While everyone's situation is unique, the following cases present common issues confronting my clients.
1. Transitioning out of University
Lucy was everyone's golden girl - high school president and college debating star. But after a Masters in Political Science, her path began to falter. As her friends launched careers, Lucy stalled. She had never had a job and had no idea what she wanted to do. She enrolled in a doctoral program but dropped out after 2 months. She wondered about Law School or maybe an MBA …she didn't know. When she came to me as a client, Lucy was confused and guilt-ridden about accepting more financial help from her family. She was feeling the pressure to 'grow' up and start earning money. Should she just get a job … and what would that be? (more)
What we did
Our immediate goal was to help her get off the education 'treadmill' and start to shape her work place 'persona'. Lucy's passion for political science was genuine. As the child of an oil industry engineer, she'd lived all around the world, spoke several languages and had a global perspective. We decided to look for internship opportunities or entry-level jobs that would build on her current education. Even if Lucy later decided on further education, she needed short term direction and a sense of her own capabilities.
An updated résumé underlined competencies in communication and experience in campus politics. The process helped Lucy to clarify her work skills. She zeroed in on the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and the position of Political Economic Affairs Officer. She set up information interviews and got excited about what she heard - especially the chance to use her research strengths. Her education turned out to be a good fit … and more than enough for now. Although they weren't recruiting, Lucy took (and 'aced') the Public Service Commission Exams and moved to Ottawa for an internship. She's first in line for the next position … coming up next spring. (less)
2. Knowing When to Leave (or Not)
At 31, Barbara was under-employed as a bar manager in an international hotel. With a diploma in marketing, she'd dreamed of an advertising career… but just wasn't excited about entry-level jobs after graduation. It was 'easier' to stay on at the hotel (summer job) where she was quickly promoted and got to move around the world. A natural leader, she'd had lots of fun - and it had all come so easy.
Now, back in Canada (and in touch with college friends), Barbara worried about her aborted career dreams. When we first met, she wanted help sorting out her options. Should she just quit her job? Or apply to the marketing division of the hotel? Was it too late to get 'on-track' with a career in advertising? Had she just wasted the last 8 years? Or would she be better off staying put?
What We Did
As we listed her accomplishments, it was clear why Barbara was such a valued manager. A creative problem solver, she'd consistently outperformed expectations. Far from wasting time, she'd had taken advantage of many learning experiences and emerged with a broad perspective on the hotel industry and her company's chain in particular. She had a network of contacts all over the world.
A first step was to re-examine Barbara's early interest in marketing. She did web research, attended a conference and met others in the field … and found herself among 'kindred spirits'. She was encouraged but not excited about starting at the bottom. With her management skills and international perspective, Barbara now had an expanded vision of the role she wanted to play. When we redefined it as 'a leadership role in the hospitality industry', the marketing group at central office seemed a good place to start.
We decided to explore transition 'within' her company first. If it didn't work out, Barbara was ready to move on. With her boss on side, she negotiated a leadership development position that recognized her achievements. It starts in marketing … but will eventually take her through several key departments.
3. Confronting a Crisis of Meaning
Jeff was an experienced water quality specialist working for a large forest company. With an engineering degree and extra courses in fisheries and forestry, he'd specialized in environmental assessments. It was a good fit for his idealistic values and natural talents in math and science. He'd risen to management and found that he enjoyed team building even more than the technical side. Jeff loved the challenge of motivating and developing his staff … and they loved him for it.
Gradually, however, things changed. Political pressures to relax environmental standards left Jeff and his team at odds with management and increasingly isolated. After 12 years with the company, he quit in despair. He thought he'd take a short break and return to some other area of engineering. When he became my client, he was ready to plan the next step.
What We Did
While he'd been a capable engineer, Jeff revealed that he was easily bored with technical details. Over the years, he'd become more interested in human motivation and had read widely in the field of psychology and business. Today, his greatest satisfaction was in the area of communication and management.
With deeper self-knowledge, Jeff wanted to explore what else he 'might have done'. Psychology was a strong pull and Jeff realized that his early fascination for systems and problem solving now had a human dimension. As he delved deeper, he started to consider the idea of a radical career transition - from engineering manager to psychologist and team builder. Jeff talked to H.R. and management consulting companies and even met other engineers who had made similar transitions. With his family's support, he began to map out a plan which involved studying psychology through distance education while working part time at a management consulting firm where he could start immediately as a corporate team builder.(less)
4. Finding Your Niche
Ross had enjoyed his undergraduate social geography - especially the focus on cities. Disappointed when he couldn't get into a Masters program, he was flattered when a professor invited him to join a start-up project designing software for the retail industry. It wasn't what he wanted but he seized the opportunity learned a lot, and loved it. The close teamwork and the sense of breaking new ground were exciting. He especially enjoyed the market research. Three years later (when the venture fizzled), Ross was suddenly adrift and discouraged. He was still drawn to urban studies but he'd never worked in the field. He had no idea about possible careers. Without further education where would he start?
What We Did
Ross had never lost his passion for cities and, over the last 3 years, he'd kept up with the 'new urbanism'. He'd really enjoyed his roles as a change agent, interviewer and problem solver and now wanted to carry these competencies into the arena of urban issues.
Together, we designed a 4-week project to help Ross survey the field of urban studies and related disciplines. He met with people in planning, development and social housing groups, policy think-tanks and financial institutions. He ended up talking to a marketing research group that specialized in public opinion polls on social and political trends. Impressed with his enthusiasm and marketing experience, they've encouraged him to come on board for a 6-month contract. He's delighted!