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Sweaty Eyeballs

The Job Hunter

By Rabbi Mordechai Kruger

I wasn’t expecting the tears. I know that there are speakers and counselors who are able to reach deep into an experience, where the real emotions are found, and the tears flow. I once heard that when Rebbetzin Jungreis addressed a group of battle-hardened army officers, they couldn’t admit that she had brought them to tears. So they called it “sweaty eyeballs.” But I talk to people about how to find a job. So I wasn’t expecting the tears.

I could understand tears if I were able to wave a magic wand and my clients would have the jobs of their dreams. A rush of emotion, an enveloping relief that the stress, the frustration, the fear is over. There will be a job, there will be a paycheck, the bills will be paid, dignity will be restored. If I could create moments like that, I would probably be crying too. But I don’t have a magic wand. The best possible outcome of a session with me is that the client has a clear grasp of the next steps he has to take to move himself closer to the job he really wants, and the confidence he needs to actually take them.

I’m a job-search coach. Like the coach of a gold-medal winning Olympian, I teach each client how to maximize what they can accomplish with their own unique set of skills, talents, and goals. And like that athlete, my clients have to then go out themselves and do the work of job hunting. When they find that gold-medal job of their dreams, they may be deeply moved. But the tears I see seem different.

There’s a fellow I’m working with who wants to start his own business. It can happen that the best possible job for a client is one that he will create himself, and that is certainly the case here. But the road we are walking together had some serious bumps early on. It was only later that there were tears.

He came to me with an idea, to market a chochke that he had invented. So the first questions to ask when marketing something new are: Why would someone want this? What need does it answer? And does it answer it in the best way possible? These questions set off a series of improvements, which led to rethinking the entire concept, which led to creating something else entirely, something that really was an amazing idea. So amazing that it has already been invented and marketed, and is selling very well. So all that work—and it was substantial—went down the drain, with nothing to show for the effort. That would have been worth a tear or two, but the tears came later.

That client didn’t give up. A week later he was back, with another idea, something entirely different, creative, and new. And as we started talking about what steps would come next, the tears began to flow. I didn’t ask what they meant; I just waited. He turned and said, “You don’t understand what you’ve done for me.” Which was true, as it seemed to me that we were back at square one. “For years, I’ve been thinking of things that might become a business—all kinds of ideas, inventions, services, and none of them went anywhere. I never even told anyone about them. Because I was sure that big ideas, successful ideas, are thought up by other people, people with experience, with business in their background, but not me. And then I heard about Pathways to Parnassa, and that you would work with me and it didn’t matter how much I could pay.

“What I’ve learned here is that my ideas are real. That I can develop them into something valuable and important, something that will support my family. Now it’s just a question of time and effort, but I know that it’s in my hands.” That’s when the tears came.

Another fellow had turned away from a fulfilling career when he became an observant Jew. First because he wanted to spend time on Torah learning, then because he couldn’t see functioning as an Orthodox Jew in the environment he had left behind. He went on to another field, and while he does make a living, he dreads every day. When he meets people, he prays that they don’t ask him what he does for a living. The words “I work in ___” just hurt too much.

We talked about the “normal” solution, compartmentalization. Do what you have to by day, follow your dreams and talents at night and on Sundays. But then we talked about synthesis. About finding a way to do his work in a truly unique way, by bringing his creativity and background into his current field, so that he could do something that really expresses his entire self. That’s when the tears came.

I have long been aware of the importance of following a dream, a personal vision of what could be. But these clients have taught me that for many people, probably more than we know, not following a dream throws a pall over everything. A throbbing ache caused by turning away from what is most real. The pathways to parnassa truly begin with finding what is best within you. v

Rabbi Mordechai Kruger is the founder and director of Pathways to Parnassa, an organization providing job-search and career coaching to our community. He can be reached at

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Posted by on March 14, 2014. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.