One of Shelly Ryan’s superpowers as a WHEN Career Advisor is her ability to envision how the sum of her clients’ past experiences points the way toward creating their most fulfilling life.
“My focus is to help people live a life they love and that’s ‘finding your WHEN,’” says Shelly. “And I get to do that every single day.”
A common concern among her clients who are facing a crisis or are at a crossroads in their careers is whether they’ve wasted time or walked the wrong path. Shelly is quick to reassure them saying, “Everything we do feeds into what’s next. None of it is wasted.”
And she knows it’s true because she’s lived it.
Growing up in an Iowa farming community, “I lived in a very small box.” But Shelly loved learning and decided to follow her high school friends on the road to higher education. The opportunity opened up whole new worlds to her, and “I leapt out of the box,” she says.
She became the first college graduate in her family, eventually earning her master’s degree in student personnel administration and counseling. Her career began in college admissions and led to a role in a state-funded program assisting low-income elementary school students plan out their pursuit of a degree. She was passionate about her work because she personally knew how life-changing a college education could be.
Then, without warning, her position with the program was abruptly cut. Because of her hard-working farm ethic, she immediately transitioned into a job with a federal agency in D.C., though it brought her no real joy. Five years in, she hit her own career roadblock and realized it was time for an important change in direction.
“I had been on the hamster wheel for a long time, sleep deprived and not really paying attention to who I was and what I was doing,” she shares. This time, she let herself hit the “pause” button. She left her job, taking time off to be still and reflect on where she’d been and what she wanted next. “That’s when I decided I wanted to be a life coach.”
Shelly had been coaching for 10 years the day she saw WHEN’s ad seeking experienced coaches like herself. The more she learned about WHEN’s unique program, the more she wanted to be a part of it. She was soon certified as both a WHEN Career and Being Advisor.
WHEN’s “Life Can Be Better®” philosophy beautifully aligned with Shelly’s own personal mission of helping people create a life and career they love. “We spend so much time at work,” she says, “Why not love the work that you do?”
“I love the fact that we’re focused on employees, that a company would care enough to give their employees the added support that a WHEN program provides,” she continues. “I think that’s beautiful. What a great resource for an employee.”
Unlike traditional coaching, the WHEN system is set up so busy employees can get immediate guidance and support for any issue they’re facing. “It is shocking the amount we can get done in four 30-minute sessions,” Shelly says. “The relationship we build and the tools we use help people get to an endpoint a lot quicker.”
Shelly credits the three pillars of the WHEN program — Career, Being, and Health — as a big reason behind WHEN’s success with their members. The pillars help WHEN create personalized solutions for each participant. “One size doesn’t fit all. This structure allows members to get what they need and WHEN Advisors to meet members where they are.”
Since becoming a WHEN Advisor in 2018, Shelly’s watched WHEN members get promotions and work toward degrees. She’s helped people uncover career paths and step into bigger roles at their current companies. Across the board, she’s witnessed each member make huge gains in personal confidence.
And her role at WHEN continues to expand. A couple of years after coming on board, Shelly was invited to become WHEN’s Chief Career and Training Officer. She’d already been assisting in that area, so it was a natural transition.
She ensures every member receives the same exceptional experience from the moment they join the WHEN program. In addition to watching her clients evolve, she supports WHEN Advisors in their professional and personal growth. She’s actively involved in recruiting skilled coaches and coordinating their training. She’s a resource they can lean on for any questions that come up in the course of their WHEN work.
A former math major, Shelly’s also engaging her love of statistics alongside the WHEN data team. Together, they measure member satisfaction and are developing metrics to demonstrate the ways WHEN is helping companies recruit and retain employees.
Shelly sees WHEN being perfectly positioned to make a powerful impact on companies nationwide. “There’s so much need right now between the ‘Great Resignation’, burnout levels, and the statistics showing people are not engaged in their work,” she says.
WHEN easily aligns with most company cultures, and it’s affordable. “Well-being is an important part of the workforce,” says Shelly. “I would love to have had my company say, ‘Hey, we’re here to help you. What do you need? I’ve got this resource for you.’ This is a great way to really take care of their employees.”
Shelly walks her WHEN talk by maintaining balance in her own life with exercise, time with loved ones, and seeking out chances to recharge. “If we could just slow down for a moment and pay attention to what’s going on and what’s important to us, that’s a game changer. And when you do that, you get to ask, ‘Am I heading in the right direction? What needs to change?’”
Offering essential guidance and introducing WHEN members to tools that help them make these profound discoveries about themselves brings her great joy. “I love that we get to make that difference for people.”
From a small community where few were encouraged to dream beyond the farm fields, Shelly’s now a world traveler (having visited forty-eight states and six continents) who helps others grow beyond their own boundaries and self-imposed limitations.
“To be living this life right now is beyond my own wildest dreams, to be honest,” she says. “I feel really fortunate and blessed to have taken this journey. I love the work that I do.”
WHEN Contributing Well-Being Writer