I often begin my work with clients managing expectations around the job search. Folks can get stuck in their careers by caving into assumptions. One of these is that the lion’s share of their past successes has revolved around luck – or the lack thereof.
And one of the things I love best about career coaching is having clients share light-bulb flashes – flashes when they seized new information or reframed old perceptions in ways that empowered them in their search. So, it was a delightful double-header day recently when two clients shared feedback pertaining to ah-hah moments about Lady Luck.
Marilyn had a tough time thinking that she had much control over her job search outcomes. She was convinced that her prior career path was “sheer luck.” She had taken a receptionist job right out of high school, and had always seemed to be “in the right place at the right time” for opportunities within her employer organization. When coming to me, she was really scared. A stay-at-home mom for 18 years, she was now reentering the workforce in an administrative support role. She was frustrated. “I have sent out hundreds of resumes, spent hours studying job boards and postings, and gone to a few interviews – only to hear ‘no’ or worse, nothing.” Fast forward to a month after Marilyn and I began working together.
She was indulging in her favorite treat, a pedicure; and telling the technician about her search and what she was looking for. It “just so happened” that the director of operations for headquarters (salon where Marilyn was getting pampered) had confided that she was “terribly busy—her executive assistant had just left”. The technician personally referred Marilyn to the director. Marilyn followed this up with a phone call and her resume. She got the job.
Marlyn told me at first, she felt lucky again; that it was another “right place at the right time”. Then she realized that this went beyond stepping into a new career as a result of her visit to have her toes prettified. “I stopped dead in my tracks at the grocery store when it hit me. I could pat myself on the back for this one. I was smart enough to keep my skills up to date with the latest training and fabulous volunteer office work. I have a kick-butt resume and LinkedIn profile; and impeccable references. I knew that I should take advantage of a natural referral network around people’s being curious about each other and passing relevant information along. I worked it and it worked!”
Josh wanted a job with an environmental sustainability group, so representing his part-time employer, he joined the local Chamber of Commerce which promoted these types of initiatives. Josh assisted with events, field trips, classes, front desk work, membership drives and even janitorial chores. He got to know Bill, the Chamber’s executive director. Josh shared ideas with Bill on how the Chamber might expand quite inexpensively to include sustainability in its offerings to area youth. One day, Bill invited Josh to a staff meeting; after the meeting there was a lunch. One thing led to another. A woman from a nearby metro area was visiting the Chamber. She needed a manager for a new program she was launching to acclimate high school youth to a “green living”. Bill mentioned Josh’s name, and Josh was hired a few weeks later.
“I felt that all in all, I was pretty lucky,” Josh told me. “Lucky, my foot, I chided myself as I slowly grasped what had really happened. I found my target employer, asserted myself to become involved in its activities, used a personal referral to learn about a job opportunity, self-initiated informational interviews with the staff and volunteers and made observations of daily happenings as if I were Sherlock-Holmes.” And my own observations of Josh’s progress confirmed that Josh had applied two of his strong transferable skills – skills that we had coached on bringing to the table in his search: communication and assessment. He had made a thorough self-assessment to decide that the Chamber was a good target employer. He had obviously used communication savvy in talking with staff, guests and other folks woven in and out of the scenarios.
Own it and have fun.
As we digested what Josh had done, he said he felt a sense of power. Yes, some of the right people came onto the scene to help him. But he had positioned himself in the right place, at the right time; with the right skills and attitude; and with a thoughtfully-internalized, written and articulated message.
In their ah-hah moments, both Marilyn and Josh took control, used their life skills and made it fun. Lady Luck was not getting the credit.
Photo: Tsahi Levent-Levi