Be the Change Careers

Meet the Opportunity Coache$

I’m incredibly excited and honored to be a part of the new PBS reality show, “Opportunity Knock$.” The premise of the show is an idea that is close to my heart, coaching families to improve their financial lives and introducing them to free tools and resources that empower and educate. My organization, Be The Change Career Consulting, and my online career coaching tool, My Career Design Studio, served one of the families starring in the series. I’m hoping that by showing the country the power of career development, more people will learn how to find meaningful and rewarding work that truly fits them and their families.

I’ll be writing up each episode, watching the series unfold from a career professional’s perspective, and simply enjoying being a part of something so relevant and important. You can watch the series too, either on PBS Passport, the streaming service for PBS members, or on the Opportunity Knock$ website. Let me know what you think below!

When I was approached to be a part of the series, I had a wonderful conversation with one of the producers, Jamie Stryer and was so impressed with this show’s vision. I’ve long believed in the media’s ability to educate and transform (as well as spread conspiracy theories far and wide. Nothing’s straightforward!). When I was in college I researched how theater was used to empower women in East Africa and even wrote a play about my experiences there. I know that there’s potential to reach millions of people through Opportunity Knock$. Fingers crossed it does.

Ahem. Spoilers below.

The program starts in Dollywood, where we learn a little bit about each family and their financial coaches. We have Hannah/Juliette and Jared/Lauren who are matched with Jean Chatzky; Michelle and Tiffany/Charles who are working with Patrice Washington; and Patricia and Fiona/James who are with Louis Barajas. I worked with Juliette, but only over zoom, so this is the first time I’m seeing her outside of a small screen. Well, I guess I’m still seeing her on the small screen, but I haven’t seen her legs before now. I’m glad she has them!

I love how this program is such a slice of American life, people from all over the country, different ethnicities, and sexual orientations. It reminds me a little of the Great British Bake Off, where it is obviously intentional that the participants are diverse, but the differences aren’t there to create drama but to reflect reality. Very refreshing!

And even though this is a “reality” show, the point is education, not competition or behind-the-scenes backstabbing. It allows the families watching to see someone in a similar situation as theirs and what they can do to get out of a tight place. And although there is a cash prize for each family, people watching can still see how different mindsets, programs, and tools play a part in transforming lives and learn how their lives can be transformed too.

A couple of things I noticed as I watched the show… Reynoldo, the host, is a financial justice expert. I don’t know how hard they will lean into this, but this is an acknowledgement that there are populations in the United States that are facing systemic inequalities that can’t be easily overcome through knowledge and hard work, such as immigrants, people of color, and sexual or gender minorities.

He also mentioned that they will be exposed to things that aren’t taught in school and that what they learn will be tailored to their specific needs and situation. I think these are two crucial points. Even though I said that knowledge may not be enough to overcome systemic oppression, knowledge does help. From a career development perspective, the necessary information to find your right-fit career is not difficult to acquire or master: know your strengths and passions; prioritize what is most important to you concerning salary, work/life balance, work environment, and work responsibilities; match your priorities to different jobs; and develop a strategy to create what you want in your career.

This takes hard work and self-reflection, sure, but the essence is simple. Do work you enjoy doing (at least a majority of the time), that fits your personality, and supports the life you want to live.

Like Reynoldo mentioned, career development is not a one-size-fits all process and there is no specific job that will be good for everyone, no matter how much your parents may have pushed the “doctor, lawyer, engineer” trifecta. Getting help and advice from people who know what they are talking about and is tailored just for your situation makes the process more efficient and effective and can get you to financial freedom sooner if you re-created the wheel.

Oh, Charles and your coupons! I’ll be keeping my eye on you.

Charles and Tiffany are pastors and talk about how nervous they are about exposing their finances to the world. Yep. Money shame is no joke and can really keep us from asking for help. But I also find their credit card story interesting and sadly typical. Banks give out credit cards to college students along with free candy bars and students spend like it’s free money, cuz it seems like it is. They talk about those “bad decisions” following them around for years, ruining their credit, but what about the banks’ bad decisions? I guess some of them came back to haunt them during the Great Recession, but in general, I see a clear victim and perpetrator. Don’t give out credit cards to kids when their prefrontal cortexes are still developing! And with free candy bars, too! Of course, we are told not to take candy from strangers, but ultimately, it’s the stranger who is at fault here.

I want to touch on Lauren and Jared’s situation briefly, as they are making sacrifices (like privacy) so that Lauren can stay home with the kids and not work full-time. These are important decisions to make, and people can’t always anticipate what they’ll want when they become parents. Although living with the parents/in-laws wouldn’t be everyone’s choice, multi-generational families used to be the norm and still are in many cultures.

I’ve worked with many women returning to work after caring for their kids with fear and despair about what they CAN do after so many years. But parenting comes with many transferable skills and you are often part of a community when you parent. That community can help your re-entry tremendously. It’s your network. And networking remains the most effective way to find a job, regardless of your past. There are other things you can do as a stay-at-home parent to make the transition easier—volunteer for causes that interest you, take on-line courses, work part-time, consult—but there are strategies you can use regardless of your situation.

So James, of Fiona and James, is stuck in a job he’s been at for years and looks super burned out when he talks about it. Just thinking about staying in a job you hate for TWENTY-FIVE YEARS(!!!) just for the pension. NOOOOOOO! I’m so curious to see his journey. I hope he also gets a career coach.

Michelle wants to start her own business! So cool! It sounds like she wants to take her experience as a popular bus driver into a business owner and as a single mom, too. Go Michelle!

Now we get to my family! Juliette and Hannah both work in the public school system and as Juliette noted, their jobs are “not lucrative professions.” Gendered jobs, like teachers and social workers, are often underpaid in the US, which is one reason why lesbian households have the lowest combined incomes when compared to straight or gay male households. Plus, they are more likely to have kids than male couples.

And our last family. Patricia is making me smile and my heart break at the same time. All the talk about bad financial decisions! This is similar to my clients as well. People feel like they made all these mistakes, if only they had made different choices, their lives would be so much better. It’s hard to remember that we didn’t know what we didn’t know, that learning and growth requires mistakes, and that perfection is an illusion. Most, if not all the time, a better decision wasn’t possible in the moment because of our situation, our upbringing, our youth and inexperience.

Watching Opportunity Knock$, I’m reminded of so much of the shame that surrounds money and finances. It’s interesting to anticipate the differences between the approaches of the financial coaches’ and my process, even though we are both working towards the same thing. Both careers and net worth are proxies for status and value in this culture and can feed feelings of worthlessness for people. I know that the tools we use to help our families are different, but we are both working to empower them to obtain a life full of joy.

I’m excited to see what will happen next!


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