Before jumping ship, worker should chart a clear course

Dear Joan:
I have been striving for more balance in my lifestyle other than work. I workout daily, and find this time not only priority and necessity, but also a good stress reliever, which has been well documented.

My question revolves around a desire to change my career. I am a male, single and currently employed in professional sales. I have been in sales for seven years, which, for the most part, has been satisfying. My problem is that it requires more time than I care to give, working an average of 50-60 hours a week or more. This interferes with the wellness balance I am striving for. I am still fairly young (30), with a bachelor's degree in business administration-marketing.

What could I do, or who can I contact, in looking at opportunities outside sales, that would enable me to work a more normal work schedule yet still utilize my business skills? I am more interested in having a job at a location, with no or little work at home, working a more normal schedule of 40-50 hours a week. My background has been in outside sales. How do I refocus my career in another field in business? (My resume is enclosed.)

Your resume describes a strong background in medical sales, as well as some prior experience as a sales manager.

The first place to look isn't in the want ads. It's in your own back yard. Often, the first reaction of someone feeling a little worn out, is to escape altogether. (And with your impressive accomplishments, you deserve to feel a bit frayed around the edges.)

Having a job at "one location" might take care of the traveling hassles, but will it really give you more time? Frankly, there are no guarantees that you'll be working a straight 40 hours a week in any management job.

The answer may be found be searching your own soul. Talking with a good friend or career counselor might help you articulate what attracted you to sales in the first place. Identify what you like the most and least, what motivates and rewards you and what your talents and weaknesses are.

Managers who have lost a valuable employee often moan, "If I had only known that he was unhappy, we might have been able to find what he wanted internally."

Given your track record, I'd look within your company first. If you use your past performance as leverage, you are likely to get more status, pay and perks than if you start from scratch with another firm. This will be especially true if you leave the sales field altogether.

If you decide that a different corporate environment may provide the structured schedule and other things you desire, consider making the transition by remaining in sales or marketing.

You will be considered experienced because of your years in the field. In fact, many companies would welcome your knowledge of customer service, sales training, distribution systems and perspective of the sales force.

Begin by looking in the fields in which you have sold products. Are there jobs on the customers' end that may fit? You may even be able to use some of your former customers as contacts.

Be careful whom you confide in, however. If a current customer knows you are leaving, and his or her product loyalty rests largely on your relationship, he or she may start looking for a new supplier.

If you are convinced that you want a job in a different area of business, I'd suggest you talk to people currently in those jobs. Ask a lot of questions about what they like and don't like. Ask them how they spend their average day. You may discover their jobs really aren't right for you.

Finally, ask them how hard they had to work to get established. You may find you've finished one race only to start another.

In any even, charting a course with some clear direction may be better than leaving home without a map.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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