My name is Melanie. I'm a corporate trainer and I travel for work. Mostly to Silicon Valley.
When I walk in a training room, that room is mine. I'm responsible for what happens there and my job is to make sure everyone feels safe and heard and respected. I do a lot of things to make sure all of that happens. Some of it is conscious and I'm sure there is also subconscious stuff going on too.
But if I talk about it too much here on my blog, I'm afraid the magic that happens in my training room will disappear. Like those tiny luminescent bubbles that foam up in the sink when you’re doing dishes, and then you touch them with your tip of your rubber glove and they disappear.
Not only are they gone, it’s like they were never there in the first place.
So I won't tell you much about my job. Except that I love it very much. I love everything about my job.
Except the travel.
Well, actually I even love the travel. What I hate is being away from my kids in Nashville.
And sadly, all of my professional connections are in Silicon Valley and Beijing, where I used to live.
When I tried to start a career as a free-lance trainer in Nashville, the only work I could get was in those cities where I had a professional reputation. So I flew to San Francisco for work. I flew to Asia for work. I was grateful to have work and I accepted the fact that I had to travel for it.
My kids accepted it too. I explained to them that my job was to go into those conference rooms and do the best job I possibly could. Their job was to behave for the babysitter and do their homework and chores while I was away. And I promised that I would always get back to them as quickly as I could, even if that meant getting on a red-eye flight just to get back to them a few hours sooner.
And they were troopers. They did behave for the babysitter and their did their homework and their chores.
And I took the redeye flights. And developed a close relationship with my chiropractor.
But a funny thing happened as my career gained traction. I started to get more and more work, and more and more income. And I had to travel more and more and more often.
I guess I really should have seen this coming. Success was going to mean more work and more travel. I didn't really have a plan or strategy for what I would do when all of that became too overwhelming.
About two years into this, the kids and I hit a breaking point. There was one cold winter night when I was in San Francisco and they were in Nashville and they had a really important crucial conversation with me.
It ended with me making a promise. "I promise I will find a job that won't require me to travel."
As soon as I said those words, a dark wave of fear washed over me. I had just promised something but I had no clue how I was going to deliver on it. The next day I went into overdrive and put about 100 trains into motion, hoping that one of them was going to lead me to a job that didn’t require travel.
As it turns out, all I was going to need was a series of four very specific miracles.
Miracle #1: Make a professional connection in Nashville.
This miracle had actually already taken place.
When we moved to Nashville in the summer of 2011 I didn't know anyone other than my sister. She introduced me to her friends who were all lovely, and they quickly came to know me as Melanie, Amanda's sister. Or Melanie, Grant and Audrey's mother. But no one could vouch for me as Melanie, competent professional.
In an effort to find a semi-professional connection, I decided to visit a few Toastmasters groups in Nashville. One was at a company I’ll call Acme, which is a major healthcare provider and one of Nashville's largest and best employers. At that Toastmaster's meeting I met a guy named Dave and we clicked right away. He was friendly and kind and went out of his way to make me feel welcome at the meeting.
Afterwards I sent him an invitation on LinkedIn and he accepted.
One miracle down, three to go.
Miracle #2: Develop training connections in Nashville.
This one was hard. Sometimes I feel like the training world is sort of like those discos back in the '70s where people would line up along a red velvet rope outside, waiting to get in. But the bouncer would only let people in as others were leaving, and if it was a hot club (sparkly disco balls, beautiful people in platform shoes) people weren't leaving very often. And even when they did the bouncer picked who got to go in and it wasn't always obvious how he was choosing.
Granted, I say all of this without ever having stood in a line outside a disco, in the '70s or in any other decade.
So anyway, connecting with trainers in Nashville felt daunting. I didn't want to be the desperate starlet trying to attract the bouncer's attention by flipping my platinum wig in his face. I didn't want to be the fading star who cursed and flicked her cigarette in the bouncer's face when he didn't let her in.
I just wanted someone to give me a chance.
Again I turned to LinkedIn and I entered the search terms "corporate trainers" and "Nashville".
I got zero returns within my network.
But I did have one second-degree connection. Her name was Susan and we had a mutual connection - Dave.
So I sent Dave a message, explaining that I was trying to develop my training network in Nashville and asking him if he would introduce me to Susan.
The next day he did exactly that.
Two miracles down, two to go.
Miracle #3: Meet a corporate trainer in Nashville and make a good impression.
I quickly sent a message to Susan, and asked if she would be willing to have a networking meeting with me over coffee or lunch, my treat.
And miraculously, she accepted. We got together the next week and had a wonderful conversation, first about training in Nashville and in Silicon Valley, but then about her daughter and their upcoming trip to Europe, and how Susan intended to survive the Transatlantic flight.
As we were wrapping up she said, "You really should meet Janice. She hires trainers and certifies them on Crucial Conversations." That's the class I was already certified on. The one I was delivering 3-4 times a month on the West Coast.
Susan was going to see Janice the next day and she promised to mention me and give her my resume.
Three miracles down, one to go.
Miracle #4: Get someone in Nashville to hire me as a corporate trainer.
I sent Janice a LinkedIn invitation and explained that I had heard about her from Susan, and asked if we could do a networking meeting over coffee or lunch, my treat.
I was hoping to come across as eager, and not like a stalker.
She accepted my invite and asked if we could get together for coffee. We had a great talk the following week at Panera and from that point things moved very quickly.
Janice sent me the req number for a training job she had just posted.
A recruiter emailed me to schedule an interview.
When I walked into the conference room for the interview I immediately felt comfortable when I realized that my four interviewers and I were all wearing the same colors. Maybe I’m being generous when I call black and white colors. But somehow it gave me a sense of belonging in the room and in this team.
Their questions were hard-hitting and serious, and yet we laughed so much throughout the process. They were tough on me but also good-humored. I have never enjoyed an interview as much as I enjoyed that one.
I enjoyed an interview. Did I really just write that? It’s true. I did enjoy it.
When we were done I thanked them for their time and left Acme, hungry and happy. I had been so busy preparing for the interview I hadn't had time for lunch and I was starving. And I was deeply satisfied with the way the interview had gone. Regardless of whether I got the job or not, I was happy to know Janice and her team.
As I was driving my phone rang. It was the recruiter, Peter. I told him right away how much I had enjoyed the interview and he said, "Well, it seems that was mutual. Melanie. We want you. I've got an offer for you right now."
The offer was beyond my expectations. My hiring manager was sharp and awesome. My colleagues were smart and funny. The company was stable and ethical. Its mission aligned with my values. Everything felt right so I signed on the dotted line.
Each one of them necessary for me to deliver on the promise I made to my kids back in January.
Each one of them divinely provided.
Each one of them deeply appreciated.
My name is Melanie. I'm a corporate trainer and I am blessed to have a job for a wonderful company right here in the town where I live. Nashville, Tennessee.