an advice session with megan hellerer, aoc's career coach

Posted by deaguero at 2020-04-13

An advice session with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s career coach. Megan Hellerer, a post–Lean In career coach for women. Photo: Tracy Dungo Megan Hellerer, a post–Lean In career coach for women. Photo: Tracy Dungo There is likely no career coach in the world with a better pitch for disaffected millennials than Megan Hellerer, whose list of past clients includes a 28-year-old bartender who became a United States congresswoman. Before we met for a session on a recent Wednesday morning, I couldn’t help but imagine all the potential Hellerer would unlock in me at 29: Would I also become a politician? Write a book? Finally stop biting my nails? Hellerer, 35, calls herself the Conscious Career Coach. She works only with women, more specifically “underfulfilled overachievers”: high-performing teacher’s-pet types who have followed every mandate for success and remain desperately unhappy. In addition to private coaching and workshops, she has an eight-week online course called “WTF Am I Doing With My Life?” (The price is $900, but women of color can get a 15 percent discount via a coupon code on her website in acknowledgment of statistical income gaps.) “We’re trying to get away from the ten-year plan,” Hellerer says of her strategy of “anti-career career coaching,” a kind of post–Lean In style informed by her own decision to leave Google after eight years in 2014. Hellerer was raised on the Upper West Side, went to Chapin, then Stanford, and was ostensibly doing exactly what should come next: making a ton of money, with great benefits and stock options, as something called a strategic-partnerships executive. But she was also having anxiety attacks and throwing up in the bathroom at work. “It felt like I was going to die if I left,” she says of her time at Google. She eventually quit, taking six months off in an effort to find her purpose in life. She tried meditation, cooking, and, on a whim, a coaching class. She started her own practice in February 2015, and a Boston University grad and hospitality worker named Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took one of her workshops through Ladies Get Paid, a professional-development organization for women, the next year. Sitting across from me in a booth at Le Pain Quotidien on Bleecker Street, Hellerer starts with a “Mind Mood Body” check-in, or the MMB. (She likes acronyms: FOBM, for “fear of being mean”; LMGTFY, for “Let me Google that for you.”) I pick three adjectives to describe how I’m feeling in my mind, mood, and body, then she asks, “If you had a magic wand, and you walked out of here and into a totally different world, how would you know? What would be different?” Hellerer is all about clearing outside voices and listening to your “authentic self,” what she calls your “inner GPS.” “Do you know about Saturn returns?” she asks me. She explains that it occurs when Saturn, “the planet that governs structure,” returns to the point in the sky at which it was during a person’s birth, typically between the ages of 27 and 30. I’m usually a skeptic of astrology, but I find immediate relief in this concept. “There’s a whole generation of elder millennials hitting this point,” Hellerer says of the quarter-life crisis. And our unique circumstances — graduating into the global recession, with the looming possibility of another — make it worse. “But there’s so much potential in that uncertainty. I call it the gift of desperation.” *This article appears in the October 28, 2019, issue ofNew York Magazine. Subscribe Now!