A dad decides to get going from his long-time employer, gets going with class and some self-discovery, and now continues the self-discovery before landing (hopefully) his new career.
My approach to go get my new career reminds me of the full-court pressure defense run by the celebrated college basketball coach, Rick Pitino. He has led strong Louisville and Kentucky teams to NCAA Championships and an underdog Providence team to the NCAA Final Four.
I feel like an underdog now, looking for work that is more true to me but less familiar, and closer to my community and home. I’m trying to reach my career equivalent of the Final Four. My defense needs to be aggressive and relentless to prevail against a powerful opponent: An offensive five of Fear, Doubt, Complacency, Insecurity, and Excuses.
Here is my defensive five in my career-changing version of Pitino’s full-court press:
My immediate family had to be onboard with me leaving my long-time employer and starting anew. My wife said in no uncertain terms, “You have no choice.” Easy. One down. Next, getting the kids onboard (excluding my 3-year old daughter). My 15-year old son’s first comment was for me to stay with my firm, “Dad, suck it up.” I told him that I was doing it for him, to set a good example to go get what he wants in life. He came around. His teenage mind then just wanted to know if I could drive him all the way to school each morning during the transition. Sure. Two down. My 13-year old daughter read my goodbye note to my previous firm and gave me a warm, familiar smirk and an “atta-boy” pat on the back. Great. Three down. Just one more to go.
Have a Plan
Early on, I spoke to a friend about my situation and he immediately responded that I couldn’t have gotten here without masterful planning. Was that really true? For starters, I had a deadline already.
My 11-year old son said to me, “I just have one question. When do YOU think you’ll be working again?”
My still-corporate mind blurted out, “By end of first quarter.” He looked confused. I corrected myself, “I mean by March 31st.”
He then said very matter of fact, “Good. That’s what I thought too.” And he walked away.
So there it was, a line in the sand drawn by my son who had no idea. And, full support from my family, which just meant that no one was freaking out. Yet.
How else had I planned? I saved. Like auto-pilot, money went to retirement funds, college savings, and liquid savings for major purchases and to minimize debt. I started thinking in terms of net worth, which was healthy even if our income wasn’t right now. I got involved in my community: Coaching youth sports, joining our little league board, and initiating impactful events like an annual opening day celebration and community-based basketball clinics. At work, I focused on writing and other communications and led an employee resource network for working families. I really liked how these activities made me feel, and I wanted to feel that way all the time. Planning and self-discovery were happening all along. I finally had a trigger and time to think about it.
My primary exercise of early morning swims 2-3 times per week kept me in pretty good shape. But, I needed to be in great shape and feel my best. So, we made a small change at home. We moved the hidden exercise bike into the family room for those days I didn’t make it to the pool or my wife couldn’t run outside. I upped my workouts to 5-6 times per week. I started strength training too, full-body workouts that I found on YouTube. I felt great with all the new motions and muscles in play. And, I made an important switch after I was no longer working. Instead of swimming, I began rowing with an adult team, which got me out of bed even earlier than when I was working. Isolated swimming wasn’t going to do it for me any more after losing hundreds of work colleagues from my daily life. I needed more communities in my life.
I needed to use different muscles in my head too. I really had no choice. My brain just lost a big chunk of its use, no longer occupied with work, and I had to fill it with good things. I started writing. Sometimes waking in the middle of the night to put my thoughts on paper. I devoured career / motivational books beginning with “No More Mondays,” by Dan Miller. I walked past this book outside of my office every day for three years. I don’t know how it got there, but I finally picked it up one day. The book makes you think about this question: What kind of world would this be if everyone in it were just like me? And, that you should think of work as your best opportunity to answer your true calling each day. The book includes inspirational quotes and recommends other great books for future study.
I’ve always loved music. Something with a beat, well-written lyrics, and passionate singing. I created a playlist, “Get Going,” with my favorite motivating and reflective artists – Bono / U2, Bruce, Van Morrison, Paul Westerberg / the Replacements, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Dylan, Rihanna-Kayne-McCartney, etc. The playlist followed me everywhere. My bedroom. The car. At rowing. These artists helped me think and stay positive and reminded me of my ultimate goal to find and release the music and passion in me.
The classic book, “What Color is Your Parachute,” by Richard Bolles, picks up where “No More Mondays” leaves off. Bolles teaches in a simple, Dr. Seuss kind of way. You begin with yourself instead of the job market. You figure out who you are and what you love to do. You test your career choice with people who know you best and then with people in your desired industry. You decide which specific organizations match you. Then, you approach those firms, even if there isn’t an opening, through someone who knows them and knows you.
So, that’s what I did. Spanning several weeks, I spoke to easily over 100 people. I had a wonderful natural network, an unexpected benefit of having four children. I call them a network but they are really friends. I spoke to these friends or asked them to introduce me to others I should meet. I never traveled far without my Flower Diagram, the result of the book’s exercise to more fully understand who you are. Bolstered by my self-discovery and info gathered, I was able to talk to anyone with confidence and enthusiasm in an industry that was new to me. I uncovered jobs that didn’t exist. Bolles claims 86% success rate with the Parachute method. I believe him.
The great thing about my career-changing full-court press is that if I had a bad day, some rejection is inevitable, I knew how to get back on my feet quickly. Work out harder. Play my music louder. Hug my daughter more tightly. Keep writing. I was resilient and convinced myself that if one door closed, another better door would open soon.
From one underdog to a once underdog, thank you Rick Pitino.
Next and last, where will I land?
Top Photo: Flickr/Gus Estrella