Coaching, a Case

career directionOn Beginning a Career


I’ve coached people who are applying for jobs for many years. I’ve advised them about how best to communicate with HR representatives to secure an interview, how to take interviews and impress prospective employers with their skills and potential, and how to follow-up with e-mails afterward. My coaching has always been well received, and my favorite feedback has been a growing list of success stories.

My most rewarding story of late has been my son’s. He’s 30, an attorney in NJ with an additional graduate degree in tax and estate planning (LLM) and looking for employment—again. ‘Looking’ is the operant word. With little real world experience to match his educational accomplishments, he has been on the application treadmill for nearly two years. A number of times he was told he had been shortlisted, a second or third choice. But positive feedback doesn’t pay the bills. And a series of contract jobs at investment companies had him working long hours at low pay.

He asked me for advice. Keeping in mind that physicians don’t treat their families for a reason, I agreed to help. He had one really positive trait in his favor: Although he often felt defeated, he didn’t stop looking, concentrating his focus on jobs that emphasized his JD rather than his LLM in tax. Time and again he lost out to lawyers with more experience. What he lacked was a strategy to deal with the harsh reality. I recommended that he clear the water of competition that he could not meet. I suggested he might shift his search emphasis: be the tax guy with a JD instead of the other way around.

The strategy paid off with competing offers, and with them came confusion about how to choose the best one. I met the next request for advice with a couple of calls and the following letter:

“The thing to remember about this market is that once you’ve reached a certain skill set level it is as competitive between employers for competent employees as it is between applicants for jobs, so have confidence in yourself.

What’s happening now that your LLM is coming into play in the market is that you’re more of a commodity, so don’t be surprised if there are other opportunities that show up as well.

The bottom line is:  You have the freedom to go where you want and explore competitive offers. Now that you’ve found a key, you can base your choice on what you find important to have … expressed in these three elements, not necessarily in the following order:
* Money
* Quality and meaning of your work life
* Quality of life
If there’s a great place to work in a job you find enjoyable that pays more than others, it’s a no-brainer.  But since that probably won’t happen, weigh and balance the three elements.  And, most of all, just because you have one job doesn’t mean you can’t look out for another that is more suitable or to your liking considering the three elements. 

This is the beginning of your professional working life; trust your gut and you’ll make the right decision. Your career is ahead – have more than just work, have good work. Remember although money is important, the quality of your life can’t be measured in money. Enjoy the journey.”

He got the right job, one that balances money, meaning and quality as Assistant Vice President of Tax and Compliance at a bank in Philadelphia. For me, the best reward was being able to apply my professional skills to my son’s situation, a successful mix of parent and coach.


Posted by Ellen

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