Here’s something that happens to me at least several times a month: I get an email from a blog reader. It usually contains a very long, very elaborate description of his or her career problem. And then, at the very end, the person says something along the lines of, “What do you think I should do? Oh, and by the way, I can’t afford to pay you.”
Every time I read this kind of message, I’m conflicted.
On the one hand, I’m truly flattered that this person trusts me enough to share such intimate details of his or her life. And I want to help! Really, I do. After all, I created this business to help people resolve their career frustrations.
And then, on the other hand, I’m insulted.
While I recognize that coaching isn’t always in the budget, it’s not really within MY budget to do my work for free. And something tells me these same people wouldn’t request free service from their CPA, attorney or any other service provider. So it strikes me as odd that my work would be so devalued.
The even more interesting part comes later though, when I hear from the same person and the tone has changed. Something has happened and the situation has become more pressing. The environment in the workplace has become unbearable; rumors of layoffs hit a fever pitch; or simply the thought of going to work fills them with such dread, they feel physically ill. That’s when the conversation changes. Suddenly, they’d like to talk about fees and figure out how they can make it work.
Funny how priorities shift when there’s a crisis.
Waiting until there’s a crisis is reactive. It’s not proactive. Reacting to circumstances that life throws at you is a surefire way to feel overwhelmed, stressed out, and scared. You’re not in control when you’re reacting. You’re like a little hamster in his wheel—running like crazy but barely keeping up.
I know it’s hard to prioritize yourself. For some reason, women especially struggle with it. But remember what the flight attendants say: Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. If you constantly put everyone else’s happiness, health and sanity in front of your own, you’ll eventually putter out.
So, here’s my advice: Be proactive about your career. Don’t wait for things to happen TO you. Don’t wait for things to get so bad or so stressful or so dull that you just can’t take another day. Plan, prepare and take action NOW.
Action doesn’t have to come in the form of career coaching, or launching a job search, or anything else. It doesn’t have to look one way or another. WHAT you do is up to you; just do something.
My most successful career coaching clients are the ones who start early. The ones who feel the twinge of frustration and know they deserve more. The ones who aren’t willing to settle for even one day of unhappiness at work. Shift your priorities now—don’t wait for someone or something else to do it for you.
Note: If you’re interested in learning more about the topic of how to be proactive, grab my book, “The Proactive Professional: How to Stop Playing Catch Up & Start Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life). It’s available on Amazon here.