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A Soul-Satisfying, Two-Step Approach to Career Transition for 2009

Oct 29, 2008

by Tim


life_maze.jpgA year ago this past summer, an extraordinary student enrolled in one of my entrepreneurship courses. Sean Harry, it turned out, was also an outstanding teacher—and the founder of an unusual career coaching company.

Sean’s no ordinary career coach. He was a full-time professional minister for 20 years before making his own midlife transition to lifework equally nourishing to body and spirit. So he knows a thing or two about soul satisfaction.

I asked Sean to share some thoughts with readers who, amid today’s uncertain economic climate, may be considering career transitions in 2009 and beyond. Here, from his client portfolio, is a true story that illustrates two simple steps anyone can take toward achieving greater satisfaction at work.

“Chris had been a successful Madison Avenue advertising executive for more than 15 years. When he came to see me he told the following story:

A year ago I found myself sitting in an airport bar with some fellow “road warriors” bemoaning the fact that it was my son’s second birthday—and I was missing it. The group offered no sympathy. One by one, around the table, they told their own versions of the same story. One had to leave a family vacation three days early to attend an important meeting on the West Coast. Another had missed his daughter’s high school graduation due to a work conflict. On and on the stories went. Looking around the table, I started thinking to myself, ‘I don’t want to be that guy.’ Then, suddenly, with a shiver of horror, I realized the truth: I already was that guy.

“Chris quit his job and relocated with his wife and family so they could live closer to the childrens’ grandparents. He’d made a big move toward a major career transition, but was unsure about next steps.indecisive_businessman.gif

“As we started our coaching sessions, Chris vacillated between taking a lower stress, advertising-related job to advance his career—something he didn’t really want to do—and exploring his real passion: painting. He kept saying, ‘what I really want to do is unreasonable. You can’t make a living as an artist.’

“I listened and agreed. It is tough to make a living as an artist.

“So I posed a simple question. ‘If you were going to become an artist, what would you do first?

“Chris answered easily. ‘I’d set up a little studio in my basement. Maybe rent a booth at the local artist’s market and try to sell something.’

marla_fairymap_pshrink30.JPG“‘Yes, making a living as an artist is tough,’ I replied, ‘but setting up a studio doesn’t mean you have to stop working to make a living, does it? Would you be willing to take that small step and see where it leads?’

“That’s the key: Take a small step toward your ‘unreasonable’ goal. I find clients almost always have a plan in mind—they simply need ‘permission’, as it were, to act on it. That’s Step One.

“So Chris set up his studio. He made a few paintings. He rented a space at the Saturday Market and at a Christmas Bazaar. And he sold enough to pay for materials and booths, though not enough to live on. To make ends meet, he took on work enabled by his advertising background, but more in line with his interests in art.

“But Chris still didn’t consider himself ‘an artist.’ That meant he was ready for Step Two. Using the Career Crossroads methodology, I gradually helped Chris overcome his fear of identifying himself as an artist.

“Last month Chris was asked to participate in a gallery exhibition. He has half a dozen pieces on display, and is much happier now. He’s able to spend far more time with his wife and kids. He paints and sells his work at local galleries and art shows, and travels little.

“Chris isn’t rich, but he’s happy. He began by taking a small step toward his ‘unreasonable’ goal: Setting up a studio and buying some art supplies. Next, he mustered the courage to call himself an artist. Which he is.greenhouse.gif

“Now he’s moving in the direction of living his passion—not in huge jumps, but in small, deliberate, courageous steps. That’s the two-step method toward a soul-satisfying career transition.”

Thanks, Sean. Readers, here’s the takeaway:

Step One: Take a small step toward your ‘unreasonable’ goal

Step Two: Identify yourself as what you aspire to be

You may also enjoy:

Opting Out of the Deferred Life Plan

Fixing a Broken Work Model

Time For Everything

4 Comments to A Soul-Satisfying, Two-Step Approach to Career Transition for 2009

On Nov 2, 2008, Vinay commented:

Thanks. Your article has answered my deep hidden inquiries.

On Nov 5, 2008, by Tim commented:

Thanks, Vinay–it’s answered some of mine, too! :-)

On Nov 5, 2008, MFK commented:

Thank you for this post! I just wrote about something similar on my blog, Placeholder, challenging myself and my readers to capitalize on the culture of change that the election has ushered in and take one small step for positive change, with a deadline of inauguration day.

I really like the framework you describe here, so here’s my hat in the ring:
Step 1 – started my blog.
Step 2 – I’m an in-demand writer, strategist and career coach.

On Nov 5, 2008, by Tim commented:

@MFK Love your application of the Harry Two-Step. And what better way to celebrate this terrific new day in America than by setting your own milestone for 1/20/2009?

Thanks for stopping by! Tim

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