Don’t waste your time trying to “figure out” or “find” your purpose before you take action. Follow your curiosity, take action and then reflect back on it. Give yourself permission to live and try new things. You get to pick your purpose.”

Headshot of Sarah Lang

Sarah Lang (MAPS 2005) completed a Master of Arts in East Asian Studies with the Collaborative Master’s in Asia-Pacific Studies (MAPS, now CESEAS).

She is a professional certified coach (PCC) and leadership and communication skills instructor. Her business, Sarah Lang Coaching, trains and supports individuals and teams to grow their leadership, confidence and presence. While Sarah works with many international partners and global brands, she’s kept strong ties to the University of Toronto. She’s an instructor at the U of T School of Continuing Studies, where she teaches two courses: Public Speaking and Presentation, and Leadership Presence and Presentations. She also coaches at Rotman Commerce, where she helps students craft and deliver compelling business pitches.

What were the highlights of your time at the Asian Institute?

I did my final thesis paper based on field research I conducted in Vietnam focused on HIV prevention. I travelled the country alone, meeting with frontline workers, researchers, and community members who supported sex workers and drug users. I set up 30 interviews myself, had them transcribed, and then sat down to make sense of the information. I synthesized my findings into a policy-prescriptive Master’s thesis. It was challenging and rewarding.

How did your degree help you get into the work you do now?

My degree helped me in several ways. From a technical perspective, I became a more articulate writer and a clearer communicator. I developed stronger relationship-building skills and became a better critical thinker. I rely heavily on these skills in my work as a coach and instructor.  My degree also helped to broaden my perspective and commitment to social justice. Prior to my degree, I had lived in Hong Kong for a year, and then Tokyo for three years. So, I came to the program with lived experience of the region. But the program gave me a bigger context and a critical lens to view politics and social issues. I remain committed to social justice in my life and my business. I support anti-racist and feminist organizations – and will never stop. I’m passionate about my own learning and also about supporting and empowering others.

How did you make the jump to your current work?

It was during my undergrad in Montreal that I first learned about coaching, and knew in my gut that, “This is the job for me!” I then swept my interest under the rug, and kept it as this small wish inside of me for years. I did many things instead of coaching. I worked in PR, project management, events and volunteer management. I volunteered. I travelled. I had a family. I read lots of books about personal and professional development. Then 7 years ago, when I was pregnant with my second kid and working full-time in not-for-profit, I signed up for my first coaching class. I loved it. I undertook the full certification process, class-by-class, client-by-client. Slowly, as I juggled working and parenting, I developed a practice. Coaching was a side-of-my-desk passion project for three years. I took the plunge to full-time entrepreneurship over three years ago.

I don’t regret any of my previous work or life experiences, which were rewarding and gave me my unique mix of wisdom and experience. That said, I am proud I made the leap when I did, and to have landed where I am today.

What’s your favourite aspect of your job?Sarah Lang

I believe that when it comes to growth, it takes a magic combination of tactical skills and mindset work. I connect deeply with people in my work, and there is nothing better than supporting someone in their growth. I love my job.

Tell us about a recent project or achievement that you’d like to share.

I recently launched the Everyday Resilience Club. It’s been a big hit already, and is just getting started.

The program was born out of the chaos of this past year. It helps people manage their minds, deal with challenges and difficult emotions and develop more optimism and focus. It’s an 8-week program which is very practical and offers concrete tools. It also offers space to come together and real – and to be supported by others, and lift others up. The next round begins May 5th and registration is open.

What advice would you give to current students?

Don’t waste your time trying to “figure out” or “find” your purpose before you take action. Follow your curiosity, take action and then reflect back on it. Give yourself permission to live and try new things. You get to pick your purpose.