What’s Motivating You?

20 February 2019Uncategorized • Susan Rietano Davey



If you work in a ‘helping’ field, every once in a while you really fall for a client. (Actually, for me it happens all to often – but, anyway …) A delightfully warm woman named Regina came to me recently. After a robust, two-decade career in NYC publishing (plus a few years home with her sons) she was anxious to pivot in a new direction.  Before talking job search or résumé, however, I dug deep to understand her motivations for the pivot, and her priorities for the job she would ultimately take. (This, students of our Prepare to Launch U course know, is essential foundational work that is often overlooked).

Regina was crystal clear: her #1 priority was to learn to construct and design good digital content. Her reasons were thoughtful and well-vetted. She had a vision and needed help executing it. A decisive person myself, I love helping clients who know what they want, get it. Regina and I were off to a good start. 

For Regina, learning a new skill that would take her into the second (hopefully long) chapter of her professional life trumped everything else, including money. I was going to help her stay true to her goal.

It was all smooth sailing for Regina and me as we constructed a powerful, easily navigable résumé; spruced up her LinkedIn profile; and designed and executed a networking plan. Soon, she was invited on interviews and we chuckled through a session during which I taught the modest Regina how to comfortably “toot” her own “horn.”

Regina tooted so well that she was offered a job at the first place she interviewed.

The offer was “fairy tale” worthy: more money than she’d ever made, for fewer hours, in a spectacular new office, close to home, and with support staff (which she’d never had).  It was the dream job.

Except that it wasn’t.

The hiring company had a limited and very rudimentary digital presence and no plans to expand. There was no virtual media expert on staff to mentor Regina – even if just on the side. (There were some other red flags, too, but they are irrelevant to the story). Seduced by the money and the positive attention, Regina told the managing partner she needed a few days to think about it.

Two days later, she was offered a job at the second place she interviewed.

This one felt more ‘real life’ than fairy tale: hourly pay and less money than she’d ever made, full-time and somewhat unpredictable hours, in a basement office; no staff.

With one notable exception (me) the close confidantes with whom Regina shared her two divergent job offers were unanimous in their advice to her (“Go for the money!”). 

But she didn’t. Regina stayed true to her vision and took the job with a basement office, at retail pay grade, and is on her way to becoming a digital content expert and launching her next career.

When we had our final meeting, Regina thanked me for giving her “permission” to turn down the flashy job offer for the dull one (to continue the metaphor) but I’m sure there are times she rues the day we met: Friday afternoons when a fat paycheck in her wallet would feel freeing; cold mornings when a sunlight-drenched office would feel more enticing. But I’m also sure that Regina is on the right path – and I can’t wait to see her soar.

Regina’s story underscores the importance of, and the necessity for, understanding your motivations for relaunching, or pivoting in, your career. Your motivations should determine how you position and brand yourself, and what jobs you ultimately target.

This week, we asked three students in our Winter Course Cohort what their primary motivations for career relaunch were. Like the women behind them, the answers were unique and varied: 

Here is what they had to say:

Heather: “With a daughter in college and 2 younger sons soon to follow, I want to contribute to their education. So, my top reason for going back into the work world (after 20 years) is financial! During my opt-out years, I have been doing a fair amount of volunteer work and, while it is tremendously fulfilling, it would be nice to get paid for some of what I do.  With my children active and busy with their own lives, I would like to reestablish myself in my “own work world!”   

Mary: “A divorce has necessitated my back to work search; I need income and medical benefits to support myself (and two college-aged kids) financially.  I’m also anxious to get back to work because I think the challenge and social connection will me make me feel better about myself.”

Janet: “I have always worked, but I recently left my career to help my family settle in a new home across the country. My primary motivation right now is financial – we need additional income as we anticipate more expenses – but it’s also mental challenge. I miss the stimulation of professional work!”

Money, benefits, social connection, security, intellectual challenge, measurable accomplishments, recognition, learning, new skill acquisition, all of the above – there are many possible motivators behind a woman’s decision to return to work.

Before you do any career planning, take time to think about and document yours. 

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