What’s it like to be homeless during your career transition? Helen Wix, a former secretary turned Reiki Master, healer, and coach describes her experience being evicted from her home and spending 3 years being homeless in Washington, DC. She shares her thoughts on paying attention to signs that point you in a different direction, declaring what you want for your career, and clearing out your own emotional baggage before you can truly move on.  I also share some thoughts on the importance of defining the standards you want for your career and life.

Key Career Insights

  1. You have to surround yourself with likeminded individuals to help you get out of your ruts
  2. You have to WANT to get yourself out of your circumstances and BELIEVE there’s another way your career can be in order for you to improve your conditions.
  3. We have a lot of emotional clutter you have to clear out before you can make room for other, more authentic, positive things in your life.

Tweetables to Share

Resources Mentioned

  • Helen mentioned her special report on “How to Make Your Soul Sing” to help you do more of the work you love and live the life of your dreams.

Listener Challenge

During this episode’s Mental Fuel segment, I talked about the importance of defining the standards you want met in your career. What are the expectations you have from yourself and from your work. Define those standards. Declare those standards. Then, ask yourself what change you need to make in order to actually live by those standards.

About Helen Wix, Healer & Coach

Helen Wix Holistic LivelihoodDr. Helen D. Wix is a certified life and spiritual coach, psychic, Reiki Master Practitioner, author, spiritual teacher, minister, and an energy therapist. She is the Founder of the MLM Mastery Academy and describes herself as a modern-day Harriet Tubman because she leads people to freedom from jobs they hate and empowers them to find work that makes their souls sing. For 25 years she worked in corporate America as a secretary for different industries such as financial planning, hospitality, engineering, entertainment, and property management. She served as a legal secretary the last eight years that she worked which she didn’t like very much because as long as she can remember she wanted to be a fiction writer. Follower Helen on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Episode Interview Transcript

Teaser (first ~15s): I know that I was created for more than this, and I’m going to find out what it is. I had never reached that point. That was a turning point for me, and I went on to find out what my purpose was.

Joseph: Helen, thank you so much for joining me here on Career Relaunch. I am very excited to hear all about your story today.

Helen: It’s nice being here. Thank you so much for inviting me.

Joseph: I got a lot I want to talk about today, Helen. I know you’ve got a very interesting story. I want to talk a little bit about your time as a secretary, which is I know how you spent the majority of your career. I’d also like to hear a little bit more about the three years you spent in transition, homeless, and then also the work you’re doing right now as a holistic energy healer and how you bounced back from that time to now focus on helping people find work that makes their souls sing as you put it.

I’d love to start off by just having you tell us a little bit more about what you’re focused on right now as an energy healer in your career.

Helen: Thank you very much again for having me here. Because I spent so much time trying to find work that makes my soul sing, it came natural for me to help other people to do that. As you know, I was a secretary for about 25 years. I never liked it. I always wanted to write. I’m more of a creative person. I understand that when people are stuck in jobs that they hate, you just feel like you’re trapped, feel like a prisoner, slave, whatever you want to call it.

The work that I do, I do more of the inner work. We each have our own path, and it has to unfold. It does not come all at once, and we can’t rush it. I know people feel like the work that they’re doing, they feel like maybe they’re not making a difference. That’s something I feel like is in everybody. They want to feel like their work means something and is making a difference on the planet. Our desire is to be of service, and I think the happiest people on the planet are the ones who want that. They’re not here just for themselves, but they’re here to be of service to other people.

Joseph: Let’s go back to talk about your earlier years, before you were a healer, when you were secretary, and then we can move forward from there. Can you just briefly walk me through how you got started in your 25-year career as a secretary and tell us a little bit about what you did as a secretary?

Helen: It actually started before I became a secretary. It was in school. My dad forced me to take typing classes. I was forced to take typing classes even after I learned how to type. He had this problem with creativity, and I was not encouraged to do anything creative. Anyway, I learned how to type, and I guess it just naturally led to me becoming a secretary. Like I said, I never liked it. I never wanted to do that, but I was able to fit for it myself.

The first job I had, it wasn’t as a secretary. I remember working for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). That was my first time being in an office. Most of the jobs I seem to get were dead end. There just was really no way to advance. It seems like a secretary really was not viewed as being important. Sometimes, you were not treated with great kindness and respect.

Joseph: Why do you think that is that people don’t treat you with the same level of respect as other colleagues?

Helen: In our society, they’ve kind of like pecking order some jobs and looking at it as more important than others. I guess I kind of understand that. It’s like the more value you give, the more money you get. Being a secretary is kind of on the lower end. I don’t agree with that, but that’s how some people look at it. To me, like a receptionist, that’s like the first impression people get of the company. The receptionist to me is very important. That’s how I view it.

I can’t say that in every job I was not treated with kindness and respect because I was, but some jobs, I wasn’t. That really bothered me. Also, I did not make a lot of money in a lot of the jobs that I had, and I wasn’t able to live the kind of life I wanted. I always wanted to travel. I love traveling, and it was always a struggle financially it seemed.

Joseph: What do you think are one or two of the most common ways that secretaries or receptionists are misunderstood by other people in the workplace?

Helen: What comes to mind immediately to me is that we are more than that. We have capabilities more than just being a secretary. I actually have one attorney I worked for who tried to encourage me to go to law school, but that was not something I wanted to do. I’m not trying to be unkind when I say this. I think being a secretary is noble. There are some people who want to do it, but most of the people I’ve ever talk to who was a secretary, that was not something that they were referring to. They never said, ‘I want to be a secretary when I grew up.’

I think that’s one of the things that bothered me, that I had more capability than maybe the people I was working for realize. You’re kind of treated that way, like you don’t have any greater ambition or something like that. That used to really bother me.

Joseph: What do you think was the most challenging part of the job?

Helen: Probably getting along with people. You had different personalities. If you did not have interpersonal skills and inner wisdom—I think it’s called, instead of IQ, EQ—having some kind of way of reading people and knowing how to approach them, I think you kind of had a more difficult time working with the different personalities there.

Joseph: When we spoke before, Helen, you had described to me this turning point when you were a secretary. I thought it was an interesting story about the copy machine moments that ultimately convinced you, you wanted to move on. Can you just share exactly what that moment was and recreate that for me?

Helen: I was working at a very well-known Silicon Valley company. One day, I was handed a stack of papers, and they were not just normal. I just could not put them in the copier and hit start and let it go. They were 8.5×11. Some of the papers were 8.5×14, and then some papers were front and back. I don’t know what it was that particular day. Usually, that doesn’t bother me, but that particular day, something in me snapped. The papers meant nothing to me. Even though I was working for an attorney, most of the work was done by an outside firm.

That particular day, I did not have any clue as to what this case was about. I had never met the client. I was standing there at the copier, and as you know, I know that I was created for more than this, and I’m going to find out what it is that I’m here to do. I had never reached that point before. I had never made that kind of declaration before. That was a turning point for me, that day at that copier, and I went on to find out what my purpose was.

Joseph: What did you have in your head in terms of what you’re going to do next? How did you envision your next steps shaping up? The reason why I ask that, Helen, is I know that when we spoke before, you kind of thought that this transition out of secretarial work to something else might take a year, but it ended up taking longer. What did things look like the moment you decide to move on?

Helen: There were several things that came into my life. I became a student at the University of Metaphysics. At that time, I did not have a college degree. This program presented itself, and I could get a doctoral degree. I decided to enroll in that.

One of the first things that we had to do was learn how to meditate, and I had been discouraged to do that. I actually was a little nervous about doing it, but I was not living the kind of life I wanted, so I decided that I would overcome that fear and do it anyway. I began meditating, and I started intuitively feeling like I should quit, but I didn’t have any money saved. I didn’t have a boyfriend or a husband, and my family was 3,000 miles away. To me, that seemed irresponsible for me to just up and quit. I refused to do that.

Then two women at work who had never bothered me before started harassing me. One would get stuff off my desk, take papers off my desk, and then I was looking all over for them and couldn’t find them, and then she would put them back. It was like they’re playing games with me. I went to management about them, and one of them got worse instead of better. I decided that I’d listen to the universe. This is the universe trying to tell me, ‘You should quit,’ and so I did. I packed my stuff up one day, and I walked out. I ended up going back to school.

Before that though, I applied for unemployment and was turned down, but I appealed. When I went to the judge and I explained to him I was being harassed, he ruled in my favor. To me, that was the universe. Everything fell into place. I was able to go back to school for two years, and I studied film and screenwriting, and those were two of the happiest years of my life. It showed me that life can be enjoyable. It doesn’t have to be drudgery and dreading Monday morning, which is how I used to feel. That was the beginning for me.

After I got my associate’s degree, a couple of months later, my mom passed away suddenly. I moved back to Tennessee, which is where I’m from, and was there for about three years. Then I sold the house my mom left me, and I moved to the Washington DC area.

Joseph: Sometimes, when I hear from listeners, they ask, ‘This idea of leaving your past job behind and moving on to something else, it sounds great, but what happens if it doesn’t exactly work out the way you hope, especially if you don’t have that sort of financial buffer?’ You always hear about these overnight success stories, but what happens with people when it doesn’t quite go according to plan? Can you explain how things then transpired for you from this point onward?

Helen: I actually ended up auctioning the house that my mother left me because nobody would make an offer on it, so I got much less than I could’ve gotten for it. I moved anyway. I wanted to start a new life, and DC was where I felt I was being led. I ended up going there, and I stayed in a hotel for about a month, and then I found a permanent place. I paid the rent for a year.

I thought that that would give me enough time to get my business started. I was, at the time, going to this school, one with back correspondence, and then the other was online, and I was trying to start the business. The money just never started coming in like I thought it would. I ended up being evicted because the money just never came in, and my landlord—I have to give it to him—they hated doing that to me. They knew I was there to try to do something good, but this was about business, so there I am.

I actually had gone to the library and then to the doctor that day. I came home, and all my stuff was out on the lawn. Most of it had gone. People had taken it. I tell you, that moment was surreal, but you know what? That moment also taught me that our lives are not about things. I can look back on that now and let it go. Sometimes, things don’t turn out like we planned, but I think that you have to look for the lesson in everything, good or bad, especially the bad. That’s what I did. I got to the other side of it, and I can look back on it now and realize it may have been one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Joseph: Before we get to how you got to the other side, I’d love to switch gears and just focus in on your time when you were homeless, Helen, because I think it’s one of those things that, at least for most people who are maybe listening to this podcast, it never really crosses your mind that that could ever happen. Did you ever think that that would ever happen in your lifetime, that you would be homeless?

Helen: No. I had been behind on the rent, like I think most people have. I had had that happen before, but I always manage to get the money at the last minute, get a job or something. That had never happened to me before. No, you don’t expect that to happen. In fact, I had spent the first week in hospital emergency room, waiting room. That’s where I slept. I wanted to be around people, and I never was outside. I never spent any time outside. That first week, I did that, and then I began to realize that this was not sustainable because I needed to shower, and I needed to wash my hair. I finally went into a shelter.

I remember the next day, after having been able to sleep horizontal instead of vertical, I was walking down the street, and I believe it was Independent Street in DC, I was so angry that I had ended up there, ended up in this situation. I had been sitting up like 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning trying to figure out how to market my business. I’m walking down the street thinking about that and how this could happen to me. I started realizing, I said, ‘This happened for a reason, and I’m going to have to let go of this anger and get quiet enough to find out why.’

Joseph: This is a period of three years of your life. What was an average day like for you as someone who found herself homeless?

Helen: I always have something to work towards. I always knew what I was going to be doing the next day. I was always involved in personal development since my early 20s. I had learned very early on that it’s very important to keep your mind together. What you put in your mind is going to determine the kind of life you have even in that shelter.

I didn’t do it every day, but I got up a lot of mornings. I meditated first, and then I would sometimes do inspirational reading. Not sometimes, all the time. It depends on sometimes I didn’t have as much time, but I always tried to read something encouraging and that was going to lift me. I also did affirmations. I’m really big on that, and that helped me to stay positive. It kept me working on my inner self because I knew that it could be detrimental to me if I didn’t do that. It was lonely. Sometimes, it was really lonely.

What I ended up doing was going outside the shelter system, finding people, likeminded people who are trying to start businesses like I was. That helped tremendously. I volunteered at an organization, and I met some wonderful people. They just made the biggest difference in my life.

Ultimately, what helped me was following my inner guidance, my intuition, which I’ve heard you speak about. That helped me in those three years: following what my inner guidance was telling me. That tremendously helped me to find myself on the other side of that.

Joseph: What do you think surprised you the most about your life when you no longer had a stable roof over your head during those years?

Helen: That whole experience. It really helped me to become a much more easygoing and not being upset when things don’t go the way I planned. I don’t like the fact that I had to go through it, but in some ways, I really appreciate the experience. I really do.

Joseph: What do you think are some of the misconceptions or the judgments you faced as someone who was homeless, whether those judgments were fair or not?

Helen: I think the misconception that people have about homeless people is that they want to be. Unfortunately, some do. Not all, some of the people fit in that category. I was lumped in with everyone else. Like I said, there are some people who don’t want to work and don’t want to take care of themselves. I was just lumped in regardless to what initiative or accomplishments I had achieved. I got my doctorate while I was in the homeless shelter.

Joseph: Why do you think people want to be homeless?

Helen: Some of the people that I met, some of them have had traumatic things happen to them. When you have not healed from that, it’s very draining to your energy. When you have to have your own place, it requires you to take care of it. There are things that you have to do, the responsibility that you have to carry out. That’s hard, and I understand that.

Some would who prefer this thing there in the shelter and have something provided for them so that they don’t have to deal with the outside. Some went about trying to get financial support, be it disability or whatever, and I was asked if I wanted to do that, and I said no. I don’t want that. I don’t want to go that route. I wanted to be an example of someone who can use her gift, talent, and ability and get myself out of these circumstances. That was what my whole goal had been and part of my purpose. I kind of feel like that’s part of my purpose.

I feel like the system, the way it’s set up currently, it does make people dependent, and that’s not what we need. People should be given the tools to heal, and they should be allowed to express their talents and be a blessing to the planet. That’s what we’re here for.

As far as I was concerned, I was trying to show that I want more than this life. Most of the time, you’d be madder. It kind of reminds me of the prison system. The homeless system was just an extension of the prison system, and there’s that inhumanity. It was almost like you were a number or you have gotten yourself into this. You must’ve done something wrong or something like that, without even somebody trying to find out what happened. You were just looked at with this thing.

Joseph: Before we talk about how you ultimately got out of this world of being homeless, what was the toughest part of being homeless?

Helen: The toughest part was not being heard. I had this gift as a healer. I approached people about what I saw needed to be done in the system, of people needing healing, and it fell on deaf ears. I reached the conclusion that the system being set up this way is not by accident. Let’s just put it that way.

Joseph: It sounds like the system, as you’ve described it, is designed to keep you homeless, not to get you out. How did you ultimately get out?

Helen: I was approached by a fellow homeless person. She mentioned to me that there was a program, and I didn’t want to hear about it because all the programs I found out about, I would ask if I was eligible, and I would be told no. That’s all I heard, ‘No.’ If I didn’t have a mental problem, drug problem, or domestic violence or was a veteran, there was no program for me. I couldn’t believe that. That just blew my mind.

Anyway, this person approached me, and she said, ‘Why don’t you come with me? There’s a place where we can go and we can get an assessment done.’ I told her no the first time. I told her no, and then she mentioned it to me again. This time, I felt, ‘Perhaps I better,’ and I decided I agree. We went and I had this assessment done, and I was told that I was eligible for the rapid rehousing program. That eventually came through for me. That’s how I was able to get out, but it wasn’t without me doing some soul searching and realizing that ultimately the person who is going to help me get out of the place, I wasn’t going to be getting help from anyone else.

Joseph: When we spoke before, you had talked about what you just alluded to, which was that you had a lot of changing and healing and growing to do on the inside before you could ultimately move on and open up the next chapter in your life. What did you mean by that?

Helen: I told you earlier that I had my own personal experience. When I was five years old, I had a trauma, and I believe that’s what led me to become a healer myself now. I spent years trying to heal myself from that. All of the things, all of the tools that I use is where I help people with now.

The analogy I like using is that TV show, Hoarders, on A&E. They show these people who accumulate so much stuff, you can’t even see what their room looks like. Once all of those stuff is cleared out, you could see the room clearly. That’s how I view us. We have a whole bunch of things that we have accumulated, a bunch of emotional clutter. The tool that I use help clear all of that stuff out until, finally, you emerge as your authentic, real self. I had to go through all of that clearing before I actually got down to who I truly am in my core.

Joseph: I want to wrap up, Helen, by talking a little bit about what you’re doing right now. I know that you do a lot of work in this area of helping people understand what makes their soul sing and what ultimately makes them happy. I’m specifically interested in your special report about how to find work that makes your soul sing. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Helen: The special report tells my story, but then I start going into the different areas that will help people. The healing work, the energy healing that I just talked about will help do that. I really recommend that people download it. It will give you some tips and some insight. I want people to understand that they are here to be a blessing on the planet, and I thank you so much for having me on here to share this.

Joseph: Thank you so much for sharing your story here, Helen. Where can people go if they want to download your ‘How to Find Work that Makes Your Soul Sing’ report?

Helen: They can go to HolisticLivelihood.com.

Joseph: Thank you, Helen, so much for telling us more about your life, first of all as a secretary, how you bravely navigated the challenges of being homeless, and also just reminding us all how important it is to clear out your own baggage before you can take that next big step in your life. I really love your story. It’s very humbling. I just want to wish you the best of luck with Holistic Livelihood and the work that you’re doing for people.

Helen: Thank you so much, Joseph, for inviting me. I wish you all the best, and thank you so much for the work that

About Joseph Liu

Joseph Liu is dedicated to helping people relaunch their careers and have more meaningful careers. As a public speaker, career consultant, and host of the Career Relaunch® podcast, he shares insights from relaunching global consumer brands to empower professionals to more effectively marketing their personal brands.

About Joseph Liu

Joseph Liu helps aspiring professionals relaunch their careers to do work that matters. As a keynote speaker, career & personal branding consultant, and host of the Career Relaunch podcast, his passion is helping people gain the clarity, confidence, and courage to pursue truly meaningful careers. Having gone through three major career changes himself, he now shares insights from building & relaunching global consumer brands to empower professionals and business owners to build & relaunch their personal brands.