I was working with a client yesterday. He’s a really good guy who is thinking about leaving a practical career path for a more inspirational one. I mentioned psychological blocks that prevent people from moving forward. I asked how his friends would react. My client relayed that his best friend had a distinctly negative reaction. What people think matters to us, particularly when we are young and, of course, particularly when we do not have the strength to be fully authentic. Fortunately, my client seems to be both psychologically advanced enough and has parental support (often the biggest of people that matter to us) that he likely will move forward.
The meeting reminded me of work with a client a few years ago. Eddie was from East Lyme, Connecticut. I originally knew him through The Learning Consultants even more years back. I always liked him a great deal but I knew that he drove his parents (and perhaps teachers) crazy because he had a minimal attention span. Back then, I suggested to his parents that Eddie consider a gap year or the trades or some other work skill because college would be a struggle. His college educated parents – who lived in the highly affluent and educated world of East Lyme – heard my words but did not really listen. Multiple college drop outs and 7 years later, Eddie came to me.
Eddie really hated school. He couldn’t sit through classes. He could barely read for 20 minutes without getting bored. He hated math. College was not for him but his parents had essentially forced him to go to college for the last 7 years. He dropped in and out routinely but now his parents agreed that he needed to see me before he went back to college again.
Going back to college was not the answer. Unfortunately, Eddie did not have any interest in the trades or anything technical. “Not interested in computer stuff or working with my hands.”
Eddie always had been good with people. A natural salesman, Eddie had relayed his three good work experiences: sales at an electronics big box store, sales at a retail store, and sales at a used car lot. He loved the latter. Eddie loved cars, particularly older cars and felt like he wasn’t even working when he had that job. “I would do the work for free. Seriously! I love talking about cars.” Eddie was also really honest so he probably broke any stereotype customers may have had for used car salesmen. He did so well that the bosses nicknamed him “the prodigy” because during his third month he sold as much as the lead car salesman that month. Eddie quit this job that he (1) loved (2) excelled at and (3) made excellent money for someone his age because his parents insisted he go back to college and because they did want their son to be a used car salesman.
Two years after that job and two more college start and stops later, Eddie likely knew what he should do but he needed an expert to convince him to follow his inner wisdom. While it may seem strange that someone who has devoted his life to education provided career counseling advice that amounted to “do not go back to college, become a used car salesman.”, that was what was best for Eddie. He had to ignore the crowd (his parents and others from his wealthy Connecticut suburb) and head toward the career that worked for him.