Invisible Mentor: Miranda Vande Kuyt
Part One: Introduction
Avil Beckford: In a couple of sentences, tell me a little bit about yourself.
Miranda Vande Kuyt: I am a mother of three kids, married to a youth pastor, and have been working in the career development field for the past 10 years. I am an eager overachiever person, and I consider myself a renaissance personality – I do a little bit of everything and whenever I need to learn something new, I go and learn it. Right now, since 2006, I coordinate a lot of blogs for different companies. Most of them are in the career development field so I write, but I also take people who don’t know how to write, and coach them on how to become better writers. I spend a lot of time doing that and I also facilitate an e-course on self-employment for a company, and I’m a student advisor for a career development company, Life Strategies. I just finished editing a suite of curriculum for another company, and they are all in career development. I’m working in the field but I’m not necessarily a career coach right now, I’m in the middle of branding and figuring out what I want my business to be.
Avil Beckford: What’s a typical day like for you?
Miranda Vande Kuyt: A typical day would be to get up and get all the kids ready for school. When I get home I get daycare kids, I run a home daycare during the day, then I go back to school to pick up the kids, go to the park and make supper. So during the days I’m a typical mother and when I put the kids to bed that’s when I sit at the computer and work till at least 11 o’clock at night. It’s go, go, go at my house!
Avil Beckford: How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
Miranda Vande Kuyt: I have quite an internal drive to achieve things, to cross things off the list. I also have a lot of expectations for myself so I have to go, go, go to make it through the day. It helps to talk and stay connected to people and it gives me energy. I’m outgoing and extroverted in that way. I talk on the phone a lot.
Avil Beckford: If you had to start over from scratch, knowing what you now know, what would you do differently?
Miranda Vande Kuyt: I would be more intentional about some of the choices I’ve made and I’d leave more white space for people. Sometimes I can get too driven and I forget about the other people in life.
Avil Beckford: What’s the most important discovery you’ve made in the past year? It could be a discovery about yourself or a business one.
Miranda Vande Kuyt: The most important discovery is that I can’t do it by myself. People need to be in community. You can’t get to the top by yourself, people have to be there along the way. In the last 12 months, I’ve been working with a coach, and talking to people specifically about goals, my business and things like that. I’m realizing how important it is to be intentional about those things.
Avil Beckford: Tell me about your big break and who gave you.
Miranda Vande Kuyt: I would definitely say my big break was given to me by my mentor. At the time I didn’t know he was going to be my mentor. In 2006 I got a job as an administrative assistant, and it was at entry level, way below what I wanted, but it was the field that I wanted, and at the company I wanted to work at so I took a job working there. Part of the job was supporting career development programs, but they wanted me to give support to the manager of all the employment programs. The first day I met him, I sat down in his office, and he asked me to tell him a little bit about myself, so I did. I was asked to be part of a conference planning committee for our industry in British Columbia, and I asked if that was okay to get a couple days in the middle of the year to do that. That was a pivotal moment, he clapped his hand and said, “That’s the kind of initiative we need around here.” From that moment on, things in my life changed because I started to believe in myself. That was part of my big break – working for someone who believed in me.
Part Two: Career
Avil Beckford: How did mentors influence your life?
Miranda Vande Kuyt: The person I just talked about influenced me and we chat from time to time. I now work for a different company, but my supervisor at that company, before I ever started to work for her we used to go out for coffee and chat. I don’t necessarily have official mentors, as much as I have people that I admire how they’re living their life and I try to emulate that. Mentors have influenced me by modeling the life I would like to have.
Avil Beckford: What’s one core message you received from your mentors?
Miranda Vande Kuyt: They are very focused and strategic about where they’re going. I learned, especially in the last year, that I need to figure out where I’m going. They know where they are going and they have a plan how to get there.
Avil Beckford: An invisible mentor is a unique leader you can learn from by observing them from a distance. In that capacity, what is one piece of advice that you would give to others?
Miranda Vande Kuyt: Never stop learning. That has been one of my biggest strengths. I’m continually learning from everything. I make lots of mistakes, and I recently had this conversation with my seven year old that unless you try you’ll never learn. It’s okay to make mistakes because that means you’re trying and you’re learning something. Read books, read articles, take courses and look for opportunities to learn new things.
Avil Beckford: How do you define success? And in your opinion what’s the formula for success?
Miranda Vande Kuyt: I believe success is achieving your purpose. Figure out your purpose in life and then and once you know that, figure out how you’re going to live out your purpose every day.
Avil Beckford: What big steps did you take to succeed in your field? What is one step or action you have consistently taken that has contributed the most to your success?
Miranda Vande Kuyt: Most of my success in my field has been that I am not afraid to try new things. I may be concerned but I do it. In my field, career development, there are – especially in the workplaces that I worked with – a lot of front line workers that were happy to just do things the way they have always been done, but I’m always looking for new ways to do things more effectively and efficiently. One of the first steps is to always be on the lookout for what’s new, and the way I stay on top of what’s new is that I’m always reading and learning about new things. Once I learn them, I write about them. I write articles, blog posts, tweets, Facebook messages, and I talk to people. So figure out what you don’t know, learn it and then teach it to other people. That’s the success model that I’ve been using ever since I got into the field.
Avil Beckford: What process do you use to generate great ideas?
Miranda Vande Kuyt: I do lots of mind mapping. I have notebooks upon notebooks of things. Ideas pop into my head and I have to write them down otherwise I’ll forget them because I’m so busy and have so many things going on with the kids that if I don’t write them down I’ll forget them. I keep pen and paper beside my bed because some of my best ideas come in the middle of the night. Quite often I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and come up with the best line for an article and I have to write it down. I have lots of articles that are started in notebooks and never made it out there for anybody else.
When I get an idea and want to know more, I research it, but this year I took a course on plagiarism because I teach e-courses and part of being a teacher or facilitator is being able to spot plagiarism. When I took that course, they said the number one advice you can give to students is to start with your own ideas. Before you research something, write down everything you know about that topic already, and then look for research to back-up what you already know. Because then your ideas are essential to your writing. When I started doing that, my writing became more interesting because it was flowing from me, and not flowing from everybody else.
Avil Beckford: How do you integrate your personal and other aspects of your life?
Miranda Vande Kuyt: It’s very hard to separate them because being a pastor’s wife there are a lot of different expectations on who I am supposed to be and it took years for me to take those expectations off myself and figure out what my real purpose was in life and it’s not to please everybody else. Because I work from home with small kids, it’s impossible to separate being a mom from me professionally.
Who I am comes out in my writing, and in everything I do and I’m very authentic that way, I don’t hold a lot back. The only way I do separate it is by chunking my time during the day. I focus on the kids and give them my attention so that at nights when they are in bed I can work. It’s hard for me because I love to work and I love to help people so I would love to work all day, but in this season of life, I only have this much time to work. I had to learn what works for me, and it’s different for every person, but once you figure out what works then that’s what you do.
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