I was talking to a potential new client this week and she asked me to
give her an example of a surprising transformation that had taken place
with a client. Instinctively I picked a client I’d worked with a few
This was a woman who had built a very successful and lucrative
professional career but had given up pursuing a “dream” career at a
young age due to some challenging circumstances. She had spent a good
deal of her career (and life!) looking back wistfully and thinking “if
only…”. This client came to me expecting to create a plan and finally
turn her dream into reality.
However, after working with her to explore and re-engage with her
strengths, values and purpose as well as exploring this potential career
path, she realised that this dream was a red herring. It was something
that had been in line with her values when she was a young woman but
those values had changed throughout her life experiences. She slowly
realised that her current career was perfect for her and that, through
seeking some new professional challenges, she would be very happy to
stay in that arena.
If she hadn’t done that deeper reflection, she might have ended up
retraining at great financial and time cost, only to realise that she
didn’t want it.
My red herring
As I was relaying my client’s story, I started to draw a parallel with
my own career and recalled a time when I had created my own career red
I was bored. I had been working in executive search for over a decade
and had recently joined a reputable firm with lovely people. But I was
bored. I had come from running my own business and somehow missed the
“cut and thrust”. One evening, I met my brother-in-law for a drink and
told him about my ennui.
“What is it you miss?” he asked.
“Oh, it’s the excitement of business development and leading a team.” I said.
“That’s really weird. At our SMT meeting yesterday we decided that we
need to hire someone to lead our business development and manage the
Well, you can guess what happened. A few interviews, meetings and
conversations later I joined that business to get stuck in and do what I
I won’t go into why the role wasn’t right but it wasn’t. And now I’m a
Career Coach and in tune with my strengths and values, I can see what I
was really missing: Service, Adventure, Balance and Growth. Not
business development and team leadership.
It wasn’t a terrible role and led me into coaching via a circuitous
route. However, I’d have been more quickly on the right track if I’d
looked more carefully and intentionally for my answers.
What to do now
I know that I’ve written a couple of times recently about pursuing or gleaning clues from your “dream job”.
I stand by my comments as dream jobs are not always red herrings.
However I do implore you to explore yourself and your options in great
depth before deciding on a path. Particularly if you are prone to be
impetuous like me (otherwise known as action-oriented in strengths
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