Career Strategy: Dreams vs. Reality

One aspect of our work is to help our clients figure out their next step; help them prepare a career strategy; guide them through the options the job market has to offer. And then a big part of our job is to motivate job seekers to do what they should be doing, to make sure they stay focused on the important and to finish what they have started which usually is a desired career change. When they get side-tracked, we know that it very often stems from self-handicapping.

But, what motivates us? What kind of career paths do we have? Who are the people behind hundreds of successful job changes of experienced managers and (senior) executives across Europe?

We’d like to introduce some of our team members through mini-interviews of 5 questions.

Sandra, why have you become a Career Angel?
Back in 2002, when I was still a junior recruiter I was surprised by how much paper and person did not match. I also found it curious how (very) experienced managers or professionals that seemed to be extremely competent could not convey that properly during interviews. So I instinctively started helping my candidates, and then my friends and then my friends’ friends and so on. In 2010 I decided to turn it into a freelance gig at first. And by December 2011 I knew I wanted to build a business around it.

Why do you keep being a Career Angel?
For me, there are 3 reasons:
1) I actually love the work, especially the CV formatting and designing. Even after 7 years of doing it (almost) every day. I still enjoy it.
2) The work I do has visible results in people getting jobs or figuring out what to do next with their careers. It’s immensely satisfying to receive feedback that I call “spontaneous” love letters that we started collecting and publishing here.
3) I like the business aspect of it. How to manage a completely remote team of 15. How to deliver services globally in different languages at the same quality level. How to stay connected with the team members and the clients despite the distance.

What career challenges have you faced in your own career?
After working for 5 years I decided to quit my job and go back to university to fulfill my childhood dream of studying physics. I felt that that was a “now or never” kinda situation. So I did. I had it all planned out. However due to language challenges (I did not study it in my native language nor English) I failed the first semester and wound up completely disoriented. For somebody who plans everything and who follows through ending up with no plan from one day to another was tough. After a month of eating ice cream and watching TV I pulled myself together, got back up on my feet and slowly figured out a new plan. Looking back, it was one of the best decisions as I confronted dreams with reality and… by the time I’m 80 I will not regret not having at least tried.

Please share a client case that you particularly liked or felt important.
There are many… but overall the biggest learning experience for myself was to accept that although our clients can outsource literally anything to us, they cannot outsource “being motivated”. I cannot want the change or the results for my client. In other words, “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.”

One particular client case: I worked with a CEO who wanted to achieve a very specific goal. Doing it in one step was not possible. On the other hand: not having this goal would mean an absolute career stagnation. We prepared a 2-year plan, incl. personal branding and networking activities and we fully followed through. This move and thorough preparation secured an additional 10 years of prosperous career development.

If there’s one thing that you could tell managers and executives when it comes to managing their careers, what would that be?

The first two words that come to my mind: awareness & plan. Planning starts with awareness of their own motives, competencies and goals. Managers leave so many career steps/changes entirely to chance… which obviously doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but overall, statistically, if everybody spent as much time on thinking and managing their careers per year as they, for example, do on planning their annual holidays, all of us would be much happier and more successful.

Do you fall into the category of aware executive who likes to plan? Would you like to confidentially speak about your career with Sandra? Email her at Sandra.Bichl (at) or click here.