Discovering My Ingenuity Rewrote My Story

It was in May of 2020, only 2 months into the pandemic, that it became quite obvious that my role as Vice President of People (VPP), was not long for this pandemic world. I was with a successful live event production company for 5 years before the pandemic, when suddenly all our work was canceled. I was having to lay people off right and left, and there was very little hope that we would recoup our losses any time soon. Like many other event companies, we were a sinking ship, and I knew it wasn’t going to be long before it was my turn to jump off.  So, I laid myself off. As head of HR, I had to fill out my termination paperwork, document my exit interview, and take the leap into the uncharted territory of unemployment.  In doing so, I salvaged the roles of several people at the company, but for me, it was going to be a turning point. One that has changed the course of my life for the better.

NAVIGATING UNEMPLOYMENT IN THE EARLY DAYS OF THE PANDEMIC

My first few weeks out of work were a blur. We were all blindsided by the unexpected lockdown and the fear of the absolute unknown. I would’ve worried more about my future if no one could predict what lay ahead. I found solace in the unknown, bonded with fellow unemployed, and worked to leverage my skills amid the pandemic.

LEVERAGING MY PEOPLE SKILLS IN A SOCIALLY DISTANCED WORLD

My career has always thrived due to my people skills. Connecting, engaging, leading, and mentoring people are my strengths.  Face-to-face communication, handshakes, and hugs are my MO and an important part of who I am and how I interact with others. During a time when my favorite activities were banned, I wondered how I would thrive. And then it hit me, we didn’t have to stop the social interactions and communication, we had to make sure we did more of it …and I knew I was the best person ensure we did.  In July of 2020, I officially launched my own coaching company, iContact Coaching.  

FINDING MY NICHE

Though I lacked formal coaching experience, I had years of professional leadership and a reputation for working with kids. For several years, I volunteered as the assistant director for the local elementary school’s Drama Club musicals. As a lover of the performing arts, this was a hobby that filled my cup.  My involvement with the Drama Club allowed me to become known around my community as someone who had a passion for working with kids and would help them build their confidence and find their proverbial voice. People often asked me to help their children with auditions, interviews, or public speaking confidence. The creation of iContact Coaching officially launched me into a world of working with kids to help build their confidence, leadership, and performance skills.  Ironically, it was at a time when none of their social skills were being put to good use, and so my tagline, “Find Your Voice”, was born.  This is where my ingenuity, the quality of being clever, original, and inventive, was put to the test. I tapped into my inventiveness and uniqueness to launch my first of many coaching classes.

INVENTIVE

When the pandemic began, my daughters were 10 and 12, and I shared deep concerns, as with many other parents, about how online school and social distancing were going to impact their social skills and mental health. This is where my inventiveness began. I knew parents like me would seek ways to keep kids active and away from video games during lockdown. I also knew that there were not a lot of options to get our kids socializing.  The school struggled with online teaching and offered no outdoor activities during the long, hot summer months. My brain was churning. What if I created an online class that got the most socially starved demographic, our teens, talking?

CLEVER

Before the pandemic, I was already using Zoom at work to connect with team members nationwide. Familiarity with virtual communication technology was a huge advantage as I strategized my next move. I knew we needed Zoom’s interactive nature to create a safe, comfortable space for kids to connect.

UNIQUE

“Get Your Teens Talking” This was the name of my very first virtual communication class that I launched in August 2020.  Having no idea if anyone would be interested in a moderated virtual “chat room” type class, I put a flyer out on my FaceBook page. I was pleasantly surprised when I registered 5 girls and 5 boys within days of posting. To better cater to their needs, I divided the classes into separate groups for boys and girls. Additionally, I introduced a virtual Voice-over class, leveraging my many years of experience as a VO actor. By leveraging my virtual skills, I provided unique activities and services unavailable elsewhere. I filled a crucial void for teens, providing them with opportunities to be occupied, social, and creative and discuss the impacts of the pandemic on their lives. In doing so, I was not only building my brand but also fostering a sense of community during a time of social distancing.

I WAS ON TO SOMETHING

My first classes were a success, inspiring me to create a socially distanced public speaking class for kids and teens. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and my first round of registration had over 25 kids, by the end of 2020, I was hosting multiple in-person classes each week with dozens of kids participating. I held classes outside in the warmer months, and I purchased all the PPE safety partitions and equipment needed in the colder months to allow kids to stand and sit across from one another and work on their communication skills.  I eventually branched out and added more classes like improv, interview skills, mind-body wellness exercise classes, and debate.  By the next Summer of 2021, I had two employees and held 5 weeks of in-person summer camp. We were still wearing masks but stayed focused and passionate about building confidence and communication skills.  

NEVER LOOKING BACK

I am now embarking on my 4th summer of iContact Coaching “Summer in the Spotlight” camps.  With over 80 kids registered and a team of middle school “Interns.” I’m known in my community as a resource for parents and for taking risks to meet their needs. I championed the importance of soft skills and communication in kids and teens during their crucial moments. I never imagined my simple idea of keeping kids talking during the pandemic would become my life’s passion. Along with the work I do for children, I now also work with adults.  I joined Humessence in 2023 and brought my Game Changers coaching program for rising leaders, to the team.  I encourage anyone who has an idea that can help make even one person’s life better, to go for it.  You never know what it might grow into.

Check out my very first flyer for my launch of the “Get Your Teens Talking” classes circa July 2020.

Julie Johnston

I have been empowered to hire, mentor and grow people in every role I have held. Coaching is my life’s calling put into action, with a purposeful mission to grow one’s confidence and create more well-rounded humans. My passion and strengths lie in recognizing talent, nurturing potential, mentoring, managing and motivating individuals and teams. I can help with growing careers, collaborating, and strategizing with thought leaders, and improving a company’s overall communication and morale.

My experience with performing arts enables me to incorporate role-playing, public speaking tips, and performance-based activities into my processes. My passion for connecting with people allows me to make them feel seen, heard, and safe in my presence. I can’t wait to meet you!

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