Last week, I was cleaning up our bookshelves when I rediscovered a book, Writing the Second Act. Written for screenwriters, the book's author, Michael Halperin, underscores the need for a great middle to any story:
Stories contain the same elements as life. They have beginnings, middles, and ends. The second act, the middle, holds the dynamic, dramatic and surprising conflicts and tensions introduced in the first act and resolved in the third act. And it happens to me the most difficult part of a screenplay or story to develop. The second act is the center of the story. It's the core that provides a sense of gravity firmly holding the screenplay together.
I am not a screenwriter nor do I have aspirations to be one. But I do think there are many similarities between the process of writing a screenplay and career management.
Most of my clients come to me after they've started their career. The first act is finished, or the draft has been written. And–if you are like most of my clients–they know what they want to accomplish when the curtain goes down. They have a sense of what they want to be written in the third act. They know what they want to do, and how they want to be spoken of…
The challenge for most of my clients–and for most of us in life–is how to write and navigate our second act with grace, humility, and confidence that we will enjoy the third act we envision.
A career coach can help you get there. A counselor can help you explore past challenges, a consultant can provide you with resources and expert advice. All of these can be helpful, and I've worn these hats over the years. But it is the coaching that is most meaningful to me. In a coaching relationship, it is assumed that clients come to sessions already perfect and whole. Clients don't need to be fixed, they just need help writing the second act–from getting started to setting goals and benchmarks to tackle them. A coach stands on the field and helps the client to remember the goals they've set, celebrate the obstacles they've overcome, and move forward.
I'm fascinated with helping others with their own careers–in part, because I am in the midst of my own second act. I earned a Master's degree with an emphasis in career development 12 years ago, and have been blessed to receive generous support from trusted mentors, colleagues and friends as I write my own narrative. This circle of support has helped me throughout my career–from navigating my first job search to writing my first book, to deciding to venture out into private practice. I had some challenging decisions to make several years ago, and without my own advisors–I think it's quite possible I'd still be in the lobby of my own career, waiting for intermission to end! It's hard to make change happen all on your own…
Continuing my own education has been a big part of my second act. I recently completed a coaching certification course taught by my Twitter Job Search Guide co-author, Susan Whitcomb (also author of Resume Magic), and will spend this weekend getting certified as a trainer for Narativ, an organization that teaches people and corporations how to tell their own stories.
I believe we are all a "work in progress." These training experiences are helping me write my own second act. How can I help you write yours?