We all have career goals and aspirations. Along with these goals, come time frames by which we think these goals should be met. We script out the progression of everything that will happen between point A and point B exactly as we imagine it should be done. Our focus is like a laser as we seek anything and everything that will get us to where we aspire to be. When our plans don't shake out the way we think it should, we become discouraged.
Last week, I was feeling discouraged when I thought about how months of my own hard work and thoughtful strategizing hadn't turned out the way I thought it should in my pursuit of accomplishing a specific career goal. Since January, I had been aggressively interviewing for various executive level leadership positions with top-notch organizations. Each time it was looking like the offer was sure to come my way, it didn't. I was so intensely focused on the very specific goal I had set, that I was blind to seeing - let alone considering - any alternative. The thought of something different than the corner suite with the executive officer title was simply not a serious consideration.
Then, I came across a blog written by Mindy Sauer, the mother of 5-year-old Ben Sauer who lost his very public battle with an aggressive form of cancer in May. Her strong spiritual faith and unyielding trust in an ultimate plan other than her own has helped her to remain strong during this unimaginably difficult time. Her vulnerability in offering up her family's journey as they experience a new life different than what they thought "should" happen has allowed them to remain open to seeing light where others may not.
Elizabeth P. Cipolla
Don't get me wrong. By no means am I comparing career disappointment to the intense grief of losing a child. However, Mindy's blog referenced a book titled, "When God Winks At You" by Squire Rushnell. The book is filled with true stories of amazing coincidence that show us the subtle ways God uses to communicate with us to show that we're not alone during times of discouragement. Mindy hared a "God wink" example of a cardinal that continuously appeared within a few feet of her family while recently vacationing in Myrtle Beach for the first time without Ben. This vacation was obviously a difficult milestone in their grieving process. Upon their return from vacation, they discovered that a red cardinal is representative of a loved one who has passed and they show up when you most need or miss them.
Mindy's blog got me thinking about the discouragement I was feeling in my own life, and how trivial it seemed compared to what families like the Sauers are experiencing. It also struck a chord in me to consider what signposts I might be overlooking as I tried to chart my own career course without considering an alternative. Then something interesting happened. A former college student of mine sent me a lengthy message out of the blue. She wanted to tell me how inspirational my instructional style was to her. She wrote about her new career and thanked me for the knowledge she gained and confidence I showed in her throughout the course we shared. Only 30 minutes later, I received a phone call from a business owner needing professional development services. He was referred to me by a client I hadn't worked with in years. This stopped me in my tracks. Did God just "wink" at me?
The motivation behind my executive career goal was to work in a position that allowed me to develop employees and impact bottom line results. Yet, this was becoming overshadowed by my stubborn quest for a superficial title. My consulting business and work with college students does enable me to develop others and certainly impacts bottom-line results in many businesses. By reinvesting fully into my own business and shedding the self-serving mindset of wanting a swanky title, I can stay true to my mission.
What "God wink" or coincidence might you be overlooking? Shift your eyes up from the discouragement you're feeling and see your personal message before it passes you by.
Elizabeth P. Cipolla, SPHR is a business communications professional specializing in the areas of leadership training, creative recruitment strategies, employment branding, professional development and executive coaching for nearly 15 years. Her leadership experience comes from various industries including marketing, mass media, apparel, education, manufacturing, nonprofit agencies and insurance. To contact Elizabeth, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her company's website at www.changeagentsee.com.