I started a new job last month.
Let me preface this story with saying that I was happy, mostly very happy, in the job I was in. I had actually never been happier at work. The company was wonderful. The team was fantastic. I was a top performer and had just started to feel I was getting comfortable, like I had settled in. I wasn’t looking for new opportunities.
There’s an obnoxious saying that goes something like “exactly what you want always comes when you aren’t looking”. This saying is usually supplied to me while I’m cornered and on the receiving end of unsolicited advice about my dating life. Insert eye roll because that’s the least helpful advice I’ve ever repeatedly been given. I digress.
In November I wasn’t looking and I was happy and I attended a local event put on by the San Diego Business Journal called the Women in Business Awards. This annual event recognized women business leaders who make a difference in their workplaces and communities every day. The nominees were all business leaders, mentors, and community supporters. The winners led companies of all sizes, from small to Fortune 500. When one winner in particular was announced, my ears perked up. The recipient was the CEO of a global executive search firm fully devoted to life sciences, active in giving back to the community, and determined to help women rise. I grabbed the event program and read her bio. Board member of multiple foundations. Former biotech executive. Winner of the Athena Pinnacle Top Company Award. The accomplishments went on and and on. I wanted to know how she did it. I wanted to know how she had become so successful and how she had so much on her plate and still somehow devoted herself to giving it away. Who helped her? I wondered. How did she get from point A to point B? Does she really mentor women? How does someone become one of those women?
As a Recruiter dreaming about her next career move, I was attracted to executive search. I liked the idea of hunting and recruiting top talent at the C-level. I like a challenge, I like big wins, and I like to be a part of positive change. There were only a couple of things lacking in my current recruiting role that I knew I wanted and figured I should chase if I wanted to see success. One of these things was a mentor. The success of anyone is due to those those that have lifted them up along the way. I wanted to know how those kind of women, the women like that CEO, had gotten to where they were. I wanted it to be my story too.
I didn’t know it at the time but as I sat in the audience witnessing that awards ceremony, my present self aligned to my future self. I had set a ball in motion.
After the event I sent a connect invite on LinkedIn to this CEO, telling her I had seen her take her award and asking for some of her time and to buy her coffee. She didn’t respond. A couple of weeks after that, I sent another message. I didn’t think much about it at the time. I was used to my messages going ignored in my line of work. I figured I would never hear back. About a week later I had an unexpected ping in my inbox with an invite to her office. I set up a date and went straight to my manager to let her know where I would be going and what my agenda would be while I was there. I was looking for a mentor, to collaborate, to network, and nothing else. My manager’s last words to me were just don’t get recruited. I laughed. Getting recruited by this firm wasn’t even a remote possibility in my mind.
I wore my favorite blue work dress to the coffee meeting at her office. I wasn’t worried about how I looked or how I came off because I wasn’t there for an interview. I was relaxed and enthusiastic. The executive assistant led me into the conference room for a brief wait. Soon, the woman of the hour was opening the door and holding out her hand to me. As soon as she sat down we were off and running. This woman works fast. At the speed of light. She asked if I wanted more coffee, I asked her if she ever got any sleep between running a company and her numerous passion projects. I made it clear to her I wasn’t there for a job. I think within the first ten minutes she had decided that she would recruit me. I steered the conversation away from my potential candidacy, saying I wasn’t ready to leave the company I was with. I hadn’t even been in my role for a year yet. She told me that the company would be moving to a brand new office space in January and asked if I would consider coming back for another visit after the move. I figured the chances of her following through and bringing me back were slim, so I replied that I would be delighted to do that.
I thought it was certain that she would forget about me as soon as I walked out of that door.
In the middle of January my inbox pinged again. This time on my personal email. It was the CEO saying that she hadn’t stopped thinking about me and our conversation, and she was wondering if I would come in and interview. To be truthful, I hadn’t stopped obsessing about the opportunity since I had left the office. It excited me. It intrigued me. It called to me. It seemed next-level awesome. The conversation had opened up a whole new world of possibility and had shown me where I wanted to go next with my career.
After the excitement of the email wore off a cascade of emotions hit. Guilt. Fear. Panic. Self-doubt. The thought of interviewing outside of the company I was working for made me feel like a dirty cheater. My manager’s last words to me before going to the meeting were seared in my mind. Don’t get recruited. I almost declined, but my inner self told me not to be afraid. Stay open, it said. Never turn down an opportunity, it reminded me. You most likely won’t get the job anyway. Have the conversation like the professional you are. I knew I had to show up. The next indicated step was only that- to show up for the conversation. I had to. I figured I would fail. I figured there was no chance this would come to fruition, but I hadn’t come this far to be sabotaged by fear.
I went in and interviewed with the team on a Friday morning. Before the day was out, I had a follow-up from the executive assistant asking me to schedule another phone call with the CEO. When the CEO and I had that follow-up conversation, she had an offer prepared for me. I was floored. I took a few days to consider it. I reflected on my previous failures and contrasted it with my current level of fulfillment. I weighed all of my options. It became clear to me that staying in the role where I was happy and not looking would be the safe choice. I knew I had to take a leap and that this was the time, whether or not I felt I was ready.
My future was calling. I knew enough at this point to get the heck out of God’s way.
In this life I was granted a second chance. I was given the opportunity to blossom and become and to give. I was given the chance to recover. Even in my darkest days I’ve been urged on by something that wasn’t me and wasn’t the world telling me what and who I should be. It’s something much bigger. Your voice is important, it said to me. You can help people, it coaxed. You’re meant for something.
I have been terrified. I have felt painfully alone. A lot of days I have woken up not knowing how to put one foot out of bed and onto the floor in order to start the day. The climb has felt steep and never ending. I get tired of fighting. I get tired of growing. I get stuck in self-pity and ingratitude. I get tired of hitting my head on the ceiling and having to take the next step. I do it anyway, day after day. One day at a time I keep going, despite the noise and despite the fear and despite the odds that I will fail. I hear that voice urging me on. Intuition tells me to seek and I will find. I do it anyway and eventually I remember who I am. I remember the joy that life has gifted to me. I remember the blessings that are too many to count. I remember the woman I once was and the woman who I’ve become. I remember to honor both of them.
Maybe you’ll be fired. Maybe you’ll be told your voice is insignificant and your means of expressing it are a waste of time. Maybe you’ll be told you are a waste of time. Maybe you will forget that you have a voice. Maybe you’ll never know one of your parents. Maybe you’ll be told not to eat too many sweets because pretty girls aren’t fat and if you’re fat no one will want to marry you. Maybe you’ll find yourself in fantastically devastating relationships. Maybe you never learned to love yourself. Maybe you were never shown how. Maybe you’ll lose yourself. Maybe you’ll lose your dreams. Maybe you’ll make poor choices. Maybe you’ll lose control of your life. Maybe you’ll crash. Maybe you’ll burn. Maybe you’ll get arrested. Maybe you’ll become addicted. Maybe you’ll work ten times as hard as your neighbor and seemingly only get half the payoff. Maybe a sibling or close friend will pass away. Maybe you’ll acquire clinical depression. Maybe some of your days will be so dark you want to take your own life.
Maybe you’ll rise like a phoenix from the ashes. Maybe you’ll use all of your experiences to make the world around you more whole and more beautiful. Maybe you’ll give away everything you now have and at one time needed. Maybe you’ll forgive. Maybe you’ll triumph. Maybe you will save someone’s life. Maybe you’ll thrive. Maybe you’ll find a power greater than yourself to believe in. Maybe you’ll be full of grace and faith. Maybe you’ll become your own best friend. Maybe you’ll fight for yourself. Maybe your voice becomes so powerful it is unstoppable. Maybe you are a inspiration. Maybe you are a spokesperson. Maybe you’ll write a book. Maybe you are brave and courageous and passionate. Maybe you are fearless. Maybe your journey will be more spectacularly successful than you could have imagined in your wildest dreams. Maybe all of your dreams, and then some, will come true. Maybe you keep on not quitting until the miracle happens. Maybe the miracles just keep on coming.
Maybe, just maybe, you’ll turn it all around.
I know I did.