For the helping professionals and perhaps the counselees that read this blog, I thought it might find it helpful to see an edited transcript of a career and personal coaching session. I've changed irrelevant details to protect client anonymity.
The client is a rep for a major fashion company. She supervises counters at 10 stores
In the first session, concluded she aspires to a non-retail, people-centric corporate management job. Also, she wants to meet Mr. Right.
C: My parents asked me about my session with you. Everyone
told me how much more relaxed I sounded. I then emailed or called 10 people in my
network. Some said they knew of admin positions or things like that. A few people
said they’d help me if I was more specific about what I want, and a couple said
they’ll get back to me if they hear anything. I’ve created two versions of my
resume: a sales resume and an office manager resume. I’ve shown it to my
brother and a friend and they’ll get back to me.
M: One of the things we talked about last session was that
you said you wanted to make a stronger effort to try to land a launchpad
management job for your current company but not in retail.
C: I haven’t had a chance to do that.
M: Was that intentional, if only unconsciously?
C: No. I just haven’t gotten to it.
M: Okay. With the benefit of a week’s time, have you gotten
clearer about whether you might prefer that job, an admin job, or a non-retail salesperson?
C: I'm not sure.
M: It’s probably wise to pick one for your Plan A.
C: I know I don’t want to go back to sales.
M: I’m talking about being a corporate sales rep.
C: I’m not sure what that would look like.
M: It varies but typically you try to get in to see major
wholesale or business clients, make a sales presentation, helping them try to
solve their problems with an advice, an article an so on. It is a quota-driven
business. Is that a turn-on or turn off?
C: I’m feeling indifferent.
M: So let’s ask the same question about admin. I have a client who’s the office manager at a
medical practice. She hires receptionists and billing clerks. She creates or
tweaks processes to make them efficient and supervises people to make sure
things get done.
C: It’s not something I’d want to do long-term but if it
would lead somewhere else, it would be an option.
M: That’s not a likely launchpad. The sense I’ve gotten
about you is that your best launchpad job would be that entry-level
people-centric manager in a corporation. Because you don’t have a degree, your
best chance to get such a job would be through your network because most
advertised such jobs generally require a degree.
The people who said they want you to be more specific are
encouraging you to be what I call “falsely precise.” That’s because you’ve said
that as long as the job was people-centric, as long as it wasn’t highly technical,
it wouldn’t matter whether it’s fashion, consumer products, or education
services. If to please that person, you said, “I want to be a people-centric
manager in the shoe industry,” that would eliminate any other jobs they might
So you need to push back, to educate them: “What matters is only that it
is a people-centric entry-level corporate management job with good people and
If you’re going to use the ads to try to land a job, your
most realistic shot is to apply for other sales manager positions for companies
selling non-technical products. Let’s double check: Are you sure it doesn’t
matter what the product is that you’d be a sales manager or other kind of
C: I don’t know. I need to think about it.
M: One more check: Last session, you described yourself as
artistic, liking fashion accessories, and travel. Would you be more interested
if the company was a furniture chain, boutique chain, adventure travel tour
C: I’d need to see what that looked like.
M: You’re a visual person. So let’s try this. Close your
eyes and take three comfortably deep breaths. Now picture the work environment
in which you’d feel best.
C: There’d be a lot of people, mainly my age, dressed in business casual. It would be an open space…
M: What would you be doing there?
C: I see myself walking around a lot and talking a lot with
M: What would you be talking with them about?
Other than personal things, projects for the day.
M: What else do you picture about that work?
C: I see it as similar to what I do now: Talking people to
make personal connections and then figuring out a game plan with them: for a
project, an event, the agenda, the action plan?
M: So the product doesn’t matter. It’s more about being
M: So that confirms our original thought: that you’d like a
people-centric entry-level management job in a young-person’s environment, with
the product irrelevant. I also see you working in a pretty environment.
M: And you’re motivating them, helping them plan like
marketing, running meetings, maybe standing meetings.
M: Key to success is what they say to students at Harvard’s
orientation: Ask for what you want and when
they say no, ask someone else. So when they ask you to be more specific, push
back and don’t state false precision. Ultimately, that will get you more leads
and good ones.
A related point: The keys to almost everyone’s job happiness
is a good boss,good product, ethical
workplace, nice workers, reasonable pay, reasonable commute. You have a better
chance of getting one by cramming as thorough of a job search as you can in two weeks
so you can pick the one that, overall is likely to be good. If, instead you do
a drips-and-drabs job search, you’ll probably only get one offer and you’ll be
very tempted to take it even if it isn’t great.
C: Are there any other key words I should use in making my
M: If there were a Goddess, what would she say your best
C: I’m good at motivating people, improving processes, being
M: So, if you were an employer in a position to hire an
entry-level manager, even though you weren’t advertising for such a job at the
moment, how would you feel about receiving this letter:
I’m currently a
sales manager at XXXX and have topped out here. I’m particularly good at
motivating people, improving processes, and being organized. As long as it’s a
product I can believe in and the job isn’t tech-heavy, I’d be happy. If you
think we should talk to see how I meet be of help to you, I’d appreciate
it.If you were a power person at a
company, how would you feel about getting such a letter?
M: Just as with a guy, while we all have to make some compromises, you need to stand firm on the things that are important for you.
C: I agree.
M: Let’s be silent for 30 seconds and you get in touch with
how you’re feeling about reaching out to people with that pitch. (30 seconds
C: Great. I’m already thinking of additional people I could
reach out to. For example, I have a friend who works at Uber corporate.
M: I like that because unlike the fashion industry, the
travel industry has plenty of guys. And since you say you’re looking for Mr.
Right and wanted to talk about that, remember that the workplace (along with
getting set up and online dating,) is a great way to meet Mr. Right. In a bar,
you can’t hear what people are saying and you may be inebriated. At work, you
get to see what the person is like, day in and day out. What kind of dating site would work best for
C: One that isn’t so visually centric. I want to know about
M: Are you clear on your non-negotiables in your Mr. Right?
C: That he values family. I want a family some day.
Goal-oriented, driven. And I’m spiritual so I’d like someone who agrees with
that. Someone who likes travel, is intellectual.
M: Does he need to be educated? You don’t have a college
C: No. Just someone I can talk politics with, about everything.
M: I created a Relationship Report Card. Would you like me
to print it out to see if it unearths something important to you?
C: (After reading it) I’ve never thought about it but having
a positive outlook on life is important.
M: Yeah, life has enough real ups and down. So it helps to
have a positive bias.
C: Also, he needs to be free from serious problems.
M: You said you had written a bunch of questions. Are there
any, I haven’t answered?
C: The only one we haven’t covered is that it’s hard for me
to see big picture. We’ve talked about my next job being a launchpad. What do
you see for me in five years?
M: Tell me what you think feels accurate and not about this scenario: I picture you landing your
target job and striving for work-life balance. On the personal side, You’re
cute and nice and so I picture you achieving your goal of being married and
after, a few months of travel, you’d get pregnant and take an extended period
of time for maternity leave and even after that, probably not be that upwardly
driving. What feels right and wrong about that?
C: I had a come to Jesus moment when my boss told me about a
promotion I was up for. She said that if you have kids, you probably won’t be
able to put in the required hours. I do want to make family first. I used to
think I wanted to be a CEO but now I know that work-life balance is important
M: Okay. I want to be sure that your job pitch is as
well-delivered as possible. Key is the PAR story. For each of your best skills
that might impress your target employer, you describe a work problem you face,
the clever or dogged way you approached it, and the positive result. It’s good
to have a few of those in a few sentences each, in your quiver to put in your
cover letter, in interviews, even in your resume. Can you think of one?
C: My largest store has a three-person counter and the
counter manager was having a hard time motivating the person who used to be the
top salesperson and very competitive but had fallen down and now is too much
about chatting. So I reached out to the 3rd person who’s
people-driven and competitive. After brainstorming with her, we agreed we should
make things competitive: posting the sales results of each person, using that 3rd
person rather than me to egg on the competition. Soon, she was selling really
M: Great. The specificity of that feels credible. You can
stick a PAR story in your cover letter. “An example of the kind of work I did
is…insert your PAR story.
C: I did have a question about my sales resume.
M: Since you said you’d much rather be a people-centric
manager, I’d suggest you not send out your sales resume or administrative one
but rather, create one aimed at the launchpad job you really want. So the summary at the top of your resume
should be aimed at that job and the related skills you said are your best. Again, ask for what you want. If they say no,
ask other people, whether it’s for a job or Mr Right.
M: Okay, be silent again for 30 seconds and let the session
and the game plan wash over you. Then I’ll ask you what are you feeling.
C: I feel excited. Before I was mainly nervous.
M: A weird question: What kind of skin makeup do you wear?
C: Something with tint. My skin is pasty white.
M: You do have a pale complexion. I’m wondering if it’s
worth experimenting with one or two shades darker.
C: Of course I want to look tan. Why do you ask?
M: It looks like that makeup actually makes your skin
look lighter. It also looks a little powdery. I’m wondering if you should try
another brand? Just when you’re at one of your stores, try a couple options for
fun, maybe even go with a friend of yours?
C: I have a couple of friends that would be really honest.
M: My sister made a lot of money selling makeup. Do you want
to hear her story?
M: After college, the only job she could get was selling
toilet paper for Scott toilet paper. One day she heard that the highest-profit
margin item is cosmetics. She found out that one manufacturer will sell to an
individual. So she bought a line of makeup and called it “Let’s Make Up.” She
then rented a tiny space in the window of a high-end beauty salon and did
makeovers. And because she’s great at applying makeup and selling, she sold a
lot. Then she rented a small storefront in a great location, painted the
outside in pink and white stripes and of course, called it “Let’s Make Up.”
Soon, she hired other people and trained them in applying makeup and selling
it. That’s all she needed to make a helluva living.
C: That was a great story.