Your Work Concerns Are Not Unique, And That’s Okay, Because You Are
Please consider me your limousine driver for today’s piece. You are in the back but are getting a bit nervous about where we are going, the route we are taking and how long it will take to get there. You want to capture my attention. I hear your somewhat muffled voice and lower the tinted glass. I hear you and say, I know this city like the back of my hand.
It’s an elaborate metaphor for a career coach to bring up with a client, I’ll admit. But bear with me. The point is that I want you to feel unique and special, but at the same time, I want you to know, your work concerns are not new to me, or to the world. And you can trust me to help.
An exceedingly high percentage of the struggle around work comes down to the same questions:
I’m filled with fear about searching for a new job. How can I make it less awful?
How do I pivot from doing ____ to doing ____?
I have lost my job. How do I land a new one soon?
How do I figure out what work to seek next when I’ve no idea?
How do I know if my current role is the right one for me?
How do I find a job that pays me _____?
How do I find an employer who will invest in my growth/treat me with respect?
How do I find a role with an employer with ____ culture?
Can someone with my skills and experiences get a job like ___?
How do I get a job with predictable hours and days?
How do I find a job that lets me use or learn ____ skills?
How do I get started being my own boss at ____?
This represents 95% of what people ask when they contact me. Do you see most of your pressing concerns? I hope so. Why? Because all of these issues are navigable. It isn’t always easy, but you can do that work.
That. Should. Make. You. Happy.
Why? Because this means that the solutions are known and the path to solving them is well trod. Furthermore, you can get past the thoughts rattling around in your head that you should be embarrassed by this issue. Overcoming embarrassment means you can bring your challenges up with friends and others who can offer you emotional support, critical feedback, and connections in their network.
This. Should. Make. You. Happier. Still.
While your concerns are most often not unique, you are unprecedented. The alchemy that created who you are has never existed in the exact way that you present them. Knowing that makes you a potentially amazing candidate for so many things.
Being in job search mode means you might feel a little less amazing about yourself right now and view your options as limited. Take a moment and consider your interesting intersections. What are the unusual things that come together that make you unusual in any employment pool?
Here are a few people I’ve worked with, recently.
- The disaster relief worker who became a funeral director and then worked with college freshman. They have repeatedly worked with a variety of individuals in stressful positions and been able to provide them comfort.
- The professional acrobat and/or motocross biker seeking human resources or sales roles has proven an ability to learn and excel in competitive fields where they must perform in front of crowds and deal with pressure. They also have great stories to tell.
- The newspaper writer who proves adept at sales knows how to listen deeply for the real story that goes beyond the headline and could prove decisive in structuring deals.
- The nonprofit storytelling director who attends advertising school knows that social causes need to think more like brands to connect with broader audiences and make the change they say they want to see in the world.
Don’t forget that your lived experience and the scarcity of people like you in a marketplace can be an asset for employers. For example, being a first-generation college graduate or American, or the litany of demographic information that are your background can make you special in an applicant pool. And yes, being “special” can hurt in gaining access sometimes, too. The right personal narrative and the right role and employer can come together.
Sometimes we have trouble seeing what makes us unique or lack the words to share it with others. This is where I refer you back to my earlier point about engaging those smart and trustworthy people in your network. You want them to help you answer the following questions: What do I do best? What are my unusual intersections? How is that all relevant, given what I want to pursue?
We spend so much of our time being embarrassed by our anxieties in our job searches. If you don’t own it, you can spend a lifetime living in fear. But you’re special. You deserve a limo as you search for your next job. Not just a career coach.
Thank you for driving with RF Limos. Glad to help you along on this stage of your journey.
—Russ Finkelstein is the opposite of your High School Guidance Counselor. A career coach, social entrepreneur and advisor to founders, he is currently the Director of Coaching with the Roddenberry Fellowship, Coach-in-Residence with StartingBloc Fellowship and a Co-Founder of Title8 a Legal Marketplace. He was a founder of the noted careers website Idealist.org and his new book, "Let's Sort Out Your Career Mess, Together..." is forthcoming in 2021.