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  • Writer's pictureIWF Finland

Member Story of Maria Carlsson

Maria is a Lady of many Careers, a Partner at Bird & Bird Attorneys, a guest lecturer at the University of Helsinki, certified coach, and published writer in the areas of leadership and executive coaching.

1. How do you manage all this?

Since when I can remember, I have been interested in many different things. I never knew what I wanted to become as a grownup - I was the high school vocation advisor's nightmare.

When I studied law in London some twelve years ago, I began to study coaching as well. I had been doing some research on it in Finland, and in London, I found a suitable school. I finished my certification studies in Finland and founded a coaching company with a friend in 2006. My first book, Esimies ja Coaching, came out of this cooperation.

For many years, I did legal work, coaching and writing simultaneously. At some point I realized that society did not consider this normal; the norm was having one full-time job. In order for you to become seen as an expert in your field, you needed to put all your time into just that one, chosen field, or people would doubt your skills. During the years I became an expert at wearing just one hat at a time. I am very happy that this perception is now changing.

2. How do you combine the balance of different careers and private life?

These things are related to your personal energy levels: My view is that you learn by experience what things in life energize you, and you learn to focus on those things and say no to other things.

My first book came to be in a creative stint: I wrote in cafés, at our summer house, in museums, wherever I felt that I was able to gain a new perspective. At the time, I had my own company, so I was able to choose my writing schedule. My other books were written while I was in a full-time job, and writing my last book, Ruuhkavuosien ratkomisopas, took me more than four years.

With the rise of freelancing in Finland during the last decade or so, moving across boundaries has become more normal. As working life keeps changing, I believe that we will see different fields crossing and new disciplines created. In the future, we may all have a variety of jobs and other pursuits that we can tap into at different periods of our lives.

3. How do your different careers "feed into" each other?

For me the interesting thing is to connect the dots, bridge different disciplines, do the puzzles in my head. For example, my coaching background has given me a lot of insight into leadership, which helps me in my role as a leader at my current law firm.

Putting ideas into written format is also something that bridges many disciplines, such as those of law and coaching. As a lawyer, I write contracts and structure arguments for the benefit of the client. As a coach, I analyse businesses and structure goals for the benefit of the customer.

The normal, accepted way of building a working career is to proceed step by step, building a logical CV. I believe that the stray paths may sometimes take you to the next level of professional competence. Trying out new things, failing and trying again is often where you get your most valuable insights.

4. What would you give as a tip or guide when wondering how to proceed with parallel careers and interests, especially if they are from very different fields?

Live life purposefully, but remember to be compassionate with yourself. There will always be things that you are good at, things that you passionately want to do and things that others will pay you to do. These three may not always overlap - nor do they have to. All pursuits also do not need to be on the same financial level.

I often ask myself: Where can you give something to others? What story needs to be told? When you know, don't be afraid to go for it. It will not always be what you think it will be, but I guarantee that it will be worth the effort!


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