Finding My WHEN

Finding My WHEN

I didn’t know it at the time, but December 2019 was the beginning of my journey to find my personal WHEN, and my experience can be an example to others.

The end of 2019 was a dark time for me. Literally, it was shortly after the winter solstice and even in the high desert the days were short with much less light. It was also dark because I had been looking for a job.

I had interviewed at several places. I always felt good about the interviews, but then inevitably discovered I had not been hired. Sometimes I could see who had been hired and it was always someone younger and, typically, with less experience.

In January 2020, a workshop caught my attention. The local community college had teamed up with AARP to host a workshop for entrepreneurs over 50. I didn’t think of myself as an entrepreneur even though I had helped my partner build her business and had been involved with launching a university center focused on women entrepreneurs. Still, I thought it might be a good networking opportunity and it allowed me to take action rather than passively waiting for something to happen.

I was inspired by the facilitator who had launched his own consulting business out of his house after arriving in the U.S., unable to practice law due to the differences in licensing. He encouraged us to start with what we know.

I came back home and asked myself, “What DO I know?” Throughout my life, it seemed that I was always helping people with their careers. I had spent more than fifteen years guiding and advising people. Sometimes it was in a formal role, such as when I was working as a graduate advisor or as an internal consultant for university recruitment, but just as often it was more informally as a colleague or friend or Toastmasters member.

I knew this was an area where I could make a difference! But I wanted to spend my time and energy helping people rather than doing the marketing, financial, and administrative parts that go into starting your own business. That’s when I decided I would look for a contract position with an employee engagement company, an outplacement firm or an HR agency.

By mid-February, I had created a spreadsheet of target companies and had begun actively pursuing positions. No luck. Then COVID-19 hit. There were layoffs and furloughs. People everywhere were struggling to adjust. I felt more called than ever to be part of the answer, but I still hadn’t found anything. It seemed that my qualifications never quite fit or that companies wanted a particular coaching certification or something else I didn’t have.

Finally, almost by accident, I found a job posting for a part-time, contract career advisor for a company called WHEN. The posting was open to people with all sorts of backgrounds and qualifications. This gave me hope. Finally, a company that recognized there were different paths to a goal.

I received an email back the same day with an invitation to set up a time to speak with the company founder! Woohoo! When we had our call I was thrilled to discover that he had a background in higher education where I had spent the majority of my career. What a relief to talk to someone who could see my potential and my desire to make a difference.

Shortly after that call, I went through the WHEN Advisor training. While it was bumpy for me due to technology glitches with my computer and the recent loss of a family member, the WHEN team was super-supportive. They actually put into practice what they talked about!

Now, I get to focus my time and energy helping others find their WHEN as they navigate their careers. And I know first-hand that the WHEN principles of choosing what you want to do and taking action to pursue your goals can really work.

Morgan O’Donnell
WHEN Career Advisor

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