Finding your career sweet spot can be an unexpected journey.
One of my guilty pleasures this fall—or maybe just a necessary escape—was watching The Voice. I started in September and continued for the length of my job search. If you haven’t watched, aspiring singers compete to get on the show and then they perform while the judges listen with their backs turned. When the judges hear something they like, they push a button and their chairs turn around signaling they want that person to be “on their team.” When more than one judge turns around, the singer gets to choose whose team they want to be on. The judges are accomplished singers with very different styles and strengths looking for certain characteristics that will round out their teams. Sometimes, if the contestant knocks it out of the park, they get to choose from among Team Blake, Team Ceelo, Team X-tina, or Team Adam.
Most often the contestant is lucky to have at least one of the judges hit the button to select them. When the buzzer is silent, we are captivated by the singer’s face as we witness their disappointment while staying composed as the judges weigh in with feedback. The great thing about The Voice is that the judges are kind and say constructive things like:
“You did a great job but missed some high notes.”
“You picked a really difficult song and may have done better with another type of song.”
“You are terrific, but just not what I was looking for on my team.”
“You need to take a few years to work on your technique.”
And everyone gets a hug.
For many of the contestants, this is a make or break moment- will they join Adam Levine? Or will they go back to busing tables in El Paso, Texas? Most of the contestants are young and good looking. We root for them, knowing, really, they’ll all be fine. They have years to figure it out. Compare this to the Susan Boyle moment in “Britain’s Got Talent.” Simon and Piers are not nice like Adam, Blake, et al. Who wasn’t thrilled to see frumpy, middle-aged Susan Boyle (finally) live her dream?
This leads me back to my job search. There were days when I felt like a contestant on The Voice, and it felt great when someone pushed their button for me. But that didn’t mean I had won the contest, just that I made it through Round One and was one of several they had chosen to take another look at. There would be more performances, different songs, duets, and costume changes, ad nauseum. It would take weeks of sorting and sifting and talking about my strengths and weaknesses until I felt like a performing seal.
And then it happened. In the midst of interview upon interview, I scheduled networking meetings with anyone and everyone I had ever met. I had phone calls, and lunches, and tea, and coffee, and one day happened into a meeting with someone who quickly understood what I had to offer and just as quickly had a job that needed to be filled. One thing led to another and exactly two weeks from the day I stopped in his office for a casual meeting, I had a job offer. And the call came at 3:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. I wish I could tell you that I applied a magic formula (100 networking calls + 25 interviews + 300 cover letters/resumes= job) that resulted in success, but I can’t.
Who knows what ultimately worked. I’d like to believe that I have a Guardian Angel who gave me this miraculous Christmas gift, but I can’t really buy that. Even as I was receiving my job offer, I know of people who were getting pink slips. It makes no sense—it’s just all part of a “new normal”, the churning of the workplace.
I am heading back to work profoundly changed by this experience, recognizing that four months is a drop in the bucket compared to what others go through.
Writing this blog kept me going. The blog invited comments, encouragement, calls from old friends, and introductions to new ones, and I am still amazed that anyone reads it. On Christmas Day, I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and have to agree, “There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.”