As you might expect, it is a busy time to be a career counselor. I cannot recall ever being this busy in July. During the summer, people are typically off enjoying the outdoors and they put off making any big career decisions until the fall. This year, it seems that nothing is as it used to be.
In early March, as the pandemic was beginning to take hold of the country, fear became a dominant emotion. Health concerns and financial worries left me wondering how I would be able to bring hope to my clients. I did a deep dive into the topic of hope and came out of the experience feeling a renewed sense of peace.
I am a positive person by nature. I tend to see the possibilities in challenging times and typically enjoy figuring my way around the obstacles that pop up. For me, life is a lot like crossing a creek. Which rock looks stable? Should we go this way or that? What if I fall? Wow, this water is running fast. Maybe I need to rethink this path entirely and look for another trail.
I rarely let myself become immobilized by fear. I am willing to take a risk and see what happens. I like to take action. It is so much easier to push a moving train onto a new track. Imagine trying to move a train that is parked at a standstill. Much harder. So, I keep plugging along, skipping from rock to rock, switching courses as needed even when the going gets tough.
When the pandemic became the obstacle, I found myself at a standstill. I felt like a parked train. Heavy and stuck. If I was unsure how to move forward, how could I coach my clients through this uncharted territory? It is well researched that hope is key to making a successful career transition. If I was feeling hopeless, how on earth could I help others find a sense of confidence and optimism?
During the deep dive, I discovered something. Hope is so much more than donning a pair of rose-colored glasses and forging ahead. Hope is definitely not a sense of blind optimism. Real hope comes from understanding the seriousness of a situation and reckoning with it.
My clients are facing lay-offs, furloughs and company closings in the midst of a pandemic. Unemployment is at an all-time high. These are serious challenges. Hope has come from being willing to look at the challenges they are facing head on without flinching away. As I have held space for my clients to explore what is happening to them personally in context of world events, they have begun to see glimmers of hope.
Some found hope that they could finally pursue a career that suited them. Others have discovered they absolutely loved working from home and want to find new ways to do this. Clients are exploring all new industries in which to transfer their talents. One hopeful client recently purchased a restaurant and is launching a reopening for 2021. The new and the next is beckoning.
I held space. I looked into darkness along with my clients. I gently asked, “What is your biggest fear right now?” Then we looked at their fears without flinching away. We analyzed the situation and did some calculations. It is better to go this way or that? It was in this process of reckoning that even the biggest fears started to appear just a little less daunting.
If I had been handing out false hope, I think many of my clients would still be stuck. Being realistic about the situation allowed for planning to take place. Forward motion began to happen, and so many of my clients are well on their way to creating new chapters.
Sometimes I provided hopeful ideas and suggestions. I am good at brainstorming and pathfinding. However, the truth is that the clients themselves who are showing me the way across the rocky stream. They are the ones doing the brave work of figuring their way forward. I have the honor and privilege of observing the resiliency of the human spirit. For every bit of hope I have provided, it has been returned to me a hundred times over during the past few months.
You may be facing a fork in the road in your life or in your career right now. Taking the road less traveled may seem like a foolhardy way to go. These are dire times, don’t ya know? However, if not now, when? When will you find the courage to explore new ways of living and working? The courage to forge a new path will not come from blindly stumbling your way forward. It will come from taking a good hard look at the perils that lie ahead, making a plan and going for it. Hope happens when face our fears not when we pretend that they do not exist.