Case Study: Virginia Champoux

Virginia ChampouxVirginia Champoux came to me when she felt like her life was out of control.

She said, “I was recovering from breast cancer and I’d just closed the store I owned and ran for over a decade. I was at a total loss of what to do next, and was feeling so much fear that I couldn’t even make a plan for the next day, let alone figure out how to find a job.”

I took the case, promising not only to help Virginia find a direction for her career that excited her, but to create a plan for the next four weeks so Virginia knew what to do when she got out of bed.

I focused on several things: 1. Virginia is a do-er, who needs something to keep her busy, and will ignore her own emotional needs in order to be busy, 2. Virginia has extensive experience in creating and promoting events and organizations and leading teams, in the physical world and on the internet, but her experience wasn’t neatly corporate-focused. 3. Virginia is extremely self-directed.

The first and third points were why Virginia was feeling so scared, because she didn’t have the store activities to focus her. I knew that she needed some time to grieve the store, but that Virginia processes emotions by activity, so I prescribed a plan for the next month that I knew Virginia could comply with but would never think of for herself: 2 1/2 liters of water every day (Virginia’s in Canada, where water comes in liters), yoga every day or as close to it as she could get, and work on the charity online auction she was running to raise money for women’s cancers research as if the auction was her paid job.

The next phase was to look at Virginia’s resume and figure out what the through line of her experience was. Virginia’s concern was that no company would want to hire her because she didn’t have experience that neatly fit into a corporate structure. I thought that this was just leading to fear and paralysis and that terrifying cycle in which you rethink every decision in your life, so we needed to look at what was actually going to be important once Virginia did find a job: Did Virginia WANT to work for a corporation?

The truth was that she didn’t. Virginia is more entrepreneurial than that, and knows that her skills are strong enough that she can make big changes for smaller organizations and wouldn’t be happy making small changes for a big organization. So I came up with a couple of different career paths she could work on, and told her how to adjust her resume for each one. (I don’t tell anyone what to do, I just present the options and spell out the pros and cons of each, as I see them.)

Virginia’s reaction to these plans made me happy: She was pleased but slightly skeptical of the water/yoga plan, but vowed to try it. And she was relieved by the career paths, because the revelation that she IS employable (although probably not a great fit for a huge megalo-corporation, which she wouldn’t want to work for anyway) was a big exhale moment. She said, “Releasing my problem to you allowed me to have time to breath and think about other things.”

After a couple of weeks she sent me an update. She started drinking water and doing yoga, because it was on the plan I drew up for her, and it was helping with her physical healing and emotional focus. She threw herself into the auction and raised almost $9000 in five days. She put together her resumes and has started interviewing for both in-house (with small companies) and consultant positions to help her decide which direction she wants to go in. The fear is lessened because she has a direction and knows she just needs to put in the work of searching for a job and sorting through what will be the best fit for her. And she’s started developing clients for a business that she’s growing, and can decide as she goes if this will be a side business or her primary business.

tl;dr version:
Virginia had fear paralysis and was looking at herself as having limited options. I gave her a plan to diffuse the fear to allow her to act, and reframed her as the one who decided what she did next.

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