When I decided to register for a life coach certification program, I was initially nervous about what my decision would look like to others. For me it was a no-brainer: it was simply a way to expand the work I have always dedicated myself to doing as a teacher-scholar-activist. But I knew that some people might not understand it. On the surface, I’m one of the lucky academics: someone who was offered a tenure-track job that she turned down. Someone who has a full-time faculty position at a prestigious institution with amazing students she loves to teach. Someone with an active publication record. Why would I choose this path?
A significant component to my advocacy has been mentoring contingent laborers (such as graduate students in Ph.D. and M.A. programs as well as contingent faculty like adjuncts) on discovering ways to make their advanced degrees work for them as they (re)enter the job market. Though the crisis of higher education is rampant in almost every arena of academia, the Humanities has experienced an especially critical downturn in available positions after graduation. While many of my colleagues turn their students away from an advanced degree in the Humanities—a choice that might certainly be a good one for many—I am interested in considering how those of us within the system can help our students think more creatively about what is possible with the skills, experience, and expertise they gain from this work. I pursued life coaching, therefore, not as a replacement for my academic work (which remains a significant part of my professional life) but as an enhancement to my work so that I can support more people on their quest for fulfilling careers and full lives. With my extensive experience in academia and my intensive training as a life coach, I am now able to support not only those in academia but also anyone pursuing an affirming vocation.
I launched Daena Coaching in September 2022, which is a career and vocation coaching business. My philosophy is animated by my desire to help my clients find their life’s purpose from a higher perspective. I looked to my own cultural and linguistic roots to help inform this aim. “Daena,” which is the Old Persian word for “vast vision,” guides my work as a coach by encouraging me to hold space for clients as they come back to themselves and discover the values that inform their intentions for the future. Creating an inviting space such as this one is likewise part of my Iranian heritage, which is a culture founded on a hospitable and welcoming nature that insists on the inherent value every person possesses. With a bigger perspective anchored in deep inner knowing, my clients identify the life they want to create with a clearer vision and, through guided support, begin implementing steps to make their vision become reality. To that end, I coach clients at any phase of their career and/or at any stage of the creative and writing process with the intention to clarify the broader goals and to take steps toward actualization. I work with clients who want to discover the right career path for them, who are considering a career change, who require more structure to complete projects, who seek assistance in implementing mindset shifts, and who want to level up in their careers. I also encourage my clients to see their visions as always evolving; humans are dynamic beings whose desires shift over time, and I encourage my clients to celebrate new avenues that emerge and to position these exciting prospects as opportunities for more expansion and growth.
This philosophy not only guides my coaching methods but also informs the kind of impact I want to make in the coaching industry, particularly in centering career-building strategies rooted in passion, fulfillment, joy, and abundance. The advocacy work I have done with contingent laborers has revealed how challenging this process can be for so many people and has illuminated how creating one’s path toward joyous fulfillment is itself an act of resistance. Indeed, even entertaining such a possibility is often initially met with uncertainty from those I coach in formal and informal ways for a variety of legitimate concerns and fears. However, I work with my clients so they can see the value they add to a given profession, and we explore the ways their qualifications, skills, and expertise are assets that can bring them into closer alignment with what they seek. I believe that this alignment will have a greater impact on our society: if people are supported in bringing their larger mission into their life’s work, and if they feel they can do so joyously, then everyone will benefit from the manifestation of this positive change.
For more information about my services and for access to my coaching content, visit and subscribe to my website (www.daenacoaching.com) and follow @daenacoaching on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Dr. Nedda Mehdizadeh, Ph.D. (she/her/hers) is an Iranian-American teacher-scholar-activist, life coach, and CEO whose work centers on advocacy and equity. She teaches and writes about the Global Renaissance, Shakespeare and anti-racist pedagogy, and Critical Diversity Studies. As a life coach at Daena Coaching, she supports her clients as they clarify their professional, creative, and personal goals and helps them implement steps to achieving them.