“Find Your Beach” to Make Good Career Choices
By Renee Gillespie Torchia, Ph.D. / June 2016Insights
I love the Corona ad line, “Find your Beach.” As a Salt Life girl (if I can use that term so late in life), it uses language near and dear to me to capture a quest for life moments that refresh us. It came to mind when I recently visited my family in Florida. As I got off of the plane in St. Augustine, I took a deep breath of the salty air tinged with honeysuckle and jasmine. In that moment, I experienced a deep sense of belonging. I was at home in this place, and all was right with the world.
Over the past 15 years, I’ve coached many individuals in making career choices. I’ve found that the most profound transformations come from tapping in to professional moments like the one I had deplaning, an experience that you are the right person in the right place at the right time; an exhilarating feeling of belonging in and to that moment. When coaching, I sometimes ask people to take a deep breath and settle, and then to talk about the first moment that pops into their minds when I ask, “Tell me about a defining moment in your career, one where you had a tremendous sense of well-being.” Once we settle on a story, we apply “the five why’s” (or more) to understand why it was so compelling. These underlying principles serve as a North Star for future decision-making.
Let me share one of my own examples with you to illustrate. I love complexity, and the challenge of creating something new and strong out of ambiguity and possibilities. So, I was surprised by the memory that first came to mind when I asked myself this question. It was of running a straightforward resumé class for a group of people who had lost their jobs because their company went into bankruptcy. A very young and very pregnant young woman sat in front of the class with tears streaming down her freckled face. I took her aside and asked her why (other than the obvious reason) she was so deeply upset. “I have nothing to offer another employer,” she wept. “No one else will ever hire me.” Unspoken was the implication of how she would provide for her child. After several minutes of talking, she reluctantly agreed to suspend her disbelief and do the work of the class. At the end of it, she hugged me, smiling. “I didn’t know I had so much to be proud of. I didn’t know how much I’d learned. Thank you.” I was humbled by those two heart-felt words. They gave me a sense of rightness and homecoming just like my actual homecoming did.
Why? Because I felt my presence mattered. Why did I feel it mattered? Because my presence changed someone’s experience, made a difference. Why did it make a difference? Because I had something to impart, to teach and coach. Why did I have something to impart? Because I had learned and prepared to do so. Why had I learned and prepared? Because I wanted to facilitate others’ transitions. Why? Because that is when real connections can take place. Why do real connections matter to me? Because… they just do. Now, now we’ve hit a ground level principle. It is because it is. Whatever work I do, no matter how fulfilling it is intellectually, it must include these moments of authenticity for me to continue to feel refreshed. Authentic connections, and the moments of necessary change that provide them, are my beach. They are the true drivers of my career success.
Not everything in your work has to be deeply meaningful. There is tremendous satisfaction and dignity in simply doing your best at any job or task. Nor do your responsibilities have to perfectly line up with your underlying drivers. You could meet them in many ways, including volunteering, mentoring, tinkering, etc. However, when you somehow include elements from your “beach” (or whatever terrain says home to you) into your work life, you will be more successful. Why? Because people will enjoy being around you, and so new opportunities perfect for you will present themselves almost as if by magic. In truth, it’s simply that your enthusiasm is contagious, and will power your own vibrant personal brand, something we’ll talk about in a future post!
For more ideas on making career decisions, including becoming a better manager or leader, I recommend the following: Finding Your Own North Star, by Martha Beck; The Right Questions, by Debbie Ford; or 12 Choices… That Lead to Your Success, by David Cottrell.
Contributed by Renée Gillespie Torchia, Ph.D., Talent & Culture Executive
Renée is a behavior expert who has advised hundreds of leaders around the world, from entrepreneurs to FORTUNE 500 companies. She has taught career management at Villanova’s executive MBA and coached C-Suite and other senior leaders through Wharton Executive Education. She specializes in helping individuals and companies to make choices that bring their brands, businesses and goals to life.