I am always half-expecting a bulls-eye out of left field, meaning that one of my clients finds the perfect fit — the job that we designed in my office based on the clarity that has emerged regarding their gifts, talents, values, experience and desires (and one that reflects their own criteria for “the next step.”) Those criteria answer the question, “What do you want now?” — now that you have had your first professional job, now that you are ready for an increase in salary or a better title and role, or now that the kids are out of the house, or now that you want to find work you love, etc.
Sometimes the process and search take a very long time, and sometimes it is remarkably fast. You just never know. One thing you can expect is that there are going to be ups and downs during “the search for something better.” But in September, spectacularly, three of my clients hit their bulls-eye jobs! These are stories worth telling, because the marketplace is full of bad rumors that feed right into people’s self-doubts about making positive changes in their professional lives. People are getting good jobs every day despite what you might hear to the contrary. Here are just three examples. There are more.
#1: Gwen, 30, Theater Arts Management
Gwen, now 30, was in an extremely difficult period of her life when we first started working together two years ago. She was employed in her chosen field of work, thankfully, but painfully underemployed in terms of salary and role. Her personal life and living situation were also mess (her word). She had been a huge success in college and seemed most likely to succeed, so the fact that nothing seemed to be working out during her twenties was a huge disappointment. She and her first serious love interest had recently broken up, and she was trying to move on but feeling pretty hopeless about everything. A friend told her about me.
Sometimes when Gwen and I met, I would just be there with her in her misery, and sometimes we would end up laughing our heads off about how bad things were, or we would delight in something good that had happened. As I have learned from experience, both personally and professionally, when you are desperate and think you are at the absolute end of your rope, it might actually be good news, because you’re probably at the end of your rope . . .
I just took a minute to look through Gwen’s file and see that we had had ten sessions together over a period of two years. We covered a lot of territory during that time, including: two apartment moves; one very painful breakup; a new significant relationship; a promotion and salary increase at the unsatisfactory job; a new resume that better reflected her background, foreground, and future; three or four job possibilities that did not work out; and at last, a great job, with desired title and salary increase with the very theater company she had been dreaming about since college graduation. She is in love with and living with a new partner — a match that looks very solid.
I tend to refer to the late 20s as the “Yikes Years.” For so many people, the late 20s are about facing reality squarely in the eye and finding out that “real life” is not an easy thing. It’s about becoming an adult the hard way, by experiencing and working through deep disappointments, and eventually realizing that life is full of wonderful surprises as well as unlucky breaks, and that important decisions are not iron-clad but redeemable. When Gwen was experiencing her most painful years, she never imagined that she could be this happy in a personal relationship and/or this happy in a professional role.
#2: Steven, 44, Executive Sales
Steven was already an award-winning sales professional when we began working together two months ago. He had been with his company, a well-known corporate professional products firm, for over ten years, during which time he consistently met and exceeded his annual sales goals, regularly mentored less experienced and less-successful account reps, and had established himself as someone who was successful in winning, managing, and developing top corporate accounts.
So what’s wrong with this picture? A few things . . . one thing to note is that Steven had been with his company for ten years. Ten years is a long time in the constantly evolving life of an employee. Tremendous self-growth takes place in a decade, but it is difficult-to-impossible for a person to measure his or her own self-growth. Rather there is often a gradual dawning awareness of dissatisfaction of one kind and another. What was once comfortable and satisfactory becomes more and more uncomfortable and dissatisfactory.
This actually can be a very good development in the long run — one that means you are growing and that maybe you have actually outgrown your current situation, but it usually doesn’t feel good at all. There is a natural tendency to resist change and the anxiety it produces, which is why so many people tend to stay in a bad situation rather than turning everything upside down to find something else or even hope to find something better. In Steven’s situation, with a wife and two children, he was accustomed to making a very good living, so there was a lot at risk as he began to search for something better.
But the continual corporate changes over the past five years had made his job more and more difficult. The changes seemed to be designed to serve the corporation but not the employees. Commission percentages continually decreased while the amount of work required to earn them seemed to increase. The corporate structure offered less and less support to its sales force, while requiring more and more of them. He couldn’t help feeling that the care he had once felt from the executive team had disappeared.
In looking through Steven’s file, I see that we had six sessions over a period of three months during which he began to gain clarity about his gifts, talents, experience, and accomplishments, and he began to gain confidence that he would be able to find something better — a better firm, a better role, and a better future. With this increased confidence, we redesigned his resume, and he began his search.
He quickly had a couple of “nibbles” on his resume, and within weeks had found his “bulls-eye” — a privately-owned company selling high-end quality furnishings to businesses. The position he eventually came to fill had been open for almost nine months, while the company waited for just the right candidate for the job. It seems like a match made in heaven. He will enjoy a significant salary increase, a lucrative commission structure, an attractive but reasonable travel schedule, lots of training, and a supportive corporate structure to help its employees reach their goals. Steven didn’t even realize how discouraged he had been until he got a glimpse of this new future.
#3: Erin, STEAM Education
Erin is 38, has an impressive resume and a friendly, positive demeanor. Her resume and embodied knowledge demonstrate her solid expertise with primary and junior high-aged kids in science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics training. She is not a classroom school teacher, and in fact does not want to be one; in particular, she loves the dynamism of community outreach in her work. She designs STEAM curricula and provides training programs that teachers can utilize to enrich their own classrooms and schools.
For almost five years, Erin worked for a highly-respected university where she had originally loved her position, but over a period of five years had watched the support of her program and position begin to disintegrate and the situation emerge in which more and more was being required of her and others in her position while the monetary support began to disappear.
It became clear during our sessions that Erin definitely wanted to remain in her chosen field, and after taking about a three-month break, she began an intensive search for the right position within a specific geographical area, one that would meet her salary requirements, and one that would delight and excite her. Within a few weeks, she began attracting some interest in her resume. This happens as a result of applying to positions that already meet many of the criteria in the general bulls-eye and being prepared to have strong, intelligent, cogent conversations with potential employers either on the phone or in person.
Erin had a handful of interviews for jobs in which she was definitely interested, and she suffered a few real disappointments when they did not pan out. We continued to meet periodically for “tune-ups”, as we called them. She continued the search, and kept getting closer to the bulls-eye until one day she hit it! I love getting these calls! She said something to the effect that she had found her bulls-eye and that she knew it when she read the job description that her main duties would include teaching/training,