Workin’ 9 to 5 (and those defining moments in our careers)

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“My defining moment, which led me to my work in the world, was choosing to let go of what everyone else desired my work to be and what I thought I had to do and who I had to be for everyone else. I decided to see what would happen when I took all the energy I spent taking care of others and applied it to myself.”
~ Ava Taylor, YAMA Talent

“Freedom, that’s the kind of power I’m interested in. When we help each other get free, then it’s not about anybody being on top or anybody being on the bottom. It’s about being together, in a community.”
~ Eve Ensler

Those two quotes came floating across my world in the last several weeks after falling madly in love with Origins Magazine during my recent trip to Washington, DC. (You know those rare magazines where you actually read almost if not all of the articles and don’t regret the money you plunked down on it and actually keep the magazine for months?  Yeah, it’s rare, isn’t it! This is one rare ‘zine.).  The first quote relates to my primary work as a recruiting consultant, and the second associates directly to my work as a career coach.

And this all made me think, what were some of my own defining moments? What affected me so deeply that it helped me really see what I was made of, where my talents were, and the path I wanted to head out on?

In two weeks, I’ll have reached that amazing point of celebrating my one year anniversary as a full time entrepreneur. While I’ve had businesses on the side in the past as a photographer, then a chocolatier, this was the first time I struck out on my own full time and was completely reliant on self-employment to bring home the bacon.  Kind of awesome and terrifying and exhilarating all wrapped into one – and totally ending up being “me”.

Leaving my corporate job wasn’t the hard part (trust me).  It was building a business model from scratch.  Combining a little bitta this and a little bitta that, and some sage advice from a close friend in the consulting field, I started formulating what I wanted to do for my clients.  I wanted to redefine what retained search looked like, doing what I do best in meshing candidate AND client advocacy to help everyone get what they need, and get it quickly. I love seeing jobs get filled just as much as I love seeing a candidate be successful!

I wanted to take advantage of the fact that “Aimee gets things done.”  It’s a reputation I’ve had for a very very long time, since I was in retail.  Maybe it’s the list-crosser-offer in me.  Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a bit flighty, as an old roommate once described me, and I feed off of working on a variety of projects with a variety of people.  Maybe it’s because I have little tolerance for monotony, politics, bureaucracy, or ego.  So for me, working from home allows me to get things done efficiently (ooh I love efficiency, y’all!), and working for a variety clients on recruiting projects gives me the diversity I crave, while not having to go to stupid meetings, not have to look around and see a coworker shopping for shoes when she should be working, and not getting paid equitably for the results I bring in.  (Maybe it’s the salesperson in me but I like seeing a direct result for my efforts.  It’s something I’ve never understood – corporate recruiters rarely if ever get compensated based on results, and time to fill I believe often suffers with no incentive.)

Anyhoo.  So obviously starting my business was a defining moment, but one that matches it, if not bigger, was a highly charged situation where I was dealing with a client who was clearly behaving unethically. And on top of that, I was dealing with a personal crisis that had left me feeling quite weakened.  I knew I had the choice right then and there to walk away, write it off, and say hell with it, OR fight for what I knew was right.  I did the latter, and I came out on top.  But for me it wasn’t about winning – it was about learning to not be intimidated as a small business owner by those with more resources, and – as always – trusting my instincts professionally like I do personally. The experience also taught me valuable lessons about my business model, how I could refine and clarify my communications, and how personal relationships with clients ultimately don’t mean squat when it comes to business ethics. And this experience? It made me brave.  Boy did it make me brave.  And I’m better for it.

Seems like the moments that define you are always related with how you got through a rough patch, doesn’t it?  In my personal life it always seems to be the tragedies and the conflicts that make or break us, help us decide how we want to react and who we’re going to be in the aftermath.  I know the death of my father was a real sparkplug for me – not only in understanding myself but learning about the family, friends, and colleagues who were in my life at the time.  How are people going to respond?  Who’s going to support you?  How are you going to walk through the pain (or are you going to walk around it)?

As a career coach, my role is to help people who know where they want to go to get where they want to be.  My job has never been to help them decide what path to take next (wonderful life coaches like my friend Cindy at Gold Dog Consulting are phenomenal at that early stage guidance). My role is to help you reach the goal you’ve already created through a plan of attack in the form of a great resume, great cover letter, great LinkedIn profile and – just as important – a great network!

But you know what’s interesting?  In the years that I’ve been coaching, there are two parties – the ones who are truly ready to change and do what is needed to hit that target, and those who are aren’t.  Networking is tremendously important to the job search, and I’m not referring to cheesy business card events (see my article on networking for Mac’s List here).  Unfortunately, nearly half of my coaching clients don’t take me up on the lists of people I offer to connect them to, or don’t follow up when they are connected!

After doing so much coaching, the biggest thing I see holding nearly every person back?  Fear.  And I’m talking women AND men, y’all.  Everyone has fears – they just get expressed in different ways.  So my hope, in my coaching, is that I can play a tiny part in helping my clients be freed of a bit of that fear that is holding them back. I try to make them laugh, allay their fears, and tell them my own stories of shyness (I’m nervous before every new client meeting, believe it or not!). Like Eve Ensler said in the quote up top, it’s about community. We are the community we create.  So with that, arm yourself with what you need to be successful – in your heart and in your hand – and take that first step! I promise, you won’t regret it.

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