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.
- 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).
- 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.