A bit more than a month ago, I had the idea to just sit in a public space one day, and offer career advice to anyone that wanted it.
I was absolutely not sure how I was going to make it happen, or what the format would look like, or which of a million possible things would go wrong, but I didn’t really dwell on it. I just picked an arbitrary Saturday a half-dozen weeks in the future and announced that I would be doing it, and called it “Coffee Coach” (since I’m a pretty big caffeine addict, and also because I didn’t want to waste too much time thinking of a name).
I committed first. I could figure everything else out later.
The idea came from two pieces of information that were rattling around in my brain. One, the system by which people are matched with jobs is horribly, horribly broken. And two, I was actually pretty good at navigating that broken system. As bad as it is, it’s bad in certain predictable ways that I’ve had a lot of experience with. So I actually have some expertise that could help people.
In an ideal world, people wouldn’t need that help. In an ideal world, transaction costs would be minimal to the point of being negligible and potential employers would have good ways of correctly evaluating real skills and traits in people, instead of both parties having to maneuver through a byzantine and ever-growing system of proxies, guesswork and sometimes outright lies in order to get good people into good jobs.
We do not live in that world.
Until we do, I’ll keep doing my best to help people find the way through the thicket. Today I sat in a beautiful park in Philadelphia and did that.
It wasn’t a huge crowd. In fact, it was three people. But each of those three people came to me with worries, concerns, and problems. They felt stressed or stuck or anxious, and they were all struggling with some part of a system that is a huge part of almost all of our lives, yet that we’re mostly woefully unprepared for. And I helped them prepare.
They each left a little lighter. One of them had an interview coming up for a big opportunity, and she was worried she wasn’t good enough; we practiced and shared tips until she felt way more confident. Another has some circumstances that made it very difficult for her to find work, and was looking for advice on how to even look for things that could fit her specific situation; we talked strategy, brainstormed and found multiple ideas that could work. And the third was a recent graduate with no clear career path ahead of her who felt demoralized and intimidated by life; I listened, we talked, and we worked through a whole new way of looking at the world that left her energized and ready to try new things.
In the grand scheme of things, this might be small. But I got what I was after. I put out some positive energy into the world. I helped a small number of people in a small way. But those little bits add up. I’m happy.