Career Change: I will teach you how to take the first step…

A few years ago, I worked with Hank, a late twenties New Haven based salesman for a software company.   Hank got his job as many people do, a friend was working for the company and recommended Hank. This was Hank’s first real job.  He had graduated Central Connecticut when the recession hit and worked as a bartender for the first 8 months after college. After his friend called to get him the interview, Hank eagerly apply and was happy to have a job when hired.

Sales seemed like a reasonable fit because Hank is good with people and, as a former competitive athlete, he was not daunted as much by the pressure of sales that affects others.  He did reasonably well during his first few years. He then hit a plateau and while he “made his numbers”, he had grown weary.  Each year, he disliked his job more. He also realized that he had “shut off all his dreams.”  It was terrific that he showed gratitude when he was first fired.  But he also built up a story: “I’m lucky to have a job – any job.” And with that, Hank turned off not only his dreaming button but hopes of having a job he liked.

Hank had been a star basketball player in a Connecticut high school and now coached for fun at a middle school in Hamden.  This, however, won’t be the story of how career counseling led Hank to a basketball related job. Instead, Hank provided a metaphor in his recent Christmas card to me.  “You showed me how to take the first step and I’m forever grateful.”

When we met for our initial career counseling session, Hank and I had discussed why he was so stuck.  He felt overwhelmed whenever he thought about changing careers.  He used the basketball metaphor: “I need to learn how to take the first step…” In basketball, an effective first step helps an offensive player get around the defender on a drive to the basket.  In forging a career path, knowing the first baby step is the key to building momentum.

That’s what we focused upon during what I term the “exploratory work” phase of our career counseling program and within a year, Hank had taken the first step to a happy career.