the world. I love that about her and had to learn more. Here is my interview with Belma about our “why” and how she found her purpose.
Sherry Benjamins: What prompted you to start your business after graduate school?
Belma McCaffrey: It began with my own early experiences and personal struggles, feeling unfocused and disconnected. I was not clear on what I wanted to do and that started at an early age. Questions like, “what should I do with my career?” sent me in a new direction after graduate school.
You may not be surprised that in my twenties I did not have the answer to what I wanted to do. I was working in Media on the agency side, planning and buying which happened by accident really. My advertising counselor at school suggested I check out media agencies so he connected me. This was a time of learning how to navigate the organization and I struggled with confidence. After seven years of working in media, I decided to go to business school, and when I was there, I saw that I was not alone.
People were spending so much money on school and were not clear at all on their direction. What I learned though is that we are not taught how to do the internal work, of listening to our why or our purpose to help set direction for our career.
After graduation, I took a full time role at the Associated Press, while simultaneously building a side gig as a blogger and writer. I knew that I wanted to run my own company, but wasn’t ready. I was also newly pregnant so I had a lot to juggle!
SB: What was your vision for Work Bigger?
BM: I always believed in coaching and the concept of helping people perform to their highest level. The business has evolved to not only working with individual clients but also companies. After having experience in the corporate setting, I understand what people go through. I created Work Bigger, a career development platform with the mission to help people do work they love that makes a difference in the world without burning out. The goal is to empower all of us to think bigger about our work lives so we can work from a more creative, fulfilling, and of course, strategic place.
We do this through a membership community where we offer group coaching and career resources, private coaching and working with companies to support with employee engagement and retention.
SB: What is your thought on “burnout” today? Why is this so prevalent?
BM: Burnout is a result of most of us not processing our emotions and not taking care of ourselves.
Companies are also not prepared to deal with emotional and mental health when it comes to employee engagement. Processing our mental distress is a huge part of our leadership development, but what I see is companies inclined to shut that out - because it’s unfamiliar and scary.
We can’t have leaders who are not emotionally grounded. This adds to workplace toxicity.
I see that companies are working to implement wellness programs but I am not seeing enough results that help us move the conversation and understanding of emotional health.
The good news is that there is more conversation about emotional health and retention, but I don’t think we are there yet.
SB: How are your clients changing – what do they need to thrive today in work?
BM: The biggest change I see is internal transformation - shifting from imposter syndrome to confidence, overcoming lack of self worth, overcoming burnout and then identifying a career path that they’re deeply connected to.
I work with them to think differently and approach problems from the inside out. It requires a mental shift.
We all want the answers immediately and we hope that changing jobs fixes things.
Opening up to the Work Bigger process means clients want to know more about their own “why” and take the time to understand who they are so that they can begin to create a career from the inside out.
We discuss their values, purpose and experiences.
I also support them with shifting from avoidance to taking action. This requires transformation - looking internally to see how they are holding themselves back.
SB: Where do we start?
BM: First get burnout under control – make decisions from a place of health rather than stress.
Then define your mission and your path, which comes from looking internally rather than hoping the job will fix this problem for you.
SB: What have you learned about yourself in this process of helping others find their mission?
BM: When I started putting together a framework on finding my mission and learning about coaching, I used my intuition and personal experiences.
Now that I have gone through certifications and coaching experiences, I have learned that my intuition is powerful – I now trust myself more and the gut feelings that follow.
SB: What is your advice for early career professionals?
BM: I am going to go back to what I see as the traditional path – individuals who try out one job, are unhappy so they try another and so on. My advice is to break out of that cycle.
Listen to your internal voice; start with the why and the bigger question of who you want to be.
Connect to your values and don’t forget to learn from the good and not so good experiences you have had.
What a delight to speak with Belma McCaffrey, creator and founder of Work Bigger in New York. I learned about her journey to become an entrepreneur and create a mission and purpose driven business. She shared personal insight about her own growth. How many people do we meet that are willing to admit they started work from a place of fear or lack of confidence? She shares how we all can create big changes in our life and work in simple yet profound ways. My take away and reminder is making the space for our internal work. Check out Belma’s story on https://www.workbigger.co/. She says, “Do work you love and make a difference in world…without burnout.” Good advice Belma. Thank you!