Creating the best job for you is not a pipe dream or only for the lucky few. We have much more ability to create an ideal fit than most of us realize. Leaders lead lives of impact and meaning because they know whom they are and what they want to contribute. All you need is the courage to offer what you have to the world.
Sarah's story is one of my favorite examples of this approach. Sarah always dreamed of working in politics. She understood that her calling was to help make the world a better place. She initially thought, "What better way to do that than through working in government?"
Like many aspiring political leaders, she studied government and public policy. Her home was in the South, and she spent her summers during high school and college working as a lifeguard at the beach. Swimming was always a joy to her and she excelled as a competitive swimmer.
Five years after graduation, Sarah found a job in Washington, DC as a member of her home state governor's staff. She enjoyed the idea of making a difference. But the glacial pace and incremental nature of change, the focus on making the governor look good politically and colleagues constantly pushing their own power agendas left her feeling drained. When she walked into my office, she was sad that her dream job, the one she had tirelessly worked to achieve, had turned into a nightmare.
Working through my leadership model, we clarified Sarah's talents, strengths and skills -- identifying whom she was and what she wanted to contribute to the world. In a few sessions together, it became clear that Sarah loved working with children, particularly those who were economically disadvantaged, and supporting them as individuals to excel.
She was still a lifeguard at heart. She saw herself as that beacon of strength when the going gets tough. Even though life inside government was not what she dreamed it would be, she still longed to improve the societal circumstances that created the challenges many children faced. What was she to do?
We completed a series of exercises to clarify her job description. In one of them, she created a small collage of images to represent what she wanted her dream job to feel like. It was a stunning reflection of her passion for children, teaching, and social change; a powerful depiction of who she was as a leader and what she wanted to contribute. Because it was such a powerful reflection of her, she brought it with her to a job interview with a large organization advocating for change in federal policies for economically disadvantaged youth.
When she was called back for her second interview she walked into the office to find her collage hanging on the wall! It was a wonderful sign that not only was the job hers, they had seen what she could offer and created an even larger and more customized role for her.
In finding her dream job, Sarah not only was able to make a political difference for those she wanted to serve, she was working for an organization that also offered direct services, so she was able to regularly engage with young people through their aquatics programs the way she had as a lifeguard.
As always, when I talk about my clients, I change some details to protect their privacy. What happened to Sarah is something I have seen happen repeatedly with my clients. It works because living our leadership creates results--happiness and fulfillment in our careers and great benefit for those we serve. Sarah's path is for everyone who believes that organizations and the world work best when people are contributing their best. What happened for her can happen for you, when you decide to live your leadership.