Career Lesson For Twentysomethings: The Market Doesn’t Care About Your Personal Needs

In working with Career Counseling Connecticut’s twentysomethings, I realize that some of the lessons from running The Learning Consultants can serve those in their twenties who are wondering why their careers are not thriving.
Callie was in her late twenties when she came to work for us.  She had an excellent background in math and sciences. The Learning Consultants is always looking for math-science types, particularly females. She said all the rights things in the interview and, on reflection, I believe that she believed what she was saying. “Hard worker. Gets the job done. Responsible.” And so forth. An Ivy-league graduate with a high GPA, Callie’s initial career path seemed a bit circuitous as she had bounced in and out of couple of industries. But this is reasonably normal for twentysomethings on the initial part of their career path. As a career changer myself, I certainly sympathize with those who shift careers.
Callie’s first couple of clients liked her and so it seemed like we were off to a good start. Soon enough, however, Callie would have one reason or another why accepting certain assignments didn’t fit her.  The reasons appeared valid – helping her mother move, volunteering for a cause, visiting a friend – and I am a very soft-hearted manager so I should have but never pressed her to sort out how to tend to her personal needs while getting the work of our company done.
Then, her initial clients started calling and asking to be reassigned.  They liked Callie and thought she did a great job. But scheduling with her was too problematic.  They were experiencing the same problems.
I called Callie and explained how the market works:
Imagine you move a new town and need a plumber. “Joe” is recommended.  You call Joe and he does a good job. Over the next decade, whenever you need a plumber, you call Joe and he responds immediately and does a good job. 10 years of good work.  Then, sometime in the next year, you are holding a dinner party that night and you have a plumbing problem.  You call Joe. He tells you that his mother just passed away and he’s attending her funeral today.  He will help you as soon as he can which he hopes is in a day or two. You need your plumbing fixed right now. So, you get another recommendation from a friend: “call Paul”.  You do. Paul comes over and fixes the problem.
Flash forward, three months from now.  You need a plumber immediately.  You are running out the door and you see Paul’s card on the refrigerator and you don’t have Joe’s number handy.  You might not think through Joe’s loyalty and you might simply call Paul. Or, what if you liked Paul better. You don’t know enough about plumbing skill to know who was the better plumber between Paul and Joe.  Both fixed your plumbing problems.  But Joe was closer to your age or you have a mutual friend or he made you a laugh. You might choose to work with Paul going forward.
Poor Joe.  From his perspective, he provided 10 years of excellent service.  The only time that he wasn’t able to meet your need was when his mother passed away. 
The market doesn’t care. That’s the lesson that Callie needed to learn. When we then discussed her past work history, it seemed clear that whether the industries were a match or not, she seemed to have so many demands that no organization could effectively use her.  
In a service business where customer care is all important, Callie could not fit in unless she radically changed her personal needs to fit our clientele.  Too bad, she could have helped a lot of people, including herself.