Up, Up and Away in a Beautiful Green Balloon

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Although Marvin considered heading to the health club next; where he had spent nearly 100 hours recently contemplating his failed marriage while turning career plans around in his mind during marathon treadmill, and weight workouts, he decided to head to the office instead.

He had been working each day to melt the stress away at the gym but like clockwork it showed up again each morning to greet him.

When would he get back on course?
In the midst of his life transition, Marvin considered options for his career transition.

He considered compensation, life style, work he would enjoy, his professional strengths, competition in the marketplace, the realities of the economy and location.

He decided to try to put his finance industry skills and network to good use in a new career package that would move him from behind a desk to greater interaction with people. 

He found the possibility of not punching a clock each morning and evening very appealing too. A guarantee of a decent six figure salary with limitless upside would be a plus.

Marvin zeroed in on the "search industry" and took a look at the top six companies in that space.  Some of these companies were private and others were publicly held (stock options!! Ka ching!).  They all had a financial services practice area; his strength.

He sat there at a Starbucks, realizing he had finally arrived at a decision; now all he needed was an execution plan. He took a last gulp of Carmel Macchiato, relieved about his decision but anxious about how  to proceed and about how it would turn out.

He set things into motion. "Can you take a look at my resume,I want to get this out to a top search firm today" was the eventual request I heard from Marvin after niceties and introductions concluded.

Judging from the tone of his voice and his urgent request he did not appear to be  a guy out of work or recently fired and stuck in the "paralysis and rumination" phase of transition.  By the way he explained it, I assumed his resume was 90 percent ready and just needed a sniff to tighten up loose ends.

 I asked about his career objective to which her responded "to land a job at a senior level in a search firm".  "OK Marvin...got it! I will review the resume for that purpose and have it back to you tomorrow".

After reading the resume I called Marvin to explain that there was lots of work to be done beyond a sniff.  There are resumes and there are resumes.

Marvin's resume consisted of a list of places and years he had worked and the titles he had held. I explained that those two elements are of greatest interest to a mother, wife or cocktail crowd; his approach was akin to offering a prison record to an employer. "Future boss...this is where I served time!"

We laughed together and then jumped into distinguishing, distilling and articulating his professional contributions, value and accomplishments. We quantified value where appropriate and used industry jargon as often as possible.

When you use the industry "speak" you make it known that you are already in the club. Since the search business is in the human resource industry, we used words like "core competencies" in describing some of Marvin’s strengths.

We chatted about many things during our resume building phone breaks. We discussed what a "behavioral interview" would include, potential holes in the chronology of his resume and we talked about what I came to know as his favorite subject; his son.

Eventually the resume was pruned, dusted, spell checked, formatted, reviewed for gaps and inconsistencies, wordsmithed to demonstrate his written communication skills and put through several resume sieves.

This perfecting took place over one week with multiple phone calls and e-mails. I had yet to meet this client face to face.

During these interactions he would digress from the mission. His voice would lower and become speckled with hesitation saying,  "next..uh..Thursday I am going to..uh .. ask for my divorce" or " You know..I think I will give it..uh..yeah.. two weeks before I tell my son...that is going to be a difficult conversation to have..geez..oh boy!" or "today I am going to find a place to live."

Although I felt his pain and frustration after listening quietly for a few minutes I would gently guide him back to the resume topic. But It soon became impossible to address his career plans without addressing the career distractions in his personal life.

Marvin eventually suggested that we renegotiate so that I could help him through the difficult problems with his divorce. We were now in a career coaching - life coaching arrangement engagement.  That is when things got very interesting.

We role played the asking" for the divorce. We strategized and planned. Sometimes I would take the soon to be ex wife's point of view and at other times we would discuss the various approaches and potential outcomes. We laughed a lot. It seemed that the more we laughed the more we accomplished.

When fear and tension were removed everything was easier.  It was like working with and without heavy weights on your ankles and back and arms. I sensed that he and his wife would settle out of court and as it turned out that was indeed the case.  

No slick lawyer was going to buy a new Mercedes at their expense! 

In order to help his son cope with the turbulence of the his parents split up I suggested that Marvin, first find the apartment; one that offered something his son would find appealing like a near by playground, a pool, other kids to play with, etc.; to make sure hisson had his own bedroom decorated just like the one at home-- same bed spread, similar toys, colors. Children acclimatize better when change is minimal.

The package, cover letter, resume and reference letters, was finally ready and judging by the tone of the voice I heard over the phone, Marvin was thrilled. I had not heard him that happy and excited ever.  "After reading this" he said, "I would hire this Marvin guy sight unseen!"

 We agreed to send the package via snail mail. He did not want to seem too anxious. I tried to get him to test the waters by sending it off  first to a third choice employer . He offered that time was of the essence and the package was tight! I agreed that it is much easier to find a job when you have one and time was running out.

While we waited for a response we went into the virtual war room to continue practicing interview skills. Marvin had not interviewed in over fifteen years; interviewing methods had changed a great deal.

As it turned out I headed to Atlanta the following Wednesday for a business engagement and Marvin was to be there at the same time for a wedding. The face to face meeting time had arrived.

I expected a short, corpulent fellow but Marvin was full of surprises. He was tall, thin, and tan with slight signs of balding. He was a smile a minute kind of guy who was warm and engaging but a bit nerdy; the horn rimmed glasses and all!

We chatted like long lost friends until we realized that we only had 45 minutes left to practice face to face interview.

It was like a verbal ping pong match; I fired questions at Marvin such as, "Tell me about a time when you missed a deadline." "Tell me about a time when you have effectively negotiated an outcome that allowed both sides to achieve their goals"

Marvin was sometimes enjoying it and sometimes pressured to find the right words and smooth transitions.

When he felt stressed veins would pop out in the middle of his forehead like plant roots popping through the moist earth. I was cheering for his success as we concluded our session.

Over two weeks past by with no word on his application.  On the other end of the line Marvin's voice was disheartened and the divorce plans were in full swing. He was frantic about finding furniture before his son came to see his new diggs. 

I suggested that he rent furniture for a few months to give himself time.  "Do you think they hated me? " he asked showing the wear and tear.

I said, "OK Marvin...last shot on this...take the entire package and slap this new cover letter on it that I have written explaining your request to know something one way or the other (not in those words of course) ."Take it and hand deliver it with one green balloon as it’s St Patrick’s Day today. "Are we nuts? " he said.  "Yes,” I said, “nuts and landing you this job."  

"Nuts is good!" Marvin offered, two days later, as I put my ear to the cell phone.  He added,"I have an interview the day after tomorrow! "...  

Editors Note:
Stay tuned for the next installment of Marvin’s corporate saga

About the Author: Ms. Hayling Price is President of EXCEED LLC - a talent development business. She leverages over 20 years of corporate experience in business development, marketing, leadership development, and communications.  Patricia took her leap of passion from the executive ranks at IBM to her current practice. Her insight and expertise as a speaker have been well received at numerous forums, like the Forbes Women in Leadership Conference. She can be reached at mytransitionpartner@gmail.com.

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