Women Who Work: the Career Introvert, Janice Chaka

Janice Chaka is the go-to business coach for introverts and the owner of the Career Introvert. Yes, introverts, you can be successful in business too! As an introvert herself, Janice has used her new found understanding to build coaching services for women like you and me. As an introvert myself, I enjoyed learning more of Janice’s point of view. What made you want to start your business? What inspired you to do so? I have been teaching workshops around the world for a couple of years now, on networking for introverts. Introversion has become a popular topic lately but there is still a lot of misinformation out there (looking at you, Cambridge dictionary). So I have made it my mission to do the following: I have been teaching workshops around the world for a couple of years now, on networking for introverts. Introversion has become a popular topic lately but there is still a lot of misinformation out there (looking at you, Cambridge dictionary). So I have made it my mission to do the following:

  1. Get all dictionaries to change the definition of introvert. At the moment, the gist of the definitions is “shy and can’t make friends,” which is wrong.
  2. Help introverts with career coaching. That can mean supporting someone who is a new manager or leaving a day job to start his or her own business, or anything in-between.
Not knowing what introversion was until my 30s, I feel that I wasted some of my early years by not really understanding myself. An inspiration for my business is that I want to help others understand themselves better, earlier on in their careers and their lives. Introversion is a very misunderstood area – introverts can suffer mentally and physically because people typecast them or act negatively towards them. It’s not nice to be trapped in a little box. When you label somebody, they tend to act like that label, which stops people from achieving their true potential. I don’t let being an introvert define me, I let it guide me. How do you explain what you do to others?  I help introverted and quiet-loving people understand their full value and bring their unique gifts to the world while embracing the positive traits of introversion. How long have you been doing this? My background is in HR, and the introvert-focused lens was originally just a side hustle. If you include all the workshops and related mentoring that I have done, it all adds up to about five years. What is a day for you like? This really depends on where I am. I tend to spend my mornings interacting with people in various groups, doing outreach or having one-on-one calls. I do client work for the middle part of the day. Then, I may have more scheduled interaction with groups and my last task is to create a to-do list for the next day. I take frequent breaks during the day or as needed. I try to spend at least 3 hours a week helping someone at no cost, be it through groups, answering questions online or just helping someone out with a program they are not used to. People have helped me at no cost, and I enjoy giving a helping hand. While there is a lot of information out there to read, sometimes there’s nothing better than having a real person to show you something. I am very much an experiential learner – reading about something doesn’t help me, I need to work through the steps. I want to give others the option of learning that way as well. How did you go about starting your business? What were some of your initial steps that you took? This was a gradual transition, so I didn’t really think about the steps at the time. I was contacted by a group that was looking for teachers and everything took off from there. When I moved from my full-time job to freelancing, I did one whole month of working two 40 hr/week jobs while traveling, just to see if the freelancing gig was going to work out. Looking back, that was a bit crazy. What I try to do now when I have a new idea is talk it out with some mentors and start with the free stuff. You can start a  Facebook page and create all the initial graphics in Canva, then start growing a community to see if other people are as interested as you are. Join some groups and, when it is allowed, let people know what you do. While you are waiting to tell people what you do, help others, make connections, and do some outreach. You never know what might happen. What are your biggest responsibilities as an entrepreneur? Making sure that I find a balance between keeping clients happy and not burning out. Being a semi-digital nomad in the internet age, you are expected to be always available and it is always tempting to check one last message. It has taken time, but I am getting better at taking time off and disconnecting completely. I also consider it my responsibility to teach people how to treat freelancers! But that is just another pet peeve of mine. What has been the hardest part of your transition? This is something that I think most people have problems with – changing your mindset from employee or freelancer to business owner. When you start out, you are just happy that someone is paying you some attention and you might be tempted to take the first thing offered to you, whether it is a good fit or not. It also takes a while to figure out what you can and can’t deal with as far as clients are concerned. Valuing your time and what you do can be the hardest thing and likely even harder for introverts because we find it hard to toot our own horn. I have had people ask me for my resume, and then need to explain to them that I own a business. I can provide names of people who have worked with me, but they also need to arrange a call to talk with me personally so they can understand better what I bring to the table. What has been the easiest part of your transition? I don’t think any part has been particularly easy. I am the kind of person who just puts their head down and gets on with it. What do you think is the most important characteristic to have for someone who wants to take a similar career route to yours? I am not really sure you could call what I did a career route and to be honest, everyone is different. I will say that not everyone is designed to work for oneself or to create a personalized schedule. If you are not good at keeping yourself accountable, you could run into difficulties. What do you wish you knew before starting out on your own path? The smart answer would be nothing, as everything that has happened has made me who I am and I love to learn. The real answer would be something along the lines of finding a mentor, find many mentors who are a couple steps ahead of you and learn from their mistakes. That said, what works for other people won’t always work for you and you have to be OK with that. Did anyone help you in developing your own business or side business? Not at the beginning. I kind of got lost in my own little world. Now, I have friends who I can reach out to for some things and I always pay the going rate! What is your favorite thing about the industry you work in? I like empowering people. We get so bogged down with negative things these days and keep comparing ourselves to others when we really don’t need to. What are some tools that you can’t live without? WhatsApp – connects me with people no matter where I am on the globe. Todolist – a game changer for projects and helping me feel like I am getting things done. Also available on lots of platforms. There is a free version, but I use the paid one. Evernote – Saves EVERYTHING. I can put into it ideas, client notes, share notes, podcast audio rough drafts, and plan travel. There is so much that can be done with Evernote, and again it is available on and offline. I am now a community leader but I used a paid account for years before that happened. Sugarsync – This has saved me so much time. It backs up everything on my computer to the cloud and is a total life saver when your computer dies. In my case, all I had to do was get a new computer and leave it to sync overnight. The next morning, it was like working on my old computer again. I use the paid version and it is very much worth it! VPN – Protecting your privacy is very important. I happen to use ExpressVPN, but the important message here is that I think more people need to use some kind of VPN service and, for that matter, filters on their laptops when traveling. ExpressVPN also helps me pay my bills when I am traveling away from home. What do you have on your desk or working space right now? Hah! My work space at home is filled with model planes, Snoopy, Minions,  coloring books, workspace and scented candles. Most of the time, though, I am lucky if I have a workspace at all. What do you want other women in similar situations to know about your chosen career path? Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what you really want to do and that is OK. It is also OK to change your mind!
Be sure to check out Janice Chaka at her site, the Career Introvert! Connect with her on Facebook or Pinterest. Janice also has a cool podcast, the Traveling Introvert. Find the podcast on Twitter and Facebook as well.