Today many people find themselves working harder and longer with less personal satisfaction and little or no recognition for their contributions. How did we get to this place? If work is a ‘necessary evil,’ does it have to be emotionally painful? Does it have to be so totally life consuming that we lose our souls, the very essence of who we really are? One such lost soul contacted me for career coaching.
Karen was caught in a trap of working 60-70 hours per week and had been stuck in this rut for months. She was a technical writer employed by a large corporation, a corporation undergoing restructuring that involved downsizing and elimination of thousands of jobs. Karen didn’t want to lose her job, too. With a journalism degree, she had built her 20-year career in business communications. She had been happy for most of those years, but now it was different. Work was dominating her life. She was always tired and seldom had time for her husband who worried about her, missed her companionship, and pleaded with her to quit the insanity of giving her life away to her company. When Karen contacted me, she wasn’t clear about whether she wanted to ‘fix’ her current employment situation or find a new career path. What she did know, though, was that she couldn’t continue in her current state of being.
Karen came to our first career coaching session a bit unsure of what to expect and what would be expected from her. As I do with all my clients, we spent our initial time together in conversation getting to know each other better. We were laying the foundation for our career coaching relationship, a relationship that had to be based on trust and open communication in order to best benefit Karen.
Karen stated that her immediate goal was to understand herself better in order to help her determine how she could cut back on all those long hours she worked. She agreed to do introspective work on clarifying her values, defining her motivators for working, and assessing her complete repertoire of skills. With this kind of focused observation she could start to figure out how to change her life into one filled with career satisfaction – one offering a healthy balance between enjoyable work and her personal life.
“I believe this introspection was one of the key factors that helped me realize aspects about myself that I hadn’t thought about in many years, and certainly hadn’t thought about in relation to my work,” said Karen. “I also learned which communication style was most comfortable for me and the key role it plays in my career success.”
“Meg and I met for 45-minute phone sessions once a week for about three months. She was always there when I called. Her focus was completely on our conversation during every single meeting and she was able to hear clearly what I had to say. Meg listened and I talked and she asked all the right questions. It was astounding how quickly we became acquainted and how thoroughly she understood my situation in such a short time. She was always there for me and that was a great comfort,” said Karen.
Karen was very willing to do fieldwork between our career coaching sessions knowing that with ongoing concentration she could more quickly achieve her goals. Once she understood her values and how they didn’t align with her current company’s culture, she then defined her motivators and decided she was no longer driven to continue the extended work hours. Finally, she was ready to inventory her skills to see which ones she might be under-utilizing. This is when the ‘dream job’ exercise entered the scene and Karen got really stuck.
“Meg asked me to complete the assignment of creating my personal dream job – anything I wanted to do. The assignment required details about my daily schedule for one week including with whom I ate lunch, what meetings I attended, what awards I won – every detail. I just couldn’t do it! There was no part of any job I could think of that I wanted to pursue, so I decided to write a weekly schedule around all the things I wanted to do outside of work. That consisted of my exercise classes, yoga, walking, and writing. I was actually very discouraged at this point. I just couldn’t think of any job I wanted to do,” lamented Karen.
Karen came to our next career coaching session a bit dejected and frustrated with what she felt was her failure to complete the fieldwork. As we started to discuss her ‘dream job,’ I asked Karen key questions to help her look at her feelings and jump-start her creativity about what an ideal job would be like for her. I stated that I noticed a pattern in her written assignment and asked her what she saw.
“I don’t see anything,” Karen cried. “I couldn’t write about any job I’d like to do so I wrote about the fun things I like to do.” I asked Karen to look closer at what she wrote. What was she not seeing? All of a sudden I sensed the light bulb go on, all the way through the phone line. “I could be a personal trainer!” screamed Karen. “But that would be fun. You mean I could do the things I love and get paid for it?”
What a novel thought! “I had so equated pain with work that it was truly hard to accept the idea at first. I can still remember the ‘aha’ moment and how excited I was,” said Karen since then. Being the career coach, I asked her to test her idea by processing it through the business reality filter. Would it meet her income requirements? Would it satisfy her career goals? How could she make her dream job real?
“I did fieldwork that confirmed that being a personal trainer was a viable option for me,” said Karen. “Not only could I help people with their fitness goals, but I could also utilize my writing talents by writing fitness articles for magazines and assist health clubs with their newsletters. I couldn’t be happier, but this was really ‘out of the box’ for someone who had worked in Corporate America for 20 years. I had no official experience, only the years I’d devoted to physical exercising on my own. Meg helped me work through my initial doubts that something so wonderful could really be a profession that I could successfully pursue.”
Karen and I completed our career coaching about a year ago. Since then she has accepted a severance package from her employer as her department finally got caught in the layoff frenzy. “I felt so guilty about being happy while all my co-workers were hurting and not knowing what to do about getting new jobs. I had already begun my Personal Trainer studies,” said Karen. “My severance package was a bonus as I’d already decided to give notice soon and start working toward my new career.”
A few months ago Karen contacted me to celebrate passing her certification test. She is now a Personal Trainer happily employed in a fitness center. Only a few years just shy of 50, she doesn’t fit the profile of the typical beginner in her field. However, Karen sees her age as an asset in working with her preferred clientele – women over 50 who are trying to get into physical shape. She loves her work and advises everyone to find a way to work their passion as she has done.
“Life is too short to waste it in a job that causes stress and frustration. I now have time for my husband and we enjoy traveling on the weekends instead of going into the office to catch up on last week’s workload. Furthermore, I come home happy during the week with a sense of inner peace in my heart,” says Karen.
“My career coaching experience was nothing short of life changing. I never expected this kind of result. My career coach guided me to my new career path with kindness and thoughtfulness. Meg heard things that I never knew I said, and she would repeat them for me. This allowed me to find my way to this new career on very solid ground. I knew the minute I discovered Personal Training it was really the place for me. I truly don’t believe I could have ever found this place for myself without career coaching,” says Karen with a smile.
No more a lost soul, Karen has found the secret to a fulfilling career. As an Executive Career Coach, so have I.
Wishing you career success in 2018!