Four Questions for a Better Career
Updated: Oct 6
You’ve been told that if You want something badly enough, and you go for it, you can make it happen. I call B.S.!
It takes more than just wanting something to make it happen.
Making life look the way you want it takes hard work and a clear vision, and sometimes it takes several tries before you get it right (right for you that is). This is the story of how I tripped, faltered, and fell on my face and finally figured it out. It’s Life in Focus’ story, but in the end it’s everyone’s story.
When I became a psychologist they taught me nothing about business. I guess they figure we’ll all just go into academia, or work for a hospital or some other institution. I, however, knew from the start that I wanted to have my own practice – I’ll credit Pat Conroy and The Prince of Tides here, the appeal of Lowenstein was too much for me to ignore.
I put in the work, did my due diligence, completed internships and postdocs and then decided it was time to get my swanky office in a high-rise and get that shiny plaque with my name and pedigree on the door. In reality, I ended-up in a beautiful 1920’s craftsman office in the appropriately named neighborhood of Banker’s Hill in San Diego. I went to work in jeans most days of the week, and was CEO, CFO, COO and Chief Janitorial Officer of my business (less glamorous). I got a plaque, black with gold lettering that reads “The Wonderful Dr. Wall”.
Being a psychologist and building a business around it was very easy. I’m good at what I do, I’m comfortable talking about money, and I had the most basic business acumen – for psychotherapy that’s all I needed. Building a successful coaching and consulting business is much harder. It’s not for lack of ability – I’m still good at what I do, and the same skills that make me a good therapist work for coaching. What I lacked initially were strong business skills, and no matter how smart, driven, or motivated, not understanding the business piece was a huge roadblock.
I spent the first year of Life in Focus, bobbing along, thinking that it would be like my psychotherapy practice. I thought I could hang my shingle, announce to the world I was now coaching, publish a new website and they would come… they didn’t.
Eventually, I hired a host of business strategists and after many years even invested in my very own coach. Getting help, especially a coach, was the smartest career move I made. I wish I had done it sooner. I wish I had not convinced myself that it was my responsibility to figure everything out on my own.
In the end the work I did with strategists helped me answer four essential questions:
Who do you want to work with/for? This one is super important, because if you’re going to spend 8+ hours a day 40+ weeks a year for the next 30+ years at your job, you should be hanging out with people who are right for you.
What did they need? What are they trying to achieve? This lets you know how to show up and make an impact.
Why me, what unique quality makes me valuable? Because let’s face it, the competition is pretty awesome, so you and they need to know what else you bring to the table.
What value do you add to your team, organization or clients? What specific changes could I effect at the end of the day.
I found it easy to answer the first question. I knew exactly who I wanted to work with. Busy professional women, who wanted to be extremely successful without drowning, who wanted a seat at the table doing what they loved not just what others expected of them.
I pictured myself, and a ton of other people I knew who had all done the right things, taken the right steps, made the right choices and yet still felt overbooked, overwhelmed and undervalued. These women were stuck! Because when you do everything right and right doesn’t work for you, where do you go?
The other three questions were harder. In trying to answer them I came-up with variations on a common theme, but no one version seemed to fit perfectly (as evidenced by the six iterations of my website that have been released since March 2014). That is until May of 2015 when I had an epiphany about what I want my message to be, and then August 2015 when I had a second one about my unique value. Suddenly, the answers to questions #2 and #3 are crystal clear and #4 is just the result of those!
To understand the difference between right and right for you. The women I coach learn to define their choices in terms of values that are current, pertinent and personal, rather than following paths that just don’t fit who they are. When you make choices that aren’t just based on what’s right, but on what's right for you, you stop wasting time and effort on careers that don’t work for you.
They also needed to build the confidence and the skills to express those goals, articulate their value, speak up when things are hard and navigate a professional space that is still too often dominated by standards and expectations that don’t support professional women.
Exceptional insight! I am really good at figuring out the right questions to ask to help people take a good, honest and eye-opening look at their lives. I, partially by virtue of my training as a psychologist, and also because I am naturally curious and interested in others, have this ability to listen very carefully to what people are saying, and also what’s not being said. I have no issues whatsoever asking tough, probing and necessary questions (it’s what I like so much about podcasting). It helps me guide my clients. It helps them break free of all preconceived notions of right, and shoulds and fear, to get to that place where they can finally talk about what they really want their life to look like.
Also, I’ve been there. I am that smart, driven, ambitious professional woman who sees her career as a means of changing the world, having a real impact and leaving a legacy. I understand how much we can sacrifice to balance it all, and what we’re up against in most professional spaces.
You can have a wildly satisfying career that is both successful and right for you. You can wake up most days knowing you look forward to life. You get that feeling that things are happening, that work is right, good, satisfying. Although you’re busy, you’re not wondering why you’re working so hard on goals that don't do it for you. More importantly, you have the tools, the method and the code to stay on top of your life, to continue answering that question “what's right for me?” as you grow, evolve and your needs inevitably change.
I share this story for two reasons. First, I am pretty excited to have this all figured out, and clear in my mind; it took years to get here.
The other big reason, the one that initially prompted the post, is to remind anyone reading that figuring out the “right for you” piece is a process. It takes time. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll have to fine tune, revise and change your approach; sometimes a lot. It takes guts, confidence and courage, and you have all those things within you.
It took me three months to figure out that I needed to make a professional shift, nearly a full year to admit it to myself, my husband, and my colleagues. It took another 18 months to understand exactly what this new venture was going to look like. In those 18 months I had to understand what I really wanted Life in Focus to be about, and I had to understand who I was and what legacy I wanted to leave.
It’s the same journey all of my clients go through, whether they’re changing companies, trying to get to the next step in their careers, or owning their power, voice and impact in leadership.
How About you?
Can you answer those questions for yourself? If so, contact me, I’d love to hear where you’re heading with your career. If not, then don’t make the same mistake I did, get the support you deserve and probably need to figure these things out, save yourself, time and frustration, message me and we can discuss what you need and where to get the right help for you.