Here’s where shit gets real.
Once you know where you are, you can plan a route to anywhere else. I call it exploration.
Whether you have a final destination in mind or not, reflection gives you a sense of direction. It allows you to explore potential paths to what you really want out of life.
Let me give you a closer look at my own first steps to parallel.
I graduated college in 2006. (Holy shit. I’m old. Anyway…) At the time, I was working as a mortgage loan processor for a pool contractor. I processed loan applications and escrow holdbacks for people making five figures a month, with sub-600 credit scores, who were buying half-million dollar homes with $50k-$150k backyards. (Hey. Top of the market, remember?) I think I was making $12/hr.
I immediately started looking for that “good job” I’d been promised by everyone my entire life of getting good grades in school—you know, the fat salary for sitting in a desk not actually doing anything of value to the world job—that pretty much doesn’t exist.
The cake is a lie.
I landed a pretty sweet gig with a company called Govig and Associates. They’re a serious headhunting organization. And after acing the interview process, after acing the six-week training program, I was paired with a mentor and started dialing water and wastewater engineers in the Carolinas.
I made a base salary plus something like half the firm’s 3%-of-first-year-salary fee for every placement I landed. I remember thinking just one placement a month would be more money than I’d ever made in my life at the time.
My mentor was one Erik Ferguson. We carpooled. We got iced coffee and cheesy tots from BK on our way. He was a seriously cool dude. He’s STILL a cool dude, and one of my most trusted advisors when it comes to career advice.
Despite his best efforts, despite all his encouragement, I was not made out to be a wastewater engineering headhunter. Our boss, Diana (also very cool), gave me the option of resigning three months in so as not to fire me for not actually getting anyone a job.
As I drove home that day, knowing I’d pretty much ruined my fiance’s birthday, I vowed that I would never chase the money again. From that moment on, I would find something I was genuinely interested in doing; something car-related.
I’ve been a gearhead as far back as I can remember. My first memory is dropping a Matchbox dump truck on my face lying in bed back when I was in kindergarten. I used to know pretty much every car on the road by its tail lights. (Now they all look like Kias, amiright.)
So I started looking for anything car-related that wasn’t car sales or service.
Remember yesterday’s example, when I mentioned reflecting on what you might love most about working on cars—research, logistics & planning; assembly; or tuning & optimization? Here’s where exploration might come into play there.
If you’re a natural when it comes to research and logistics, where else do you think those skills would be useful? How easily could you step into an online sales job at an aftermarket parts supplier?
“I need a turbo kit for a 1984 Chevy Citation X-11.” Could you source one?
What about recommending a piece of software to better qualify, hire, and onboard new employees in your company?
“We need a better HCM solution with integrated financial reporting.” Could you you build a list of viable options?
There’s a lot to the exploration stage, but there’s also a lot of ground to cover, too, ya know?
We all start out in pitch black darkness. Reflection helps us find the wall.
Exploration is how we follow that wall, looking for a light switch or door.
Tomorrow we find it.