Abbe's Winding Path
I met Abbe Jacobson in graduate school about 20 years ago. We’ve managed to stay in touch all these years and she’s someone who has had to make some big choices in where she places work relative to other concerns in her life, including family and her own health. Abbe, 55, resides in Seattle, WA and transitioned from being a journalist to serving as a health coach. She received a BA in Political Science and an MPA and now serves as a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC) at Abbe Jacobson Coaching, LLC.
In two-three sentences how would you describe what you do most days/weeks?
I help people improve their relationships with food, movement, their bodies and themselves. In our work together, clients clarify their values, purpose and motivations. They also create a wellness vision that provides the scaffolding for their desired health goals. Weekly meetings provide opportunity for accountability, strategizing and discussion regarding obstacles, challenges and next steps.
What did you want to be when you were eight?
I wanted to sing in musicals on Broadway!
What did you learn about work that you learned from your family?
Always apply yourself, do your best, and work hard.
What professional experiences/employers had the greatest impact on you?
I secured my first internship during college thanks to a newsroom bureau chief who appreciated my moxie and desire to just “be in a newsroom.” She was the first mentor I ever had.
I’ve always believed that mentors are important. I do my best now to mentor young people whenever I have the chance.
What is something about your career journey that people might not expect?
A cancer diagnosis 20 years ago brought me to the professional coaching field. At first I was seeking answers for myself. After my health stabilized I decided to turn my knowledge into a career.
Up to that point I had always believed that I would go back into a role in public administration, public policy or politics. This was not an easy decision. I had worked hard to earn a graduate degree in a field that I enjoyed. Even now when I am not reading books about habits or behavior change, I can still be found listening to political podcasts or delving into books on public policy.
But life took me in another direction and I decided to trust myself and take a leap.
With no experience as a health professional and no degree in science, I had a lot of work to do to gain the skills necessary to be a good health coach. But one common thread through my lifetime is my ability to be tenacious. I sought out gold-standard training programs in lifestyle medicine, coaching theories, techniques, and skills. This culminated in receiving national board certification through the National Board of Health and Wellness Coaches. I am particularly proud of being a nationally board certified health coach (NBC-HWC). This certification demonstrates that I have the skills and knowledge necessary to coach clients safely, ethically and effectively around health and wellness.
What was the hardest part about making a career pivot?
Fighting doubt and imposter syndrome. Two decades ago the coaching field was in its infancy. It was hard to feel like I was doing something legitimate when the coaching profession was so young and new. These days coaching programs are more professionalized and standardized as evidenced by the national board certification in health coaching. Health Coaches are now working alongside health professionals in doctor’s offices, hospitals, digital coaching companies, and corporate wellness programs. Coaching as a profession will only continue to grow and I am proud to call myself a coach!
What were the most important lessons you’ve picked up along the way?
Stay curious. Remain open to growth. Be humble.
I have an insatiable curiosity about the world. This most likely stems from my earliest days directly out of college when I worked as a newspaper reporter. Back in those days I had to figure out how to summarize a complicated budget proposal into a 500-word newspaper article on deadline. This gave me the confidence to believe that I have the ability to figure out whatever I set my mind to.
But in reality the only way to learn something new is to have a beginner’s mind. As coaches like to say - “be willing to suck at it.” No one starts out learning French with a perfect French accent and extended vocabulary. It takes time to lay the foundation to master a language. With a beginner’s mind, it’s possible to learn anything! If you want to make a career change, take it one step at a time from a place of humility and desire to learn. You will get there!
What was the hardest thing you had to overcome in your professional life?
Self-doubt. Self-doubt can be insidious. Doing the work to manage self-doubt is the door to growth and reaching your dreams.
What, if anything, are you hoping happens next in your professional life?
I hope that I never limit myself!
Case in point: In August I led a group of 20 cancer survivors up to the top of Mount St. Helens in Washington. This was a fundraising climb for Team Survivor Northwest, a Seattle-based non-profit providing free fitness to women diagnosed with cancer where I serve on the board. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could successfully lead such a large group of women - many of whom just recently finished cancer treatment - to the top of an active volcano and one of the tallest peaks in WA state. We also raised nearly $50,000 through the process. This endeavor required me to lean on my coaching and leadership experience along with my organizational skills as a former “soccer mom” to my two kids, now young adults at the beginning of their own careers. While I made sacrifices personally and professionally over the years to be present for our kids, I knew that someday those “soccer mom” skills would come in handy. If you can wrangle 30 teenage boys on a soccer team, you can certainly lead a mountain climb! Leading this climb was a peak life experience that combined all of my greatest strengths as a coach, leader, organizer, and business owner.
Next up: Continuing to grow my skills in emotional and mental health so I can expand my work with clients. In January I will begin classes at Arizona State University’s School of Social Work (online) to work toward my master’s degree in Social Work. As long as I am able, I am committed to growth as a coach and person so that I can help individuals feel empowered around their health, habits, and lifestyle behaviors.
—Russ Finkelstein [linkedin.com] is the opposite of your High School Guidance Counselor. A career coach, social entrepreneur, and advisor to founders, he is currently the Director of Coaching with the Roddenberry Fellowship, Coach-in-Residence with StartingBloc Fellowship, and a Co-Founder of Title8 a Legal Marketplace. He was a founder of the noted careers website Idealist.org and was chosen as a Generation Z Influencer by LinkedIn.