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Why you need to “Know Somebody” – Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL

Why You Need to “Know Somebody” – Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL

By Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.”- African Proverb

Many years ago, a naive 23-year-old woman packed up her car a drove from New Jersey, which was her home her entire life, to an unknown land way up in upstate New York, all alone, without knowing a soul. Her long sought-after job was as a secondary English teacher, in a large school district. After many years as a high school English teacher, and because she knew somebody, she landed a job at a big, major corporation, who needed English teachers to edit major proposals (of thousands of pages) to submit to the US Government. Theses proposals were all worth millions and millions of dollars. 

Years later, the woman was in her mid thirties, and ready to make another change. She moved to New Hampshire to work in the same industry, but a different company, because she knew somebody. After several years in this role, the woman now in her forties, decided to get married (again), which took her back to her upstate NY roots, and created a new, blended family. After several years back in the defense industry and in industrial sales, her life changed again.

Now she and her husband went to Australia for a year because his job required it. Once they returned from their year long journey 10,000 miles from home, the husband’s job went away due to “right sizing”. Then, because they knew somebody, their careers brought them to Moorestown, NJ, and eventually to Rhode Island to work for another defense giant, where they knew somebody.

Along the way, the woman, now in her 50s, completed her master’s degree leadership, and stayed in the same place long enough to receive her certificate in contract management, six sigma, and complete a course in integrated product management.  Eventually, family and work events overtook her career plans and, by now, no longer naive about the ways of the world, she figured out her best exist strategy; She knew the best option was to volunteer for a layoff, and receive the many benefits offered by the company generosity. She was able to obtain a tuition stipend for higher education and applied that toward a Graduate Certificate in Executive and Professional Coaching from the University of Texas at Dallas.

There are a lot of twists and turns to this story, but by persevering, sticking to her goals, being flexible and pragmatic, and leveraging help when she could, helped this woman get to where she wanted to be; doing something she loves, with the ability to use her 30 plus years of experience to help other people do the same. Because everyone wants to love what they do. The big question is how do you do that?

Taking many years of lessons learned, here are the steps to help get started.

Step 1 Clarify your story. So, to start off, clarify what you really want. Tell people who can help you what you want, clearly and openly.

Step 2 Determine your readiness to change. Strengthen your motivation to act. Be willing to male a change and show your commitment. Build your confidence to engage in change.

Step 3 Ask yourself; What do you want to be different going forward?  How is that different than what exists currently? Be willing to challenge your assumptions and beliefs. State what you want in positive terms. Is the change under your control? What you (and others) see, hear or experience that will show you’ve been successful?

Step 4 Answer 3 Questions: What do you have to do to get what you want? How are you going to go about it? When and where are you going to start doing it? Take manageable first steps (Don’t try to boil the ocean.) Experiment, explore and try different options to bring you closer to making the change you want. You only need to take one small step at a time, a nano change works just fine!

And of course, any change takes time, and often there can be some pain involved. However, you can minimize that pain by tackling one small thing at a time until your life looks more like you want it to.

Have you tried going it alone? It just doesn’t work. It’s only when people realize that they need help and are willing to ask for it, do circumstances improve. And it’s an evolving process because life morphs every day. What’s true today, may not work tomorrow, next week, next year or ever. The key is to get to know who can support you when it’s needed to navigate these tricky waters of life and avoid getting sucked into the maelstrom, boat, sails, oars and all.

Grow your network and call on it. Ask for help. There’s no shame in it.

“The best advice I can give to anyone … is to never be afraid to ask for help.”- Demi Lovato


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Mary T. O’Sullivan, Master of Science, Organizational Leadership, International Coaching Federation Professional Certified Coach, Society of Human Resource Management, “Senior Certified Professional. Graduate Certificate in Executive and Professional Career Coaching, University of Texas at Dallas.

Member, Beta Gamma Sigma, the International Honor Society.

Advanced Studies in Education from Montclair University, SUNY Oswego and Syracuse University.

Mary is also a certified Six Sigma Specialist, Contract Specialist, IPT Leader and holds a Certificate in Essentials of Human Resource Management from SHRM.