Karen Campbell is one of those high-achievers who always over-delivers. I know this first hand… because she’s my wife. Now I know what you’re thinking, “is he really telling us a story about his wife’s job success… it’s not like she’s going to be biased.”

And the answer is yes, I am sharing my wife’s job search success story. Because first of all, her story is worth telling, regardless of her relationship to me. But more importantly, though Karen is now one of my biggest supporters, she was extremely skeptical about changing her approach to her job search.  Just like sooo many job seekers I come across.

In fact, Karen was the most difficult person I’ve ever had to convince to change her evil public-job-market ways. 

For the past decade, Karen worked for a private investment company based out of Baltimore. She was responsible for the vision and execution of exclusive events. 

Whether it was creating, planning, and coordinating luxury travel experiences for the Company’s extremely wealthy clientele, or managing the Company’s high-profile global conferences… Karen was the one trusted to ensure that events went off without a hitch and wow-ed everyone in attendance.

Like many who excel in service-based roles, Karen excelled under pressure, brought people together, and got stuff done. 

She was good at her job, and she loved it… for a while. The job, though demanding, provided great flexibility. Sure, when she was in “event mode,” she was giving 250% of her energy to each event. But when there weren’t events, there were sometimes days at a time where she really didn’t have much to do. 

She was excited when they told her that she needed a laptop to be able to work from anywhere. This meant that when she wasn’t at an event, she was able to work from home. She could drop her kids off at school and take 90-minute lunch breaks with friends. 

The ability to travel and work from home are pretty sexy perks for most job seekers.

Karen was no exception. When she started, she loved to travel. Thanks to the type of clientele and events she was responsible for, the travel was luxurious. She went all over the world, eating and staying in only the best places. 

It was a first-class lifestyle, for sure. Most people dream of a career that allows them to see the world and then come back and work from the couch in yoga pants. Karen was living most people’s dreams. Only, in time, she began to realize that it was no longer her dream. 

Her laptop, which started as a symbol of her flexibility, came to represent an increasing pressure to be always on. 

An incoming call during dinner from one of the wealthy travelers on a retreat meant that she would be heating up her food that night. A company conference that had to occur during her family’s vacation week, meant that she was taking calls and managing logistics poolside. 

When was the last time you took a vacation where you weren’t pulled away from the pool to hop on a conference call with someone from work? Do you remember? 

Karen hasn’t taken a work-free vacation in a DECADE. 

And it wasn’t just the family vacations that were interrupted. With so much travel, evening and weekend work, missing family events became the norm. With each missed volleyball tournament, softball game, Karen was becoming increasingly resentful toward her employer.

The work no longer felt glamorous. There were some changes in leadership, followed by the inevitable interoffice politics game. The stress of it all took a toll on her health. At one point, she was supposed to travel to China for a conference, but couldn’t, because she had pneumonia that she could not get rid of… for four months.

Like so many high-achieving working moms, Karen fell victim to corporate burnout… and she needed to make changes. Fast. 

One morning, Karen woke up in a plush yet lonely hotel room. She looked out her window at the stunning view, and she longed for home. She wanted to see views like this on an actual vacation surrounded by her family. She was done with the life of the road warrior. 

She went home and told her husband (me) that she needed to make a pivot in her career. She needed a new job, and she needed it yesterday. I was psyched to see that clarity and drive in her and was thrilled to help her figure out her next job.

This was going to be my easiest sale ever… especially since I wasn’t exactly going to charge my wife to buy my Smart Job Search course! 🙂 

Only, as Karen got into her job search, she didn’t want to do things the smart way. She wanted to do things the “lazy” way, as she puts it. Couldn’t she just find a job online? Certainly, she should be able to, being the talented, high-achieving, perfect-resume-looking candidate that she is. 

Even though she watched me build my program from the ground up and listened to endless rants about the public job market, she wanted to go with what was comfortable and “easy.” She wanted to go with what she knows. She wanted to apply to jobs online and circumvent having to network with people… the way that most people do it. 

And so that’s what she did at first. She applied to jobs online. And it got her nowhere. 

That’s because, first of all, the public job market sucks. But second of all, Karen didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do. She knew what she didn’t want anymore — stress, travel, demand to be always-on, zero balance — but how do you search for that job title on Monster.com? 

One frustrated week and endless convincing later, Karen made a decision. 

The Pathway to Yes always starts with a decision. Often, it’s a decision to do something different. And in Karen’s case, she decided to give her husband’s methods a shot, and stop hanging out on job boards and start hanging out with actual people. 

Karen’s decided that she wanted to talk to as many people as possible, as fast as possible. 

And like with everything she does, Karen went all-in on that goal. She started reaching out to everyone she knew. Friends, family, colleagues. People that she had fallen out of touch with so they could reconnect. She was methodical about setting up coffee and lunch dates with people in the area, sometimes meeting with 2-3 different people a day… she’s such an overachiever. 

The beauty of reconnecting with so many people in real life was that it really gave Karen a strong sense of what was out there for jobs. More importantly, it helped her figure out what she wanted. At this point in her life, Karen didn’t care quite as much about the work… she needed the lifestyle, the team environment, and the culture to fit.

What started as a chore, quickly turned into an incredible self-esteem boosting exercise. 

As Karen reconnected with more and more people, she began to recognize the tremendous opportunity in front of her. She had already decided that she was comfortable taking a pay cut along with her career pivot if it was necessary. She knew she could take her excellent customer service skills and apply them in a different way, and she was totally comfortable learning new things. 

Because of the high-stress, toxic environment that she was leaving, Karen knew that she had the opportunity to be picky about what type of company she went into. So now she just had to go out and find that magical opportunity.

Coffee dates are a great way to get the inside scoop on all the magic that’s happening on the hidden job market.   

About two weeks into her coffee date circuit, Karen met with a friend who was employed by the local school district. During that meeting, she decided that she wanted to direct her job search toward the school district based on what she heard about the culture, environment, and balance that her friend enjoyed.

Her friend was then able to give her priceless insight into the district’s recruitment process and key influencers. He notified her of where listings were posted and how to get notified about new openings. Most importantly, he tipped her off to the fact that the district does it’s hiring for the school year months earlier than she expected.

Equipped with this knowledge, all Karen had to do was wait. 

Two weeks later, Karen’s dream job was announced in the district newsletter that her friend recommended she subscribe to. And she pounced.

The job was posted on a Monday morning. Thanks to the newly rekindled relationship with her friend at the district, she was able to make a call and find out about the principal at the particular school that was hiring. 

Liking what she heard, she applied online and notified her ally, Mr. District Insider. Because she already had an existing relationship with the Insider before she applied online, she was fast-tracked. Though they won’t admit it, it sure felt like they were basically waiting for her application. She sent me a text message with a link to the job that said, “there’s my job,” to which I replied, “well, go get it.”

Once again, that is exactly what she did.

Within days of applying, Karen said yes to the job that changed our family’s life. There is no more night or weekend work. No more travel. She doesn’t even have a laptop anymore, so she literally can’t work from home. 

Karen discovered that she is re-energized working with a team again, instead of flying solo all the time. She has a manager who respects her boundaries and is happier than ever. 

Her entire job search only took about 5 weeks. But perhaps the most impressive part, was how quickly she landed the job after she decided where to focus her effort. 

Karen made a decision to do something different — to trust her husband. Ha, half-kidding. The real decision was to leverage her network and to take it to the hidden job market. As it always does, the hidden job market delivered.

And now, we get to go on vacation again.