Six years ago, before preventing suicide became the national meme, I coached a lawyer who had two strikes against him.
He was middle-aged since he had entered law school as a second career. The rate of suicide goes up as men age. We recall the cluster of more than a dozen suicides in Kentucky among middle-aged trial lawyers.
Secondly, he had been knocked out of the partner box as an eight-year associate. That meant he went from $300k to zero, given that he was unable to work.
Yes, he was suicidal. His psychiatrist told him to get a career coach.
From the get-go, I dropped the usual structure of career coaching for older professionals ( Download BACKGROUNDERJaneGenovaCoaching)
The structure I set up was: Let's make not killing yourself the goal. So, what career strategies and tactics we will discuss will be those which help you achieve the goal of not committing suicide.
Like most lawyers he was verbally skilled. So he worked on an article which I was able to place online for him. Given that journalism, like law, was downsizing, that really wasn't an option. But he had a publication credit. That moved him out of the past. The publication credit was new. He figured out how he could leverage it for professional recognition.
He didn't kill himself.
Eventually, he created a hybrid of his original career path - sales - with his knowledge of the legal sector. He handled the sales for productivity software for law offices. Then, he went on to selling a legal service which was more marketable.
The wounds haven't healed. But he's alive and making a good living.
Getting beyond a setback doesn't always generate a roaring comeback. That positive-thinking platitude isn't aligned with reality for most professionals.
But, it was no surprise to me that having the goal of not killing yourself prevented suicide.
The goal of staying alive simplifies everything. That's a relief to someone in such pain about a career. Success is the unofficial religion of America.
Professional setbacks bring up layer after layer of complexity. There is the self-criticism. The dragging up of everything that seemed to be your mistake since grade school. The conviction that it is impossible to start over. And the preoccupation with what others are saying.
Not killing yourself comes down to one foot in front of another, literally. You step out of bed. You attend to personal hygiene. You eat. You take any assigned medication. You keep the appointments with all the support people in the loop. You avoid isolation even if that means attending four self-help meetings a day. You chase worry away. You duck unsafe people. And, you consider uncomplicated ways in which you can bring in income. That might be through a survival job or signing up for contract work.
Soon enough there is no thought of checking out. You achieved your goal. That is a major victory - and far more important than an amazing comeback.
Contact Jane Genova firstname.lastname@example.org.