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.

Process

Oh, how I love a clean slate. It’s pristine. It’s full of possibility. It’s the pinnacle of reinvention. At the same time, there’s a suggestion inherent to clean slates that’s important to address.

A clean slate suggests that we leave behind our old self. Like a snake shedding its skin, we’re remade and everything that’s come before no longer applies. It’s a do-over, a reset button, a renewal. We turn towards it thinking that we’re starting over without our old baggage, without the cringe-worthy moments of our lives, without the pain, without the regrets, without the literal and metaphoric weight.

Ugh: here’s where I break it to you. That’s just not the case.

In the words of the adventurer, brain surgeon, and rock musician Buckaroo Banzai:

Hey, hey, hey, hey-now. Don’t be mean; we don’t have to be mean, cuz, remember, no matter where you go, there you are.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

It’s impossible to throw ourselves away, to distance ourselves from who we were and are now. Instead, we must befriend ourselves and then turn toward the future.

So what does that look like exactly? Glad you asked.

Here’s how I support people in wiping their professional slates clean:

Phase 1 – Who are you at your best?

What makes you come alive and what shuts you down? Trust me, we’re not going to talk about passion here (I think it’s an overdone myth that gets trotted out too often as the pathway to professional salvation. Truth is, it just doesn’t hold up under close scrutiny. In fact, research indicates that only about 20% of us have a devotion to a particular vocation and clarity to go with that strong enthusiasm. So, 80% of us – the overwhelming majority, have schlepped around the weight of, “What’s wrong with me that I haven’t figured it out yet? Nothing! Nothing is wrong with you! The zeitgeist has had it wrong all along.

We can find clues to what ignites your energy or simply sparks curiosity in you. We use activities such as an ideal day guided visualization, descriptions of your highlights and lowpoints (both personally and professionally), expectations from your parents and other ideas you adopted early in your life, and beliefs around money.

This phase tends to take ~6 hourlong one-on-one coaching sessions.

Phase 2 – What’s the confluence between you at your best and the market?

After we get a strong picture of what might be viable pathways for you, we turn towards where there’s traction in the marketplace for you to earn a sustainable and healthy income by pursuing those pathways.

Throughout our work together, I use activities and concepts from the New York Times bestselling book, Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. In fact, I ask all of my clients to buy a copy of the book because we delve into it so deeply, it’s a worthy investment.

This second phase of our work together is centered on three very different plans for your life over the next five years – in the Designing Your Life book, these are called Odyssey Plans. Don’t worry – we lay the foundation for you to construct those plans, and in this phase of our work together, we’ll look at how to test or prototype them.

You won’t be leaping – you’ll be sidling up to the ice cream bar and asking for a taster spoon of whatever career or journey that you’re considering.

It’s tough to predict how long this phase of our work together will take. I’ve seen things crystalize very quickly in just a handful of sessions, and for others, it can take up to 10 or more sessions. We often will taper the length of our sessions to 45-minute or 30-minute sessions because the bulk of the work is done outside of our sessions, and we’re meeting to distill the information that you’ve gathered and compare it to your findings in the first phase of our work together.

This is where we also join forces with my other clients. I host a monthly meeting (although sometimes we skip holiday-intensive months) that’s free and open to all of my current and alumni clients. Here’s the village part of our work together – there’s wonderful synergy that comes from walking similar paths to others and having company on the journey.

Phase 3 – Commit and create.

Here’s the clean slate part of our work together. Where it all comes together, and a new chapter is born. After you decide the direction you want to pursue, you’ll likely follow one of these pathways:

  1. You may decide to go back to graduate school or take a bootcamp or other professional development series. We might work together on your application, but it’s more likely that you’ll just go off and pursue what you’ve decided to commit to.
  2. If you decide to launch a job search, I offer support in tactics around resumes, LinkedIn, interviewing, and other dimensions of a job search. I have a YouTube channel with >25 videos that cover the basic content around a job search, so our sessions will be devoted exclusively to your situation and the areas where you want input.
  3. If you decide to start a business, I step out of the picture in this phase since I’m not a business development coach. I know enough to guide you through the beginning parts of the process, but you’ll likely want someone skilled in business development for this phase.

That’s it – that’s the outline of what happens with my clients. It’s magical. It’s bumpy. It’s enriching. It’s depleting. It’s got so many facets, but the most important thing is that you don’t have to do it alone. You can be part of the club – hang out with us, the Clean Slaters.

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.