Why Your Career Challenges Will Build Your Career

Those who lived in Connecticut during the last 5 years know that Tropical Storm Irene was equally as challenging to Connecticut residents as Hurricane Sandy.  For me, Irene was far more challenging: the power went out in both my home and my Madison office for 10 days (fortunately, my Old Saybrook office was fine).  

On a professional level, the biggest challenge related to workshops that I run through The Learning Consultants. I had to communicate with 30 attendees of my Sunday workshops in Madison and reroute them to my Old Saybrook office.  Given that power was out for most of Shoreline, Connecticut, this was a business communication challenge of the highest order. But, I did my best and offered make-up classes as well to ensure that every client was happy and satisfied.

Yesterday, my office in Madison was flooded.  I was surprisingly calm.  I realized why: I dealt with this issue a couple years ago.  And, this issue was not as significant.  Communication was not down in Shoreline, Connecticut and, fortunately, the flood was not going to prevent holding classes on Sunday.

The lesson: as you sit with your career challenges, you might think there is nothing good that will come from your inability to find a new job or figure out a new career path or simply make your job more enjoyable. This is not true if you take a problem solving approach. Whatever solutions you come up with will help you immeasurably as you make your career path.  

Here’s an example: one of my career counseling clients was laid off from a career in media. He had 20 plus years experience.  He was not naturally entrepreneurial.  Frustrated at his inability to find job after a few months, he came in for a career counseling session.   We discussed many potential job hunting strategies, most of which he readily agreed to try, except for one: I urged him to start his own consulting entity. He was adamant that he did not have “the stuff” for entrepreneurship.  I assured him that whatever magic dust he thinks entrepreneurs have does not exist.  I also told him that the idea was not to build a business instead of searching for a job but to build a business as part of his job seeking strategy.  If he landed clients for projects, one of those projects could turn into a job.  That reasoning propelled him forward. 

Six months later, my client called again. This was a delightful career counseling meeting as he had a positive dilemma.  The business turned out to be far better than he expected.  He had three projects that – at least for now – earned him more money than his last job.  He was also astonished by how much he liked his new work life.   Working out of his home in Fairfield, CT sure beat commuting to New York city. 
But, now he had something to think about.  One of his clients had offered him a job.  The job seeking strategy had paid off!  We batted around the idea of building his business versus taking the job.  He ultimately decided to take the job.

The real pay off, however, was his lengthy note to me on how much the last six months had shifted his anxiety level.  Prior to being laid off, he had been perpetually terrified of losing his job.  (Those in media have been slaughtered in the last decade.)   

Now, the worst had happened and he found that he had a solution if he got laid off again: he could build his business.  His career challenge had helped created his career salvation.  He would no longer be worried (or at least as worried) about losing his job because he had figured out a solution to that challenge.

And, as I sit here in my Madison office, I’m thankful that Irene taught me a lesson as well.