Tell us your name and a little about yourself.
My name is Kourtney Whitehead. For the last twenty years, I’ve worked to enhance the careers of others. I led teams in recruiting, career design and talent management, and served as an adviser to large Fortune 500 corporations and private equity-backed companies on executive searches. I currently work to help manage the career transitions and board placements of senior industry leaders. So basically, work is my work.
I recently published my first book, Working Whole, and it’s about how to integrate your work and spiritual life. And I also founded SimplyService.org which is an online community focused on supporting the creation of spiritually centered work lives. I’m passionate about linking the work we enjoy doing and the impact it has on the lives of others. I believe that somewhere in each of us, we want more than just money or another new achievement. We certainly have to provide for ourselves and our families, but we also want to enjoy our lives and play a unique role in the creation of a better world.
What were the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
The one lesson that has probably helped me the most in life was learned during a period of depression, which included an attempted suicide when I was a teenager. Though not an easy memory to reflect on, I know that it prepared me to be comfortable being with people who feel hopeless and lost and helping them see the way forward. This ease and even pull toward people that are searching for meaning has to lead me to my career path and is certainly a major reason why I wrote this book.
What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you at the start of your career?
To be aware that there’s tension between security and exploration. At the start of my career, I wanted a more defined and secure career track and often pursued it at the expense of the freedom to explore. I wish I was encouraged to try different things and view my first jobs as a means to identify and move toward fulfillment earlier in my career. But with that said, I don’t begrudge the path that leads me to my job today. I love what I do and part of what makes me so committed to helping others find their best fit is that I know what it is like to go to work every day uninspired and drained. I also know that the journey toward the work you should be doing can be messy and long.
Who are your biggest influences and people you admire and why?
The people that influence my work the most are those individuals working on the front line trying to help address societies needs, advocating for people (or frankly any living thing) that doesn’t have or can’t use their own voice, and the people that dare to share their art with the world. I’m borderline obsessed with the work lives of others and inspired by so many of the people around me. It spills into my life well beyond my profession. Most of the television shows I watch and novels I read have some sort of career theme. And while I work in the corporate world, my fandom for creative people such as chefs, writers, artists, musicians, and interior designers is over the top.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
I’ve had several key bosses and mentors that have shaped not just my skills, but the way I work and the things I value. But also family, friends, and sometimes complete strangers that have played an important part in my career. One example is a parking attendant that let me park my car at a DC hotel, against their policy, because I was almost late for an important job interview. I don’t know this person’s name and I will probably never see him again, but I think about him and that simple act of grace frequently.
What do you see as your greatest success in life?
Feeling comfortable enough in my own skin to do the work that matters most to me, which is no small thing. I spent a good portion of my life feeling unworthy of my dreams, and I know I’m not alone in having that secret fear. Writing books, advising others, and even small things like sharing my life on social media would at one time have been unthinkable. So while I can point to my degrees on the wall or prestigious places I’ve worked, I know that true success, and ultimately fulfillment, doesn’t have anything to do with that stuff.
Please list your social media URLs
Kourtney Whitehead has focused her career on helping people reach their work goals, from executive searches to counseling to career transitions, through her positions at top executive recruiting firms and consulting companies. Her site, SimplyService.org, is an online community focused on supporting the creation of spiritually centered work lives. She is a sought-after speaker and podcast guest. Her new book, Working Whole, shares how to unite spiritual and work life. Learn more at SimplyService.org.
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