brenda peterson
Her Dream

Meet Introverted Coach & Speaker, Brenda Peterson

Say hello to Brenda Peterson from Nebraska, USA. In her dream life, work and life are integrated. She is a many-time best-selling author using her lessons learned to help people work through layoffs, navigate job transitions, and build career resilience.

Her life also includes the time and schedule flexibility for her to take road trips with her husband, spend time with family and friends, read, write, practice yin yoga, spend time outside, and inline skate.

Tell us about the work you do and what inspired you to start this business or career.

My “day job” is in the field of learning and development. I have always been driven to help people overcome obstacles. I enjoy figuring out how to navigate complex situations and help others so that they are better prepared to handle whatever life throws at them. 

Unfortunately, my chosen line of work is often one of the first to be cut when companies go through trying times. To date, I have been laid off seven times. Multiple factors impacted those layoffs including the financial state of the business, new leadership, new ownership, company reorganizations, and overall economic conditions. 

Each time I went through this process, I learned new strategies for managing this challenging transition.

Over the years, I’ve chatted with friends, family members, former coworkers, and friends of all of those people to share my insights on how to pivot. This process usually includes reminding them that they are not a failure, that they are not alone, and that they will get through this trying time—and most likely end up in a much better place at the end. 

I blogged about my career transition experience after my fourth layoff.

After layoff number seven, I became more intentional about creating a platform and a brand for my message. I adopted the moniker The Layoff Lady, and focused on creating content about layoffs, job transitions, and career resilience.

I volunteered as a facilitator for The White Box Club, a group that offers monthly virtual meetings to help people navigate post-layoff career transition. In addition, I delivered interactive training sessions on career resilience to several professional organizations.

In December of 2023, I published my book Seven Lessons From Seven Layoffs: A Guide. This handbook walks people through the trying time between layoff day and the first day of their next professional job.

I continue to blog weekly at The Layoff Lady, provide career coaching to a select group of clients, appear on podcasts, and speak on topics including opportunity readiness, career contingency planning, job search messaging, and compassionate layoffs for leaders.

Through it all, I use my strong desire to help people learn and grow and empower them to keep on keeping on to overcome their career challenges. 

Has being an introvert affected your life and your career?

Being an introvert has definitely affected my life and my career.

I’ll start with a couple of advantages. For one, I am a good listener. When I talk with business stakeholders to help them come up with a solution to a problem they have, I will let them talk through their challenges until they run out of things to say. I think they are often surprised that I’m not cutting them off or trying to tell them they are on the wrong track.

Doing a lot of listening and then paraphrasing what I heard them say (with the invitation that they can correct anything I got wrong) builds an amazing amount of trust in a short period of time.

I also don’t need a lot of stimulus to keep me engaged. I don’t typically get bored, and I can always find something to learn about, pontificate, or appreciate. I also tend to try to work through a problem before I ask someone for help. This often results in the perception that I’m easier to work with and lower drama. 

As for disadvantages, there are a few things I’ve had to learn how to navigate.

While I can present on stage in front of a thousand people in my area of expertise and be in my happy place, making small talk afterward is challenging for me. I’d much rather have deeper conversations with a few people than have quick passing conversations with a whole lot of people in rapid succession. I’ve learned that it helps if I have an extroverted colleague to help me engage with people.

I also prepare ahead of those situations so I have a few topics at hand to talk about. Those might include the event that we’re at, news about the local sports team, or asking for a recommendation on local activities to check out.

I also know that I need to gracefully exit a networking event relatively early because those interactions drain me quickly. 

I find that I express myself better in writing after having time to reflect on a topic than I do right away verbally. Overall, I try to prepare for feedback meetings ahead of time whenever possible, like asking ahead of time for the questions they plan to ask so I can ruminate on them before being asked to respond. This helps me give useful feedback, and also minimize my own stress. 

Share a significant lesson you have learned on your journey so far.

Overall, I have learned the value of not just managing my time, but also managing my energy.

After my seventh layoff, I was in a career transition for nine months. One of the hard truths about career transition is that it is a period in life where people receive more rejection all at once than perhaps at any other time in life, and each of those “no’s” takes a toll.

Since unemployment is also a time that you live one week at a time–not knowing if you’ll be re-employed in a week, a month, or a year—energy management is especially critical.

While my mind always wanted to apply for one more job, network with one more person, or make one more LinkedIn post, I had to remind myself that everything I did took energy, and I needed to use my energy strategically.

As an introvert, I also knew that each social interaction took its toll. I started prioritizing my activities according to the value they had to my overall goal of finding a new job. A job interview was always my top priority. Even if there was an in-person networking event where I might make a valuable connection, I learned to stop trying to do it all and prioritize my energy by saying no more often.

By conserving my energy and dedicating time to self care, I was able to perform better in interviews and give myself the strength to keep on keeping on as long as needed until I found the right new role for me.

What advice would you give to other introverted women who are on a journey to build their dreams?

In short, be yourself and disregard people who try to tell you that you have to change who you are at your core to be successful.

I find that the more I interact with people, the more I realize that there are many “right” ways to be in the world.

Earlier in my career, I felt like I needed to take on extroverted characteristics to be more successful. Now, I realize the value in embracing my natural ways of working and being instead of fighting them and trying to act like what seemed to be the norm (which, by the way, is exhausting).

For example, after engaging with people in a meeting, classroom, or conference setting, I schedule recovery time afterward. I also prioritize activities and work hard not to overschedule myself. I work with my energy levels so I can be present when I’m with people, then plan alone time afterward to recharge.

I’m no longer that person who puts my personal wellbeing aside and “fakes extroversion” in hopes that I will be more successful. 

Thank you for taking the time to share your story.

If you want to learn more about Brenda Peterson, you can find her here:

Website: thelayofflady.com

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