Less Ordinary Career Transition – Permission to Wallow

In response to a recent postingPig in mud 1 about Terri’s 4-month journey to find a more meaningful role before being deported, one of our readers, Ellen, shared that rather than feeling motivated by Terri’s success, she somehow felt bad about it – like she couldn’t relate to this seemingly idyllic, inspirational tale.  What about when we hit roadblocks, she wondered, or when we lack clarity and we’re overwhelmed by our emotions?

In her last line, Ellen somewhat sheepishly asked for permission to wallow in her emotions and it got me thinking. Why can’t we wallow, I wondered?  Are there only downsides or can there be actual benefits to wallowing?  And as a coach, could I encourage it as part of the career change process?  What I discovered was overwhelming and unexpected. Yes! I can definitely get behind wallowing…to a point and with a purpose.

After much thought and reflection on my own career journey and the journey of the hundreds of clients I have worked with, few if any, were without setbacks and periods of sadness, frustration, anger and doubt.  Yet it seems that for many of us, we’re afraid to sit too long with our feelings and emotions.  We’ve come to see wallowing defined as self-pity, being self-absorbed and stagnating.

Well the way I’m looking at wallowing is somewhat different.  Let me explain my line of thought.

wallow [wol-oh] –verb (used without object)

1. to roll about or lie in water, snow, mud, dust, or the like, as for refreshment: Goats wallowed in the dust.
2. to live self-indulgently; luxuriate; revel: to wallow in luxury; to wallow in sentimentality.

When reading the definition, you can see that wallowing implies being in the moment, allowing yourself the time and space to really take it all in, the good and bad.  And from this perspective, I think wallowing in your emotions can be beneficial.  In our career transitions, as in many other aspects of our work and life, we are very rarely encouraged to slow down and breathe; to regroup and reassess.  As I see it, that’s what wallowing is all about.  Wallowing allows you the opportunity to deeply feel your emotions and listen to the messages they are sending.

This quiet time allows you to really be with your emotions. If we take the time to really let our emotions in, we take a critical step towards being able to release them and move forward with greater ease.  Additionally, we can learn powerful things from the messages they are sending us. Just don’t let yourself get stuck in the emotional mud.

So Ellen, permission is granted!  We all need to do a bit of wallowing in order to be successful.  Roll around in your feelings, revel in them.  Learn all you can from them and use the insight to move you into inspired action.

Stay tuned for tomorrow when we’ll look at some ways to make the most of your wallowing.

A Less Ordinary New Career – Terri’s Journey

Reading time: 2 minutes and 4 seconds

My client Terri knew she wanted a more meaningful career and we’d started taking action to make that happen.  What happened when redundancy and the threat of leaving sunny California raised the stakes?

Here she tells about her Less Ordinary Journey to a new career:

How did your Job Search come about?

I knew that management consulting wasn’t my long-term career choice as it simply wasn’t providing me with the learning opportunities  and meaningful work I was looking for.  I’d started working with Phil to make a change.  Out of the blue, my firm had a “pipeline traction discussion” with me.  The bottom line was that I lost my job and as a Canadian that gave me a fairly limited time (about four months) to find a new one or leave the US.  I was really concerned about the time pressure I was under and the state of the job market; it seemed like a really tough proposition.

How did you start your job search?

I had developed a vision of my ideal work which was much more people focused but still let me use my analytical skills.  Throughout the process, I always kept this in the back of my mind.  I started to work up a series of criteria for the next role – physical location, salary, culture and most importantly, the role and actual work content.  I knew that there may be some tough decisions to make and wanted to be clear on what was most important.

Fortunately, we’d already done a lot of work on my resume and that was a good lesson to always keep it up to date.

What practical steps did you take to get started?

I saw three major avenues to looking for a job.  The most immediate (and simplest) was to use the internet and job boards.  I set up automatic searches for roles that matched my criteria and applied for these.  Second, I identified good recruiters through referrals from friends and briefed the recruiters on the type of role I was looking for and my criteria.

Most importantly, I started to mobilise my network.  I know that more than half of all jobs come through this route, so I devoted about 80% of my time here.  I mapped out my contacts and identified about 140 people who were best placed to help.  I used a combination of the phone and email and sent personalised messages describing my situation, a carefully crafted description of what I was looking for, and a clear request for opportunities and importantly for introductions.

I found that the response rate was good, although it was vital to persist and follow up to get the most from my network.  We also came up with offering a bottle of champagne as an incentive to whoever helped me find my dream job!

How did you stay focused and persistent?

In the first few weeks, it wasn’t too difficult as there was a lot to do.  As the weeks went by and things slowed down, I had to reflect on the fact that there was no acceptable back up plan for me.  This helped me stay motivated.  I was able to brainstorm with my support network on new creative plans, like coming up with a list of dream companies to work for, and using LinkedIn to find connections there. I also took some time to obtain a professional certification that I thought would help in my search.

It was important for me to keep a routine and treat the job search like a regular job, but I was sure to make time for my regular activities (running, time with friends etc.)  I also made sure that I had some incentives for successfully completing my tasks – a weekend in Vegas certainly helped!

What happened next?

Slowly, interviews started to appear and my focus moved to interview preparation.  I spent a lot of time with Phil developing clear examples of my core skills and then talking convincingly about these.  Once these were complete, I found that much of my prep time was spent identifying what was most compelling about that company and the role I was applying for.

So what was your happy ending?

Jobs are a bit like buses and after a seeming eternity of waiting, two came along at once.  The timing wasn’t ideal as the first job I was offered didn’t fit all of my criteria and I had to hang in for a while.  The second job was pretty much ideal – great location, close to home, exciting company and culture and a role that fitted with my vision.  I guess in the final interview I felt like I had nothing to lose and that gave me the confidence to go for it.  I was able to negotiate a package that I was very happy with and am excited to start work in a couple of weeks.

I learned a lot about myself during this journey.  Probably the most important lesson was that you can only control what you do and not what happens as a result.  Despite the pressure I was under, I was able to consistently devote my absolute best to the journey and not be attached to the results.