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  • Personal Branding Interview: Nancy Colasurdo

    Today, I spoke to Nancy Colasurdo, who is a writer, a practicing life coach, a facilitator of goal-setting and creativity workshops, and a columnist for FoxBusiness.com. In this interview, Nancy talks about how she’s built her personal brand as a life coach and journalist, what issues she typically helps people with, how people can confront this economy, and more.

    Nancy, how did you build your own personal brand and get to where you are today?

    My career has been built on hard work and setting goals, but being open to opportunities along the way. I have always had a fire in my belly. My pattern seems to be nose to the grindstone, someone else noticing my work and suggesting a path, me resisting a bit but then pondering the possibility. It was a college professor who noticed my articles in the campus newspaper and suggested I major in journalism. It was a former editor at the newspaper I worked for (10 years) in Central Jersey who first left print for the Web and talked me into joining him at FoxSports.com in New York in the late 1990s.

    It was a life coach in a volunteer training program I was doing who said I had talent in this area, that I seemed “a natural.” As an independent contractor, my brand has been built through authenticity and incrementally adding components that help increase my exposure (i.e., teaching workshops, attending networking events, blogging, writing a column for

    FoxBusiness.com and engaging social media). And I feel like I’ve only just begun.

    You’ve been involved in print, web and television. Where do you see these in relation to the web?

    When I entered the world of Web journalism via FoxSports.com in 1998, it was brand new to me and I was, frankly, nervous about leaving print. Fortunately, what I brought to the table in terms of journalism chops was perfectly complemented by the bright, computer-savvy 20-somethings on staff. We learned from each other and I quickly figured out how to bring my deadline experience to the Web. Getting up to speed enough on HTML to edit within its parameters was perhaps my biggest challenge. What came naturally was being the liaison with on-air talent (i.e., Keith Olbermann) to get breaking stories on the site.

    Later, at Oxygen Media in 2000, marrying television content to Web content was my primary responsibility, so again I learned by diving in head first. A decade later, television and Web content are becoming more seamless, interchangable. I’d hardly want to hazard a guess as to what’s next. Still a bit of a technology dinosaur, I keep marveling.

    What is life coaching? What typical issues do you help people with?

    For me, life coaching is about helping people get clear about what they want and often that it’s OK to go after it. I’m a can-do coach. So many people get caught up in the societally dictated norm or get pigeonholed into one line of work when they’re young and never go outside of that world they’ve constructed. They get into their late 30s to late 40s and realize they’re not living the life they want. Sometimes even loved ones aren’t supportive of the changes they want to make because they’re afraid of what it will mean to them.

    My tagline, “Connecting you to your creative core” came about because part of what inspired me to coach was the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I specialize in unblocking creatives, helping clients push through inertia and guiding them to build out what I call their “non-work” life. The idea is that often your day job feels more satisfying if the rest of your life is spent doing things you love. Of course, ideally we strive to merge their passion and their work life.

    What advice would you give to someone who is depressed because of the current economic situation?

    Well, if it’s clinical depression I’d say go to a qualified physician and get some help. Life coaching is not designed to replace that.

    However, if it’s not depression in the clinical sense, I would offer words that even I had a hard time hearing when I lost my job in 2002. Keep going. This is a test of your mettle. If it is at all possible and/or feasible to use a period of unemployment to pursue something you’ve long wanted to, do it. I strongly believe if we link our desires with appropriate action, doors will open. For example, I decided I wanted to be a columnist for a major Web site, so I began writing columns as if I had a writing gig. When I was at a social function for a beloved professor from college, I ran into a former colleague who had recently been hired to head up FoxBusiness.com; he was familiar with my work as a columnist and knew my ability to build a following. When he suggested a column about “how to live life” I already had samples to send him. This isn’t magic. The desire, or wish, must be in lockstep with action.

    For those feeling particularly desperate about money, I highly encourage you to work through denial and anger and get to a place of acceptance that your lifestyle must be simplified. I know that’s hard to hear — if foreclosure is on the table, for example — but it will benefit you and ripple to everyone around you. Also, take care of yourself. I must say a saving grace for me was holding on to my gym membership for dear life even when health insurance was not an option.

    What career obstacles have you endured and how did you conquer them?

    I don’t know that I’ve had obstacles as much as challenges. My traditional Italian-American family didn’t see education for girls as a priority, so I worked my way through college with only one very small loan to worry about upon graduation. I am very proud of that. I thoroughly enjoyed my years as a sports reporter/columnist and was part of a talented and dedicated team, but certainly heard my share of “because you’re a woman” when I received an accolade. Again, I don’t think it held me back, but I struggled to handle it gracefully sometimes. Perhaps my biggest challenge of all has been bouncing back from a layoff in 2002 that I was ill-prepared for financially. It was jarring to be turned away from temp agencies and even cashier jobs because I was over-qualified. Eventually, I realized it was an opportunity to build my life coaching practice and pick up freelance writing and editing projects along the way. I pounded a lot of pavement and still do.


    Nancy Colasurdo is a writer, a practicing life coach and a facilitator of goal-setting and creativity workshops. She currently writes a twice-weekly life coaching column called Game Plan for FOXBusiness.com and has been published in, among others, Ladies Home Journal, Parents and on Beliefnet.com. Nancy has 20-plus years of experience in three forms of media – print, web and television. Her journey in the communications field began at The Trenton Times, where she was a sports writer/columnist for 10 years. Nancy spent the ensuing three years working as a web producer for FOX Sports and the National Hockey League and as a television producer at Oxygen Media. Nancy is a member of Conversation Among Masters, the International Positive Psychology Association and mediabistro.com’s AvantGuild.

    Dan Schawbel is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press) and the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan Publishing), which combined have been translated into 15 languages.

    Posted in Career Development, Interview, People, Personal Branding, Success Strategies
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