Clean Slaters

We all dream about starting over. But how many of us do it?

What does it take to wipe the slate clean? To move forward with intention?

When it comes to work, there’s an alchemy of forces that converge to create a seismic shift.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t take vision. It doesn’t take vows. It doesn’t take force. It doesn’t take harsh determination. It doesn’t take ripping up the fabric of your life.

It does take an admission: the status quo isn’t working.

It takes introspection, a deep dive into our own patterns and drivers and triggers and patterns of self-sabotage.

It takes a village, too. A village of people willing to champion you, to mirror back to you your brilliance, your foibles, and your essence. A village of people who walk alongside you instead of a village of fixers. That village needs to have critical mass so that when we let one another down or stumble (as all of us do at one time or another), there’s another soul to turn to with a question, a request, or simply some heartfelt connection.

To assemble that village, it takes engagement, truth-telling, big girl panties (or just big person panties), and a willingness to integrate new learning about your own resonance and dissonance, your own needs and desires, your own edges, your own style, and your own drivers.

The ingredients of a fulfilling career are simple:

  • Purpose: impact, meaning, ripple, contribution
  • Mastery: expertise, prowess, skill
  • Autonomy: freedom (time freedom, freedom to select projects, to go in the direction of your choice, and to shape your own path)
  • Creative Expression: traditional art, juicy ideas coming to fruition, translation of hyptheses to experimentation
  • Connection: both internally and externally
  • Protection: status, power, money

Here’s the thing, though: that list may be simple, but it’s also highly individual, and the rank order of what we elevate to the top of our priority list shifts.

Also (and this is not a small dimension of the process), there’s the question of where there’s overlap between your rank ordering and personal expression of this list and where the market is heading. Where can you make a viable living? What are people willing to pay for? Where do you have to be and how do you need to present yourself in order to command that income? Basically, what’s the Venn Diagram overlap between the fullest expression of you and the market?

So that, Clean Slaters, is what it takes to wipe the slate of your career clean. You know the outline, now let’s get to the specifics: the process.

My Clean Slate

My clean slate is my doorway to creating the life I’ve always wanted. Suddenly, everything is possible for me.

It’s possible for me to show up for myself without sacrificing my kids, my marriage, my identity. There’s this magnificent slice of time, a crack in the march forward of what my life is supposed to be, where I can slip through, and suddenly, I see a magical, technicolor world in front of me. It’s a bit like the vibrancy of A Wrinkle in Time. Who knew this parallel universe was here all this time?!

It’s not always pretty and seductive. Sometimes, the tone shifts, like the background music in a movie – it becomes menacing and dark. Maybe I have abandoned my children right at the time when they need me most. Maybe my marriage won’t survive this dramatic shift, the claiming of myself. Maybe there’s not enough room in it for this new version of me. Maybe my friendships are simply proximal and they can’t stretch this physical distance.

Here’s what I do know, though:

  • I am waking up in a way that (mostly) feels empowering and right. I hate the word “right” because I generally don’t believe that there’s a right way and a wrong way, and – like so many things in my life right now – surprisingly, it fits here.
  • I’m recognizing the sharp edges of my shift as simply that – growing pains that are a natural side effect of my forward movement. They’re not signs that I’ve taken a wrong turn, they’re me and the world around me settling into a new normal, a new rhythm, a new dance.
  • I’m still me, at my core. I feel liberated to express myself more fully right now, and it’s still me underneath my new work clothes, makeup, my new physical pathways like my commute and my professional expression.
  • Something has jolted awake in me that has been yearning for this shift for a long time. There’s been a dormant plea within my soul to express myself more fully, to claim my life as my own, to embody my world rather than simply take the default, to resign myself to what my fate appeared to be.

How exactly did I get here? I almost fell into these dramatic changes. I wish I’d had more intention, more vision, more foresight, but I didn’t. I did what I’ve always done: applied for a job without much thought that I’d actually get it. Or that I’d take it. It was a bit of a whim.

I sincerely liken my job applications to a bit of a hobby. Working as a career coach has that side effect – there’s actually great value to submitting for positions, interviewing, and keeping my finger on the pulse of the job market so that I could advise my clients, recognize and articulate their emotional experiences, and stay current with technology like applicant tracking systems. Plus, as someone who has worked with countless people who have gone through layoffs, I viscerally understand that every job is temporary and I always, almost reflexively, keep my job pipeline open.

So that’s how it started – a not-very-serious submission. And then I was swept in this flow, this ease. I practically skipped through the interview process, likely because for me the stakes weren’t very high. I showed up as myself rather than as someone who was contorting myself to fit into the shape that the job allowed.

Here’s another element that’s important: I liked everyone I met in the process. I often talk to my clients about the key variable in a job being WHO they’re with rather than WHAT they’re doing. That’s proven to be true for me in this role. Plus, it felt like coming home to me – back to higher ed where I’ve spent the bulk of my career. I heard a truism recently: all sickness is homesickness. I don’t believe that literally, but maybe a significant part of our emotional pain is homesickness. I could exhale as I went home. I understood the seasonal cycle to the year, the tension and collaboration between faculty and staff, the eager brightness of students launching themselves into the world as well as the stumbling pain of students grappling in the darkness of “should”s.

What exactly has this dramatic shift cost me? It’s financially costly because right now I’m living in two places. During the week, I stay in a studio apartment in Denver, and on the weekends, I’m at home in Fort Collins. It’s tough to straddle two homes, to stay emotionally connected in both places, to physically juggle those locations, schlepping my things back and forth – curiously, it’s my shoes that plague me the most – somehow the shoes I need are inevitably in the other house!

It’s also taxing to navigate a new city. Denver has always been just 75 minutes (on a good traffic day) south of me, yet I’ve rarely visited here. It’s disturbing, particularly the contrast between people with means and people who are struggling on the street. I’ve walked by several people who are tripping on drugs, strangely often barefoot, wandering in a haze, clearly off in another world. I’ve been cursed at, smiled at, mournfully beckoned. One day, someone dressed in Buddhist monk clothing thrust a bracelet on my wrist, spoke to me in a language I didn’t understand, and demanded money. I occasionally see a cluster of people dressed in monk robes and cut them a wide berth.

So, here I am. In a new place – urban grittiness instead of serene hometown. With new people where the political landscape of this new workplace swirls around me. Wearing new clothes – I’ve literally gone from yoga pants and bohemian tunics to corporate uniform and hair products cluttering my bathroom. Adhering to a new schedule and someone else’s agenda.

It’s crazy, right? To go from managing my own schedule with my own sweet office to a 9-to-5 existence with projects I didn’t outline. I’m not just okay with it – I love it! You know what it is? It’s not the substance of my life, it’s the exhilaration of reinventing myself – of going from the comfort of sweatpants to the unfamiliarity of stylish shoes, of stepping into newness, of upending my old habits, and showing up in a whole new way to my own life.

It’s far from perfect, but it’s mighty fine. Mostly because I’m stepping into something rather than coasting. I’m much more interested in how my external circumstances are awakening things in me that have been dormant for so long than I am in dissecting whether this was the best path for me or not. I’m here. I’m walking this path, and I’m embracing what’s in front of me.

Fees and FAQ

What are your fees?

Sessions are 50 minutes and cost $180. I have a sliding scale that is available upon request (just email me at maggie dot infj at gmail dot com – sorry to be so strange about my email address – I just want it to work for human eyes – not bots).

Do you take insurance?

While I am licensed as a mental health provider, I focus on career counseling, and these services aren’t reimbursable by insurance. I could stand on a soapbox and make a strong case for why insurance should cover this work because how we show up in our work is integral to our mental health. But, that’s not what this page is for.

You may see my name on insurance providers’ list, but that information is outdated. I no longer work through insurance companies (including Colorado Medicaid), and even if I provide you with a superbill to submit to your insurance, the ICD-10 code that I would use to describe our work together (Z56 – Problems related to employment and unemployment) isn’t likely to be recognized as a mental health service, even as an out-of-network benefit.

How many sessions will I need?

I’ve worked with people for just one or two sessions (for specific issues such as interview prep), and I have clients I’ve worked with for years. I also have clients who work with me for a few months and then loop back to me when a need surfaces. Let’s find a solution that fits you.

How regularly will we meet?

This depends on what’s bringing you, what else is going on in your life, and how tightly I’m booked. In general, I meet with clients once/week or every other week. When I’ve worked with someone for quite a while, we’ll sometimes space appointments out by a month or even more. We’ll find something that fits us both.

How can we have any meaningful connection via phone or video conference? I’m more of an in-person person.

I had exactly the same struggles when I first started training as a coach. I dragged my feet, I hemmed and hah’ed, and I scrunched up my face with a look of doubt.

Here’s the thing: there’s an incredible connection that can happen over the phone. Sometimes even more content and undercurrents get revealed because there’s less focus on the visual and more on the intuitive.

One of my clients sent me this email when we had wrapped up our coaching:

I prefer working face-to-face. I couldn’t believe how quickly we bonded and how easily we connected, got down to business, and forged new ways of thinking about my career…all over the phone!

Many introverts balk at the idea of using the phone or video conferencing platforms such as Skype and Zoom. I get it. I’m hoping you’ll give it a try. Take it for a test drive.

What if I’m not an introvert? Can we still work together?

Of course! I’ve had 100s of clients over the years, and it’s only recently that I decided to focus on introverts because of my own introversion and because Susan Cain inspired me with her revolution. Equal opportunity here.

I just need my resume written. Will you help me with that?

For a few years, I focused on writing marketing documents for job searches (resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, thank you notes), and I started to see a pattern:

  • People realized they needed help with their careers, and the first thing they thought of was getting their resumes written.
  • They charged through the process, fueled by desperation, spent beyond their budget and came out with documents that didn’t do anything for them beyond give their experience a facelift and some sparkle.
  • They hadn’t gotten clear about where they were going, so their resumes and other documents were lukewarm without focus. They were trying to straddle several options. But here’s the thing: the other people in the candidate pool for jobs they were competing for? Those people were laser sharp and a clear fit for those jobs, and they edged out the people who were trying to keep their options open.
  • Those people who had their resumes and other documents professionally written – they were in a jam because they had blown their budget and they weren’t any closer to moving out of their misery.

So, the short answer to this question: no, I don’t simply write resumes and cover letters. For my coaching clients, I support them in creating their marketing documents, and we collaborate to make them effective, gorgeous and amazing, but I don’t write them.

I subscribe to a “teach a person to fish” philosophy. Rather than catch a fish for someone by writing one static version of a resume/cover letter, I work with my clients (after we’ve gotten clear on focus) on getting a foundation document and then I teach them how to modify it for each submission so that it demonstrates fit and their strengths shine.

Also, we don’t always get to the resume and cover letter writing because my primary focus is on the coaching and working with you to know who you are at your core and where you’re going. If you don’t know where you’re heading, you’re just spinning your wheels.

What makes a good client for you?

One of my clients asked me this question during our free consultation, and I was so struck by the sharpness and insight of her question that I was silent for a moment (mercifully, she was an introvert, too, so she wasn’t disturbed by the silence). During that conversation with her, I produced a few qualities that I’ve noticed show up in my clients, and later, after reflecting, I’ve added to it:

  • openness to ideas, exploration, and emotions
  • experience with or desire to delve into personal development and/or therapeutic realms
  • managing to keep your head above water (treading water is a place all of us go – I just want people to know that I’m not skilled at treating mental illness that seriously interferes with daily function)
  • recognition that, while online assessments are useful, they don’t provide the full picture of a person
  • curiosity toward or experience with mindfulness or Buddhism
  • a love of (or perhaps a devotion to) self-help content
  • willingness to explore / share what’s going on beyond career and look at life holistically
  • assumption of positive intent on my part (I’m human and I make mistakes, but I’d like people to think I have their back)
  • a sense of partnership in our work together – you don’t think that I’m going to fix you or rescue you, but instead, you’d like to have someone walk alongside you to support, witness and champion your progress

General Support

In my free consultation calls with people who are exploring whether we’re a good fit to work together, I often ask them, “If we work together, how will you know that you’ve gotten what you came for? What will have changed in your life as a result of our work together?”

Answers vary, of course, but people’s responses tend to fall into a few categories:

  • I’ll know the direction I want to go in my career, and I’ll be heading there.
  • I’ll have a job that I love.
  • I’ll get past this slump with my career.
  • I’ll find the courage the leave this toxic workplace.

Sometimes, however, people say, “I don’t know” or “I have no idea – I just want to feel better” or “My wife/husband thought it would be a good idea.” These soft-focused goals can lead to remarkable shifts, and in all of my work – while I focus primarily on career-related issues – I notice how important it is to include people’s whole lives in our work. You can’t take a pie-wedged shape out of your circle of life, call it career, and isolate what’s troubling you. We’re whole people, and when we view ourselves in the context of our whole lives, insights emerge and change becomes more accessible.

So, if you’re here because you’re hoping to address parts of your life beyond your career (or in addition to your career), that’s great. I’ve thought about making my title Stubborn Generalist because I work with people on many areas of their lives, including:

  • identity as a strong introvert, empath, or highly sensitive person (HSP)
  • workplace toxicity and burnout
  • career sabaticals or intentional hiatuses
  • people who are 50+ who are facing ageism in their job search
  • emotional eating recovery
  • digital detox (I’ve found that there are strong parallels between the role that food plays in women’s lives and the role that porn plays in men’s lives – there are many gender exceptions, of course, so know that this is a generalization)
  • parenting and empty nesters and navigating life with boomerrang kids; I’m the proud parent of an adult who identifies as nonbinary, so I am a kindred spirit to others in that situation.

I also live in more than one place – I spend weekdays in the heart of Denver, which is a bit like the country mouse coming to the big city – and on weekends, I’m back in idyllic Fort Collins by the Poudre River. I’m still trying to figure out the right hashtags for having more than one home, so if you have a flash of insight, let me know.

While I’m great at identifying the root cause of what’s going on and equipping people with tools to support their desired changes, I’m not very strong when it comes to trauma recovery, diagnoses, medication management, and acute needs. If you’re seeking support in these areas, take a look at Psychology Today’s directory to find someone who is better equipped to give you what you need and want.

One of my favorite quotes is from writer Glennon Doyle: We can do hard things. When I’m finding myself lost or struggling, I remember this quote. It reminds me that I can turn towards the things that scare me, especially when that thing is asking for help. I’d like to hear what’s brought you here.

About Maggie

I remember the exact moment I decided to dive into career work.

I was walking across a parking lot on the campus where I was completing my graduate counseling degree. It was the middle of the day, and I was leaving my clinical counseling internship where I had just met with a student who had a dangerous eating disorder, but I couldn’t hospitalize her because she wasn’t sick enough. I sincerely felt the weight of her pain on my shoulders. I was going to my bridge job, which was working in the career center at the same university where I was finishing that clinical internship, and I could feel my jaw unclenching and the weight of that earlier client lifting from my shoulders as I anticipated meeting with students to review their resumes and discuss their career goals.

It was a moment when the contrast between what I had planned and charted on my own career map was so diametrically opposed to the path that I actually wanted that it stunned me. I took a hard turn in that moment back in in 2011, and I committed to specializing in career exploration and growth as a career coach – I’ve immersed myself in career work ever since, and do you know what – it still energizes me in the same way. 

What I offer as a result of my own path:
  • Recognition of the siren song of a well-drawn career map and how the myth of what we should do (due to the sunk cost, others’ expectations, what looks like security, etc.) can pull us back to what looks like a safe route.
  • The ability to empathize with and recognize gremlins, saboteurs and inner critics that can get in the way of the work we’re meant to do.
  • Understanding that there’s not always a salaried position that’s suited for everyone and practical knowledge about building a business around what lights us up.

I embrace and cultivate community. None of us can go it alone, and I think the synergy and companionship that comes from walking alongside fellow travelers is essential to the process of career change. Some places in my life where I’m in community:

  • I live in a cohousing community on the banks of the Poudre River in Fort Collins, Colorado, a sweet town with a vibrant university, just north of Denver in the US.
  • Most people love to travel, but I’m a homebody, so I immerse myself in women’s groups, yoga classes (well, my current crush is Pilates), masterminds, consultation groups, and other forums to gather – all this despite my strong introversion.
  • I’ve thought about calling the groups that I run “The Ultimate Irony: Introverts Gather,” because I have the same aversion other strong introverts have to gathering, yet I can’t live without it. I guess I’m like Bono – I can’t live with or without you. [BTW, here are some of my personal favorite Insta accounts where I feel affirmed – and also have a good laugh – about being an introvert: The Introverted Chick, Define Introvert, and Introvert Doodles.]

I’m an expert at career change. When I was writing a LinkedIn profile for one of my clients, she told me, “I can’t have the word ‘expert’ in my LinkedIn headline. It makes me look like I’m bragging.” Deep breath from me. “Look, sister, a man would NEVER say that.”

Okay, I didn’t tell her that with my outside voice. But I did gently work with her to claim her expertise and affirm her strengths. Ultimately, she stood by her aversion to that word, but that exchange made me even more fond of it. What I offer as a result of my expert status: I can coach people on what’s at the root of their discontent, what’s bringing them uncertainty about their direction, how to find direction (through probes – not leaps), how to network (don’t worry – it’s not as horrifying as it sounds), how to interview, how to handle salary negotiation (without risking the offer), and how to transition to a new gig.

My own career has had some spikes and valleys. For a long time, I was a chameleon, trying to adapt to whatever others wanted from me. I was pretty good at it, too.

  • I’ve worked in a wholesale plant nursery, and I can’t even keep the aloe plant on my kitchen windowsill alive.
  • I was a therapeutic counselor at a weight loss camp. If you met me in person, you’d see why the idea of a teenager looking to me for weight loss inspiration would be politely described as incongruous.
  • I worked at an engineering research center almost straight out of my undergrad years as an English major. My job was to publicize technical research findings. I kept saying to the researchers, “So, if you had to explain to someone who knew absolutely NOTHING about your work, how would you begin?” Cue eye rolling (both mine and theirs).

There’s more:

  • I’ve been a waitress at my family’s restaurant, which the Washington Post once reviewed and said it served “good, old-fashioned American grub” (an apt description).
  • Between my husband and me, we have 3 failed businesses, which should make me hang my head in shame, but it only makes me proud that we both took flying leaps at bringing our dreams to reality – it also equips me with a healthy dose of realism about entrepreneurship.
  • I’ve worked at 5 institutions of higher education, which is rather like an alcoholic working in a bar – it only fueled my Credentialing Gremlin (that critical inner voice that insists you need just one more piece of paper to validate your existence).

Not only am I an introvert, I’m also an extraordinary coach who has committed years to developing my skills. I have an attuned ear, and I can hear both your yearning and your self-sabotage. I can help you find your way through the white noise in your brain to the essence of what you really want. One of my favorite proverbs is, “Your mind is like a dangerous neighborhood – don’t go in there alone!” Let me accompany you into that space between your ears. I can help you find your way.

I want to hear your stories – the ones you have about where you’ve been and where you’re going (even if you’re not sure where that is). I want to hear about the bigger context of your life, whether you’re lonely or lost or mad at yourself because you just can’t seem to get your train on the track.

I’d like to hear about what’s brought you here, and what’s going on with your career. It’s okay to say “Nothing! Nothing is going on with my career, and that’s the problem!” Let’s look at why you’re stuck and map your way to a more fulfilling fit for you.