Carlota Zimmerman ’96 is powerful and passionate — a force to be reckoned with. Writing an award winning play at the age of 17 and working at top news networks after graduation, Zimmerman seemed to have achieved what many consider success. But after eight years of working in TV journalism, Zimmerman quit her job, attended law school and then found herself uninterested in law. It was at this point in her life, broke from three years of law school debt, that she finally confronted her fears and started to pursue her real passion: career coaching.
When Zimmerman was 17, she wrote “Man at His Best,” a play that won the 1991 Young Playwrights Festival against 10,000 other plays. The play was fully produced off-Broadway and very well-reviewed. By request of the Brazilian government, the play went on a tour in Brazil in 2008 and recently went on another four-year tour in 2010. Through this experience, she learned that she did have something to contribute regardless of her age and that success didn’t matter, but passion did.
“Success is very insubstantial, success is very amorphous, but your passion is going to be what gets you out of bed,” she reflected.
After a gap year spent producing her play, Zimmerman attended Wellesley College and majored in history with a Russian area studies focus. She studied Russian at Middlebury over the summer and studied abroad in the Republic of Karelia in Russia during her junior year.
Two months after graduation, she moved to Russia and found work at an English language magazine for six months before falling into TV journalism. She had no experience in journalism before but quickly succeeded in NBC News Moscow. Wanting to stay in TV news, she moved to Washington, D.C. and later New York and freelanced for CNN, Fox and ABC News. In 2002, she was hired to work overnight as an Associate Producer for the Overnight News Division.
“You’re going to get weird opportunities in your life. Go for them. Don’t talk yourself out of things.” Zimmerman advised.
For the first six years working in TV journalism, Zimmerman loved her work and felt excited waking up each morning. However, at the end, she was burned out and exhausted by the 18-hour workdays. Feeling like her work was no longer a good fit, she quit her job.
Unsure where to go and scared to pursue her real passion for coaching, Zimmerman decided to go to law school in 2004. She graduated in 2007 and interned with Secretary Hillary Clinton; but something was not right. Deep down, Zimmerman knew that law was not for her.
Zimmerman, with three years of law school debt and a degree that meant little to her, bartended to earn money. She felt as if her back was to the wall and she could no longer stand the coward she felt like she had become. Remembering the excitement TV journalism brought her, Zimmerman knew it was important not to chase “success,” but to find work that truly made her happy. It was at this time when Carlota finally took the leap to pursue her passion for coaching.
“The first six years [of TV journalism] I genuinely loved; I would get out of bed before the alarm rang. I was so excited to go to work,” she said. “It’s very important to understand that you can have a job that you love and I just think a lot of people unfortunately chase this mythical thing called ‘success’ and that’s how you end up 50 years old realizing, ‘I’ve never enjoyed anything because I never took risks.’ I would think about starting this business, and I was like, ‘I don’t know exactly how to do it, but I deserve to be happy.’ ”
Zimmerman started writing a blog about career development. She submitted an article about why she went to law school to “Above the Law,” a blog about the legal industry and, in one day, the article received 10,000 views. Within the next week, Zimmerman was bombarded with over 100 emails from women empathizing with her story. This motivated her to start her business. She presented an honest image of herself and used social media to help create a brand with which people were able to relate.
“For me doing this business, and for a lot of people, when you stick with it when things are bad, at a certain point you feel history turn in your direction. In the early years I’d get maybe like a client every six months,” Zimmerman explained. “Now I get three or four a day. It was 2013 when I got hired by Huffington Post and I was on a daily basis getting emails from people like in Australia, Johannesburg, Queens … and I was like, ‘Oh, I was right all these years to stick with this.’ But that only happened because I stuck it out when things were horrendous.”
Now, Carlota is pursuing her passion and running her coaching company Creativity Yenta, which serves clients from all over the world. She’s coached generations of families and gets new referrals every day. She’s helped several clients, like a woman in her 60s finally ready to start her accounting business and a man who has wanted to do a one man show for 20 years, reflect on what they are truly passionate about and chase after their dreams.
“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do,” Carlota advised. “When I finally started trusting myself, things took off.”