Career Joy: The Lightbulb

You spent the formative years of your childhood playing in the yard that took your dad three hours to mow with a push lawnmower. He carefully edged around the vegetable garden that sprouted baseball bat-sized zucchini in the summer which your mom turned into chocolate zucchini cake with orange cream cheese frosting when she ran out of more traditional uses for the squash. You and your sister made paths through the fallen maple leaves in the fall, sledded down the yard’s sizeable hill in the winter, helped turn over your mom’s tulip beds in the spring, and swung on the swings of your aluminum tube swing set in the summer.

 

You were explorers and archaeologists and writers in the small grove of trees near the bank of mailboxes at the bottom of the hill. You hopped in the creek that ran behind the wild raspberry bushes and sloshed back through the loose shale and cold sparkling water to the waterfall behind your house.

 

Life seemed light and easy to you. You didn’t know then what you would come to discover in only a few short years: growing up in a trailer park, no matter that you have a lot the size of a football field and an honest-to-goodness waterfall out past the shed, is not socially acceptable.

 

Your baby boomer parents gave you many opportunities to make something more of yourself. With only your dad’s high school math teacher salary they made the sacrifices necessary to send you through the better school system. That schooling allowed you and your sister to get scholarships – as well as much needed financial aid from the government – to attend top strata private universities. For you, that private university gave you the tools you needed to follow a career in finance and accounting after recognizing that you would never have the patience to follow your dad’s footsteps into teaching. Besides who wants to be perpetually struggling for money?

 

So why, you ask yourself, do you find yourself contemplating a wholesale career change almost thirteen years after graduating from Boston College, three years after finally paying off school loans, and a year and a half into a Chief Financial Officer job?

 

You admonish: Your father taught high school math for 32 years. He didn’t need a career change. The folks at work love what you’re doing for them.

 

You counter: Yes but I’m miserable with what I’m doing even if it is paying the bills. AND he truly loved teaching.

 

You argue with yourself for a year. You take a failed five month hiatus to try to find yourself on your own. In the end you bite the bullet and invest the equivalent of a fancy vacation for two on career counselling.

 

Your counsellor Peggy does not understand you at first or maybe you aren’t completely truthful with her. She assumes that you need a different department somewhere within corporate Canada. You spend five sessions with her working through likes and dislikes of the roles you’ve held, values exercises and skills batteries before the light bulb goes on for both of you.

 

“You need to leave!” she exclaims triumphantly.

 

“Yes without a doubt,” you agree.

 

The problem is to what?

 

You haven’t known anything but accounting.

 

Peggy’s enthusiasm snowballs. Over the course of the next eight sessions, she helps you to climb out of your box. She forgoes her usual career toolbox for her radical set. You and she parse through the overwhelming number possibilities and identify broadly a direction in which you could head. She then proclaims you self-sufficient in charting your own course. THIS is how you find yourself, three months after your last session, with an offer sitting in your Ontario Colleges application inbox.

Up for discussion: What brings you career joy?

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