Are You Navigating Unfamiliar Career Waters?

By Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter

Initial Storms of Change

This year’s Texas drought has been an interesting contrast to last year’s Missouri floods. Following our move from rain-drenched Kansas City to stormy and windy Lake Texoma in May 2011, our initial concern was that we’d moved to a too-gusty location. (Yes, you can have ‘too much’ wind for sailing – at least for the type of cruising that we enjoy.)

This reminds me of individuals who, after months of company researching, interviewing and negotiating, accept a new position only to worry whether, upon entering the choppy waters of their new career port, they made the ideal decision.

As May relented to June, the winds and storms subsided, the temperatures heated up and sailboats began dotting the Lake Texoma waterscape. After finalizing some major boat work ‘on the hard’ and some refinishing in the slip, and our sea legs a tad wobbly, we geared up for our first sail, revisiting proper procedures for releasing the bow lines, hoisting and adjusting the canvass, tacking, jibing, going wing on wing, and simply, ‘getting underway.’

Navigating Unfamiliar Career Waters

Similarly, after landing a new job, careerists often find that though hired for their hard-earned record of expertise, the unfamiliar waters of their new company may require tuning of their career rigging and procedural groundwork before casting off full-sail into their new role.

A seaworthy girl, Sea’s the Day was built in the 1960s during an era when boat hulls made from fiberglass were overbuilt because manufacturers were still determining how strong fiberglass really was; as such, I’ve always felt secure sailing our ‘girl,’ whether on a lake or with the idea of sailing her one day on the Big Blue.

Entering into our fourth sailing season, Capt. Rob and I had solidified our sailing confidence, and along with our salty girl, we were ready to tackle a new, 90,000-acre lake, 10 times the size of our former lake.

We took our time choosing our slip; there’s nothing worse than agreeing to a slip only to find that it’s difficult to maneuver in and out of, the view isn’t terrific or you have noisy neighbors. Our first, smooth trip out of the marina proved we indeed had made the right choice. We were sailing again, after months of transition and some emotional agony waiting for the right time in our new port to heave to.

Eager to Transition to a More Demanding Career Role

Akin to careerists whose self confidence has strengthened after navigating the multi-year climb of a career specialty and who are now eager to transition to a larger, more demanding role, our move was both disconcerting and exciting, both trying and exhilarating. We were underway for our initial exploratory sail.

Though we were having fun from the moment we released the bow lines, we also were grateful that another sailor who was more experienced with the lake, followed us out to sea, guiding us through the varying and changing water depths.

You see, Lake Texoma is known for its islands and sandbars and for sudden depth changes, so carefree sailing, especially in the area near the marina and before entering the bigger, much deeper part of the lake, was not feasible, unless we were keen on grounding our boat.

Critical Adjustments Along the Way

This was the start of a journey-in-progress, and the course we plot continues to unfold with a few critical adjustments and a lot of story-collecting along the way. As the summer advanced, so did the temperatures, and back-to-back-to-back 105+ degree days became the norm, so we adjusted our sailing schedule to focus on very early morning, sunrise sails.

A drought ensued.  The once refreshing, swimmable and sailable waters seemed to turn on us, as they became overheated and stagnant. By Labor Day, the Corps of Engineers invoked a no-swimming ordinance as dangerous (life threatening) blue-green algae infected the lake. Our sailing fun was stopped in its tracks. Sailing as we do (without a roller furling or bimini), we were not protected from big splashes of water, and decided we weren’t interested in drowning our enthusiasm for our new Texas lifestyle by inviting illness.

Water levels had plummeted by more than seven feet, deepening challenges in navigating through the already circuitous path around sandbars and islands that now were boasting longer-than-normal beaches.

Even With Best-Laid Plans, Unexpected Hurdles Can Sidetrack You

Similarly, career changers will find that, even with best-laid and exhaustively implemented plans, the new work environment may be wrought with storms, droughts and unexpected hurdles that will sidetrack your goals or create fears of grounding your career.

Change Is a Constant

Yet, if you have advanced far enough in your career and in your life, you realize that change is a constant, and the issues that may be dampening your abilities to sail further into the career sea will likely evaporate in time; you can still be hopeful and optimistic that droughts are not permanent, that storms pass and that the sunshiny, amenable conditions that fertilize your career landscape will reveal themselves again.

It’s the patience and fortitude we must all exercise in riding out these career storms that is a testament to our spirit and resolve. It’s the actionable steps we take to create alternate satisfaction pathways and revamped courses and contingency plans in the midst of those storms that help us to grow and evolve.

It also is enriching to discover the gifts that reveal themselves in times of turmoil and discomfort. It can be surprising the life joy we eek out despite our disappointments.

For Rob and me, we are advancing our businesses and our careers in unexpected and creative ways; we have met and cavorted with new friends at their beautiful and whimsical lake homes; we have played games; we have laughed, and we have cried; we have entertained family and friends at our home; even when refraining from hoisting our sails, we have spent overnights on the water on our boat; and we have dreamed … and continue to dream, about tomorrow, while aspiring to cherish each “today.”

Sails Are Made for Adjusting!

Enjoying such pleasures will not be foiled by unpredictable weather. Sails, after all, are made for adjusting! And this we know: We will fly that canvass again, and will sail the ‘high seas,’ wherever that may take us!

3 Responses to “Are You Navigating Unfamiliar Career Waters?”

  1. DorleeM says:


    I’m so sorry to hear that for the moment you and Rob are unable to sail…However, I love this post and analogy, and the important message you are trying to convey.

    It is so true that one goes through an adjustment phase when one starts a new job with more/different responsibilities and the weather feel a be a bit stormy at that time until one feels comfortable handling the new role.

    I also love how you and Rob serve as such a positive example of not only having done all the requisite prep work for this move but in adapting to the temporary disappointment of not being able to sail right now and making the most of what you can do for now – like spending the night in your boat at the dock etc.

    It’s such a positive, vibrant and mindful way of being and living…it’s seeing what’s there right now and appreciating it for what it is (even if it’s not what you want it to be).

  2. Master Resume Writer says:

    Thanks so much for your reflective comment and validating words, Dorlee (an example of your insights that, I’m sure, will make you an excellent social worker!).

    “Positive, vibrant and mindful way of being …” <-- I will take those words 'home' with me today. Thank you so much! Jacqui

  3. […] in ‘adjusting my sails’ and how I think they can benefit career changers, please visit: Are You Navigating Unfamiliar Career Waters? Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

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