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Career: Success stories often paved with obstacles

Dear Readers,

You may know that I split my work hours several ways. Some of my favorite hours are in 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms in Santa Rosa low income areas, where I design and deliver literacy and art programs. I try to empower, enliven and enlarge the scope of possibilities for the kids. I often read them inspiring biographies about people who start off in limited circumstance, but with big ideas and big dreams, grow to be successful. Examples are Cesar Chavez, a poor laborer who grew to be a  powerful organizer for farm laborers, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first Jewish woman to become Supreme Court Justice fighting gender and religious prejudice to get there, and Wilma Rudolph, a poor African American girl who became one of the world’s finest athletes, winning a Gold Olympic Medal for running, despite having had polio as a child.

We discuss how people with big aspirations make it via persistence, education, courage, resilience and hard work. And they move one step at a time, despite problems and obstacles.

I repeat to the children that everyone has good things and bad things happen. But not to let the bad things slow you down or sidetrack you. I heard the children’s cries of ‘oh no’ when I read the story of  how Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s mother died the day of her high school graduation. That tragic event prevented her from giving the valedictorian speech, but it did not stop her from going to college, her mother’s dream for her.

In the same way, I’ve coached educated people who had significant opportunities. They aimed high, but needed to learn persistence, and to not allow problems and obstacles to deter them. They needed to go one step at a time. Here are two examples from my coaching practice: 

  1. A mid-40s executive in a panic. He was terminated as a partner in a top accounting firm with a 15 year track record cut short by a technical error. Then his wife of many years filed for divorce. His career and home life were shattered. He hired me to help him find a way back to career success. In working together we realized he was better suited as a business man, more than  as an accountant. But that change was scary, as  his income would be about halved. He agreed to work toward that new goal, step by step.  It took perseverance. After about 25 meetings and sleepless, scary nights, he got a job offer.  It was a lower salary but it had promise. He worked really hard, fit in well, and in the next two years earned two promotions and is much happier.
  2. Two years out of college and still working at minimum wage job a 25 year old client came to me feeling lost and down. He had college degrees in engineering and design but no idea how to enter the professional world. He wanted to go from being a coffee clerk to being a manager of user interface design for a top firm. He was an ‘all or nothing’ kind of guy. We brought him down to earth and helped him to position and package his true skills and capabilities. We helped him  find companies with appropriate positions for his skills. He landed a good entry level job.  After two  years of hard work he built an impressive portfolio and landed a job at top interactive design firm. He is well on his way to a management position, one step at a time.

Most people can fly higher and go further in their career if they set clear goals and are willing to put one foot in front of the other. It’s vital to stay focused on moving ahead and lick your wounds when bad things happen.

Onward to your career success, step by step.

Coach Joan

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