Cleaning House: You Never Know What Might Turn the Tide

Cleaning House: You Never Know What Might Turn the Tide

For those of you who wonder if I offer career coaching services over the phone or Skype with people in cities outside the Bay Area, the answer is yes. At the moment, I have clients in New York, LA, Boston, and one in Europe. I won’t specify the country, because in addition to receiving permission from clients before using their stories, I also disguise their identities as best I can.

Pat and I have been having regular Skyping sessions—not to be confused with, but sometimes similar to, “griping sessions”—for about a year. We have not had a session for the past few months, during which time she has been doing her assigned “homework,” which was to begin executing the business plan we developed, designed to expand her home-based writing/editing/tutoring/and translation business . . . so she could finally hire a housecleaner!

In our very first career coaching session, Pat revealed that she was miserable. She felt like she was drowning under the weight of infinite responsibilities, including all that is involved with raising two primary-school boys, coping with her husband’s busy professional calendar, and juggling her own home-based business that felt like it wasn’t going anywhere. She was disappointed to tears that she could not find professional work in her chosen field (international public health) in which she had earned a Ph.D.; instead, here she was using her writing/editing/tutoring/translation skills that she never even went to college for in the first place! Her house was a mess, and she just didn’t feel she could justify hiring a housecleaner because she wasn’t bringing in enough money. She was quite sure that she was the most disorganized procrastinator in the world; even though she felt like she was working all the time, she felt she wasn’t making a difference in the world or even in her family’s life. She was definitely at a “guess I’ll go eat worms” point in her life. On top of it all, she was positive her husband would never agree to her hiring a housecleaner in light of their tight financial circumstances.

As homework, Pat eventually had a heart-to-heart conversation with her husband about all this, and was stunned to learn that he thought it was a good idea for her to hire a housecleaner. He had no idea she felt she was drowning. In retrospect, she says, it was that particular turn of events that seemed to turn the tide in her favor on many unexpected levels, not the least of which was a feeling that through this difficult conversation with her husband, she began to feel as if they were a team handling mutual responsibilities, rather than in an up-down relationship. They became more specific about who was responsible for what, and more and more “give-and-take” began to happen.

With more time available, Pat finally updated her resume—something she had been putting off forever—to include the breadth of her international experience as well as finally articulating all of the high-level teaching and translation services she had been able to provide to parents, teachers, schools and businesses as a result of her fluency in both their European language and in her own native English. So far, she had sort of “lucked into” business but had never promoted herself with any enthusiasm. “Marketing” seemed foreign and intimidating until we embarked on my career coaching crash course, which goes something like this:

Think of the original marketplace. Farmer Joe brought his eggs, Farmer Dan brought his produce, and Becky Sue, Dan’s wife, brought her freshly-baked bread. There were many others, all showing up in the same place at the same time to let people know who they were and what they had to offer for sale or trade. They each began to build an identity, good or bad, and to develop a reputation, good or bad. They spontaneously “Yelped” with one another. Some of them did so well that the gossip about them was very good; they succeeded. Some of them provided bad products or they proved themselves to be untrustworthy, and they eventually didn’t show up anymore. If you are going to build a business, I say in Crash Marketing 101, you have to let people know your name, where they can contact you, what services you provide, what experience you have, and how much you charge. Then you have to do what you said you were going to do and earn satisfied customers who will tell other people about you.

Not surprisingly for a Ph.D. in international public health, Pat got the hang of marketing, and word spread. Turns out she had lots of satisfied customers already who told lots of other people about her, once she asked them to. She started proudly handing out cards with her name and contact information on them every chance she had. She even added her Ph.D. to the card in order to create interesting conversations and let people know more about her background, so she wouldn’t feel at all bad about her foreground. She also did some proactive things like contacting schools, teachers, and businesses in the town to let them know how she might be able to help them. Almost like magic, it seemed, her business began to grow.

While busier than ever before, she reports that she is more organized than ever before, and finds she does not have time to procrastinate, so she doesn’t. With the help of the housecleaner, the house is mostly in order, and she doesn’t live in fear that someone will drop by unexpectedly to discover chaos.

The most exciting thing of all is that she has begun meeting with officials of an international nonprofit health organization located close to her town letting them know of her interest, experience and background in the kinds of issues they deal with all of the time. They want to meet her and discuss whatever possibilities might exist for her there. She also made herself known to the personnel department of the closest University, and has already contracted with a professor to do a large translation project for him. She LOVES doing this and hopes to parlay that experience into more of the same. It turns out that a little coaching helped her career in a big way.

The headline to Pat’s recent email read: “Business is Booming.” My translation: “Pat is Blooming!”

Our dear Bonnie Bonetti-Bell was the force behind our Career/Life Coaching services, until her passing in 2019. As a principal of our firm, Bonnie had an innate talent for seeing the best in people. Moreover, she helped others see the best in themselves. Bonnie is fondly remembered and deeply missed.

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