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.