In my experience, it’s highly unusual to find a young person just starting out who is able to recognize when his career is not going in a direction that will ultimately lead to work that is fulfilling, and who has the courage to change course early on. Josh Siegel is just such an exception.
Even though he is still learning the ropes, he knows he is doing what comes naturally to him, and one day he will be great at it. He also knows that if for some reason it doesn’t pan out, there’s no need to worry because he has become an expert at finding work that is fulfilling.
Josh was able to get a “good job” right out of college, but he soon found himself restless in it, and he understood that this restlessness was telling him something important.
By listening to an inner wisdom, he was able to take steps to move on before he became too entrenched in work that didn’t align with his interests and values.
I love watching this happen with any client, but when the client is in his twenties, it’s especially exciting.
Josh is now armed with the mindset, the tools and the confidence he will need to be effective in the new world of work throughout his career.
Josh Siegel is a person with wide-ranging interests. When he accepted a job in financial analysis after receiving a degree in economics from a leading liberal arts college, it seemed like a good fit because it held the promise of allowing him to do other things besides what he was being hired for.
Within a few months, however, it began to look as if the promise wasn’t going to be fulfilled.
One problem was that the company consulted to retail operations on liquidation, acquisition, and mergers, and the ultimate purpose of its work “was to tear things down and convert assets into money. Every project ended with nothing but a pile of money, a number on a company’s P&L.”
Another problem was boredom. He wanted to do something creative, or at least work on projects grounded in the creativity of others.
For a couple of years, Josh tried to construct the job he wanted within the framework of the job he had. He initiated a number of innovative projects: a new division, a video, a book proposal.
“With each new project,” he says, “I was at my highest peak, my most creative, my most excited.”
But for various reasons the projects never got off the ground. There was little support from management, and he always seemed to wind up back in the same place.
A generation ago, someone in Josh’s situation would have said, “The years are ticking off—I don’t want to waste twenty years doing this.”
To show how things have changed, Josh was saying, “The months are ticking off—I don’t want to waste five years doing this.”
Josh quit the job in the summer of 2004. “I needed to make a clean break,” he says.
He started looking in the usual way: newspaper ads and Internet job postings.
“I applied for jobs with the words ‘marketing,’ ‘advertising,’ or ‘analyst’ in the description. I applied for writing jobs. I wrote passionate letters expressing how hard I would work. I tried to spin my experience to mirror any job’s qualifications, but I had little success. I applied for finance jobs, too, but I had a hard time advocating myself for them, which I guess tells you something about my desires.”
He looked at opportunities in advertising, journalism, and radio, searching for something that would provide a creative outlet, but the only response he got was from companies who needed his financial skills.
“I didn’t expect a magic bullet,” he says, “but I wanted to get closer to finding fulfillment in my work.”
One reason for his struggle was that his ideas of the kinds of things he wanted to do were still undeveloped. He knew he wanted something with “growth potential in a competitive industry, a newer industry where innovation still exists, and the old guard is flexible.” He wanted “a real stake in the business, to be moved by its ultimate and immediate purpose.” But he wasn’t yet ready to be more specific.
Josh got a couple of offers, one with a small ad agency in New York City, and another with a radio station in Massachusetts, but he had misgivings about both and turned them down. “I was in danger of accepting a job that was looking for the type of person I thought I had to be, instead of the person I actually am,” he says.
He had made progress. He knew a lot more about himself and about the world of work than he did when he started, but he still felt at sea. “I needed a map and a plan,” he recalls.
A career retreat, a period of time set aside for intense personal and professional self-assessment, provided that plan. He learned that he could begin to trust his instincts. The Strong Interest Inventory® helped him to identify those areas in the real world of work which aligned most closely with his interests and values and narrowed the possibilities so that he could explore them in detail.
Josh’s refocused job search now ranged far beyond the traditional approaches. He began a letter writing campaign to contact people working in the fields that most interested him, starting with alumni from his college. He set up information interviews, and met many people he related to and admired.
As time went on, he found himself drawn to advertising because so many of the people he respected were working in it.
Through his community of contacts, Josh began to get job interviews, and now, because he had all this experience in information interviewing, each one was a “slam dunk”.
By the end of the year, Josh had three offers for jobs in advertising account management, and he had the expertise of a network of successful people within the industry to help assess and evaluate them.
In December, 2004, he accepted a job with one of the most prestigious advertising agencies in New York.
The job has been a challenge, almost like starting over. But Josh knows that this is work that meets his criteria for personal fulfillment. Even though he is still learning the ropes, he knows he is doing what comes naturally to him, and one day he will be great at it.
He also knows that if for some reason it doesn’t pan out, there’s no need to worry because he has become an expert at finding work that is fulfilling.
He has made himself the master of a process that will be there for him if he ever decides it’s time to move on. And he has a community of people who will be there to support him every step of the way.