Feelin’ the Love

I’ve spent more time in the last 10 years going on dates than I care to admit. Let’s just say that it’s not easy to find that perfect match, and being a self-employed single dad in your 40s doesn’t make it any easier.

Although I’m happily matched with the right person now, dating is a brutal experience. Meeting someone to whom you’re attracted is just the beginning. Connecting with someone who shares your interests, values, aspirations and priorities is difficult. It’s even harder finding someone with a certain degree of shared life experiences and backgrounds. Even after all that, the other person might look great on paper, as they say, but then there’s that elusive, intangible quality that seals the deal: chemistry.

If you don’t have the right chemistry with the person you’re dating — or the person you’re married to — everything else is going to be an uphill struggle.

The same is true with jobs. Finding the right job is a lot like finding the right mate. You might be attracted to it, you might discover shared values, priorities and backgrounds. But if the chemistry isn’t there, it’s just not going to work in the long run.

Such is the case with a job I took in January. I left behind my 12-year-old consulting practice because I was lured by a position with a great company that I felt would put all my skills, talents and experience to work. It looked great on paper. It looked like the perfect match.

But the chemistry just wasn’t there.

I’ve spent hours agonizing over the reasons it didn’t work out, and there are many. I won’t go into them here, of course. But I can’t minimize the role of chemistry — that intangible quality which, when present, can lead to all sorts of successes and endorphin highs. And, when lacking, can leave you heartsick.

Mismatches happen to people in all types of businesses and at all levels. I worked at AT&T when the company spun off its manufacturing businesses to create Lucent Technologies. The woman at the helm of that spin-off was Carly Fiorina, a well-respected and successful executive. Later, she was hired as CEO of Hewlett Packard. It didn’t work out. Looked good on paper — a successful, driven executive from the technology industry who was used to working in tumultuous situations. I’m sure there were many reasons it didn’t work, but I’ll bet lack of chemistry was one of them. When the chemistry is lacking, there’s just not a lot you can do about it.

So I leave that brief return to corporate life behind. Like any failed relationship, I contemplate what I could have done differently, I think about what I can learn from the experience and I figure out what I can do to make sure the next endeavor is more successful.

And I’m returning to what might be my true love: independent consulting. I’m lining up projects, rebuilding my business, taking the lessons from the past and applying them toward a better future. My next match, whether that is a new client or, perhaps down the road, another employer, will certainly benefit from a more evolved me.



2 Responses

  1. No surprise – sounds as though you have thought this entire process all the way through before making a decision. That’s what makes you such a valuable communicator, Robert. You listen and you pay attention. The clients you gain now are the true winners in this. As are you, because you KNOW where you are going.

  2. Good for you, Robert. Frankly I wondered if you would be happy back in the corporate pond after being an IC for so long. They should have had you running their corp comm department anyway! The conventional wisdom is that there’s a certain degree of stability being employed by a company, but these days, maybe not. The good old days my dad tells me about when you got a job and stayed there your entire life are ancient history. That doesn’t even happen in government anymore. Best of luck to you in your new (old?) career! I know you will be successful!

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