Who Coaches a Career Coach’s Career?

Starting Biz
Career TOOLBox #15: Starting Your Own Biz – Part 1
September 7, 2012
Career TOOLBox #16: Starting Your Own Biz – Part 2
September 13, 2012

Choppy, rocky blurry waters.

2012 has been a transformative year, both personally and professionally, renavigating life into a clearer direction. After a very difficult four years, most of which only the inner circle has known about, the storm is finally settling, calming things into a new, healthier and happier voyage.

When you’ve lived in survival mode for this long, requiring a special set of skills and enough raw nerve to electrify a small town, adjusting into this next stage is simultaneously rewarding and, also, daunting.

The past four years have been a paradox of sorts. On one hand, I was shaken to the core, at every single step. As the income dwindled, resources cut and even some friendships revoked, and as life went from the luxury of a corporate paycheck to the uncertainty of unsteady class enrollment and unpredictable client invoices, I was tested, day after day, month after month, year after year.

Was not returning to corporate worth it? Definitely. Were there unforeseen consequences? Absolutely.

Throughout this pilgrimage towards something more meaningful and intrinsically rewarding my own insecurities, doubts and fears were invisible to most. This was intentional, of course. Mostly, the contradiction played itself out with my clients.

In these four years, between paying customers, Pro bono work, family and students, I’ve lost count of how many resumes arrived in my inbox. The results? Four men were accepted by top-notch graduate programs, three on scholarship. One man went from being a sales person with an unknown future to business partner, within less than two weeks of us working together. Another man earned an offer, then a counter-offer from his own company only to, six months later, earn yet another promotion, this time as a C-level executive. All this happened during this economy and under my watch.

One woman, with whom I worked for months, on everything from her resume to cover letter to connecting her with a key player within her desired organization and then even telling her exactly with whom she must interview in order to secure the job she really wants eventually received a killer offer, from that very organization, allowing her to move to the city where the love of her life was working. They are now building a beautiful future together.

What she said to me was that I gave her confidence. This key word has been shared with me by so many others. Whatever is this gift, one that I nurture by helping others showcase their best selves, has changed people’s lives.

This year, as I see the lighthouse, bringing me safely to shore, I’ve been wondering, “Who gives me confidence?”

Of course, this is something we must do for ourselves. Any therapist, life coach or common sense human being knows that. And, yet, perhaps there is a gap between what we are great at doing and how that success then gets communicated to others, those who can then propel us to the next level. Every client I have ever worked with was already smart, educated, hard-working, accomplished and a rock star. They earned that. What I did was help them recognize it and then signal to universe who they are.

When you do this for a living, who does this for you?

Can a dentist pull his own tooth? Can a film director be his own critic? Maybe. But that inner critic is usually the worst enemy we have, damping our dreams and telling us that others may be better at what we do than we are. And when cash is short, the economy in the toilet and when you feel like you’ve been in the boxing ring longer than Ali vs. Foreman, the inner critic grows in stature, power and influence.

Somehow, in all this, I had to shut off the noise, of everything.

Around Christmas of last year, thru Spring of this year, I began to seek council of men whose opinions I trusted and who, while brutally honest, have looked out for my best interest, never once halting their belief in me. A woman needs this. Because with men, it’s less about your emotional condition and far more about having a goal and getting it done, as swiftly as possible.

One of these four men is Ben Lieblich. Ben and I first met at a party in Cleveland, nearly a decade ago. We were both from big cities, both MBAs and with ambition to burn. While Ben lived here in Cleveland, I often came to him for all kinds of advice and usually his proved true. Even after he moved to the DC area, to start his family and be closer to his parents and sister, we continued our friendship and even wrote a few published pieces together, mostly on our favorite topic: Being a Gen Xer.

I trust Ben and when I needed help with my resume, which, while frequently updated, eventually looked like a giant building built on a small foundation, I asked him for help. Even with a wife, daughter, business and a 1000 other obligations, he took the time to read it and provided guidance and feedback that surprised me. It also made me realize how much work lay ahead.

I sat on it for months. This is my usual process and any editor or writing coach who’s worked with me in the past knows this. The energy of all those proverbial red pen edits must first penetrate the psyche before I can approach the document. Three months later, I was finally ready and, after rereading Ben’s comments, I realized that, while in survival mode, I was too busy trying to rebuild a new life and make ends meet to fully understand what is it that I have accomplished.

So the real work began. I started digging thru old class lists and quantified the number of classes, locations, sections and students I have taught during the past three years. I also started going thru all my client folders and began to compile an organized list, including the outcome of the work. Did the client get the job / promotion / school acceptance that they wanted? Finally, I investigated all the press coverage, including the number of film reviews, producer interviews, Career ToolBox pieces and media mentions I had either written or was quoted in.

Ben, to whom I am forever grateful, knew the magnitude of the transition and had also suggested that I’ve had enough career exploration. It was time to bank on it, focus and get to what’s next. And when I thought I had made all my resume edits and gleefully sent the revision back to him, his response was, “Nice start. You’re not even close.”  Frustrated, I went back to the canvas and dug deep, taking on the biggest resume moyl role of my life.  When I was finished, I finally understood the wisdom behind Ben’s advice.

Reflecting on the new and improved document, I was daunted at how much I have created and influenced. No wonder I was so tired all the time! Simultaneously, I had to somehow reconcile why is it that my bank account hardly reflected the work? The input dwarfed the output.

After some honest reflection it had dawned on me that while there is an opportunity cost to building a business and most don’t turn a profit for three years, the truth was that I had lost most of my confidence.

Let me clarify that: I had confidence in my clients’ and students’ successes. But I had lost the confidence in my own.

Which brings me to the thesis of this piece. Who coaches a career coach’s career?  Who helps me rediscover my mojo, one that so many others have benefited from over the past four years?

Friendly shores.

Probably another career coach.

Coming to this point wasn’t easy. And yet, ever since this realization hit me, I’ve felt tremendous relief. I don’t have to do this alone. My clients had me and now, I will have someone. And, the fabulous thing about the Universe is that, as the expression goes, when the student is ready, the teacher will arrive.

Even a lifetime and two states since my home town of Skokie, life circumvents right back to it. A childhood friend of mine, one also with two decades of corporate experience, a similar personal history and who now teaches at a university and has started her own career coaching business, has agreed to take me on as a client. For several years now I’ve told her that we live parallel lives and, on Erev Rosh Hashana, our lives have finally converged.

Like Ben, she also has a law degree. Like Ben, she also lives in the DC area. Like Ben, she has my back.

I am grateful that the Universe is conspiring in such a clever way. Not just for me, but for everyone. If we take a look around and recognize the wisdom and beauty of the people around us, those we’ve either known for a decade or for a lifetime, we can recognize that they have gifts that can help us. All we have to do is ask.

Melanie Klinghoffer, I’m ready.















Both Cabo photos: A. Sukhoy. Melanie and Ben’s images: Facebook. Ali vs. Frasier: Google Images.

1 Comment

  1. Barri Evins says:

    .Wow. Open and honest. To the point and right to the heart of things. Articulate. And best of all, like any meaningful, well written piece, it felt as if it was speaking just to me.


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