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Climbing a Different Ladder
by Christine Briscoe
Not long ago, I was firmly rooted in what was a very successful career in human resources. I had a seat at the table, HR-speak for an executive sitting with the president, CEO, board of directors, making decisions and setting business strategy.
But something wasn't right.
In the beginning I loved my work and I did all the right things to climb the ladder and, while I worked hard, I had fun on my way up. Along the way I moved around, traveled, met some interesting, dynamic and inspirational people, and of course, some not so interesting.
Whether my success was a result of luck, hard work, a knack for being in the right place at the right time, or a combination of all three, I was always grateful for the opportunities I found and for the people who helped me find them.
In my work, and in my personal life, people often told me that I'd helped them not by telling them what to do, or what was good or bad, but rather by coaching them to uncover the answers they already had, and by challenging their assumptions and deeply held beliefs.
These same people often said things like "you really helped me see things from a different perspective" or "you helped me find clarity" and – the kicker - "you should get paid for this".
So here I was, working in a large, respected organization, in a high level position, earning an excellent salary – but something wasn't right.
And at the same time, my personal life was suddenly very different than it had been most of my adult life. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do about the whole successful career thing because I really was grateful for it, and held the (faulty) belief that it was enough, yet I knew I wanted something different; something more, something to be excited about again.
Dare I listen to what people were telling me? Could I really work with people in a different way, outside of, in addition to or – gasp – instead of my "real" work (still holding that faulty belief)?
If nothing else, I needed something to occupy the time recent changes in my life had opened up, so I hired a life coach for myself, enrolled in a life coach training program and earned my certification. A major kick start on my stalled life journey.
My coaching work seemed naturally to attract women in mid-life, transition, facing exciting and scary new possibilities. These women were much like me! Something began simmering somewhere in my psyche as I realized these women were me, and I was them, and possibility was the blank slate we faced.
This was an exciting realization. I began to explore what this "possibility" was really all about.
It wasn't about having it all, but about having and sharing passion, taking chances, opening new doors, daring to dream and believing those dreams could be real.
One of my favorite songs is The Cape, written by Guy Clark, Susanna Clark and Jim Janosky and recorded by Kathy Mattea. It is the story of someone who, full of energy, spit and vinegar, jumps off garage roofs with a flour sack cape around his neck and because he doesn't know he can't fly – he does! It is filled with great imagery about taking chances, trusting your cape and, of course, flying. This is what I wanted. For me and for the women I was coaching.
I was energized by my coaching work and continued to sit at the big table and still, something wasn't right.
It wasn't that something was wrong, but the passion for my HR work was gone. My job was good, if not inspiring or challenging; I earned a salary I never imagined possible, I had everything I needed. I had friends and social activity.
My coaching work was challenging, exciting and inspiring – yet still I yearned for something else.
I looked for other HR jobs but my heart just wasn't in it, and I finally accepted that it wasn't another job I wanted but another possibility, a bolt of lightning, spit and vinegar!
I had to find my flour sack cape.
I had to take a chance, make a move, do something – even if that something wasn't "the" answer, it would be something. Movement. Possibility.
I had to let go of my belief that my career made me successful.
I didn't have a plan, but I did have a condo on Cape Cod, and on the morning of February 22, 2012, I woke up feeling full of spit and vinegar and said "I am quitting my job and moving to the Cape".
That was it.
That was my something and it didn't matter if it was "the" answer. Coincidental that my flour sack cape was The Cape? Topic of a future story!
Now of course I had to tell my family and friends my big news and, not surprisingly, they were worried that I had lost my marbles to give up so much and take such a monstrous chance. But there was no stopping me – independent, successful, responsible me was spreading her arms, holding her breath and trusting her cape.
By the end of May that year, I was comfortably settled in my Cape Cod condo with my flour sack cape confidently and permanently on my shoulders. I don't sit at that big table anymore, I don't earn that high salary, but I am still a success!
I now use my HR roots in new and different ways, and I live what I coach. I am always grateful and my journey continues.
Christine Briscoe is a Human Resources Consultant providing support to small businesses for all their human resources needs, including executive coaching and design, and facilitation of supervisor training programs.
Also a certified life coach, Christine works with women in career and life transition offering complimentary coaching sessions as an introduction to the power of coaching.
Christine also volunteers in the work support program at WE CAN. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org