Gay Men’s Careers: The Importance of Focus and Hope in Your Work

Gay Men as Workplace Supervisors: Survival Tips for When You're the New Boss
Career coaching for gay men is available in person, via phone, and via webcam.

In psychotherapy and coaching sessions with my gay male clients every day, I’ve noticed lately that a frequent focus is about work issues.  This makes sense, given that the news and current events atmosphere has focused on a volatile political and economic climate: we get bombarded with news daily, from everything from Facebook to newspaper headlines to network TV news, about a poor job market, global economic peril, and the almost pathetically comical political race for the 2012 elections about who is going to “save the country” and return us all to prosperity.  As much as I believe a lot of that is political posturing, for my clients’ sake, I long for the days where I am helping a client make a decision between which of three new job offers to take, or role-playing with them how to do a salary negotiation, or educating clients on which local gay-related charities I recommend for them to donate part of this year’s large annual bonus to (these are things that used to be much more frequent in my office).

Today, I help my clients do more work on maintaining their current job, working out conflicts within it with colleagues, or helping them to find enough work as an independent professional to keep their incomes stable.  I don’t blame my clients for being anxious; there is much to be anxious about, especially when we are all subject to inflammatory media messages on a daily basis that the sky is falling, because, you know, “bad news sells newsapers.”

That’s why I try to encourage my clients facing professional challenges to keep a sense of focus and hope.  It does no one any good at all to succumb to the news, however much it’s a mixture of hype versus fact.  My clients are often handsome, intelligent, knowledgeable men who have learned to grow a thick skin by growing up gay in a more or less homophobic society.  For this reason, they are very often excellent salesmen.  They’ve had to learn to “read” people when they developed their “gaydar” to see which men are safe to approach romantically or sexually.  They’ve to learn to mount defenses to people who would challenge them.  Gay culture, in general, tends to teach culture and sophistication, and we often appear “charming” to straight customers.  All of these qualities lend themselves to being an influential salesperson.

This can be sales of a product or service (many of the guys I work with are the top salesmen in their company and the envy of the straight guys, who often don’t look as good in a designer suit or can’t charm female (or even male) clients with the same panache).  It can also be selling yourself (not in “that” sense, usually, although I have worked with a number of successful escort boys) in the sense of bringing your creative talents to market – as with actors, TV writers, designers, photographers, fashion designers, architects, and interior designers, all who work for themselves as what I call the “gay male creative entrepreneur” as self-employed independent contractors (West Hollywood is nicknamed “the creative city”, after all!).

And what qualities do my most successful clients exhibit?  I think they are focus and hope.  Our work is often about maintaining a focus on what mindset, point-of-view, and mental positive statements to maintain to get a certain job “deal,” succeed at it, or parlay that success to the next gig.  When challenged by not enough work or not enough of the work projects that are especially desired, it’s maintaining hope that their skills, talents, and abilities are indeed needed, often desperately, by someone, somewhere, who is willing to pay for them.  Getting work is often a match-making process between the skills and talents that you have, and the person who needs those skills and talents to achieve something important to their own job (think of a casting director who needs to cast just the “right” actor for a part, or an entire movie full of parts!).

I encourage the use of what’s called “metrics” – which is maintaining some sort of records (it could even be an Excel spreadsheet, Quicken data, or other database; even a notebook) of previous sales, deals, and successes.  Then, looking at where they came from, what kind of networking did you do to bring those opportunities about, what skills got you the gig, and what the final benefits were to the client you worked for.  By analyzing past data, you can get an idea of what’s worked in the past, and what’s likely to work in the future.  If you’re a fashion designer who makes commissioned dresses that are one-of-a-kind, and your last three clients who paid $3,000 each for formal event gowns were high-income middle-aged women in West Los Angeles, then it might behoove you to think about what that demographic reads or looks at online to determine where your next advertising strategy might be.  If you’re a salesman and the majority of your last quarter sales were all to small start-up companies with young female decision-makers, you might want to call on other companies in your territory that fit that description.    Sometimes the best predictor of future success is looking at where your success has come from in the recent past.  This kind of focus helps you maintain the hope that you are making the progress you want to make toward your professional goals this year.

It’s important that if you have fallen into the opposites of focus and hope, which are feelings of being demoralized, scattered, unmotivated, or even resentful, and you’ve lost hope, energy, drive, and confidence, that you work quickly to reverse these and mitigate any damage they are causing to your professional “mojo.”  Sometimes you need prompting and an outside person to ask you the right questions, help you clarify your own feelings, and identify your internal strengths or external resources that you might have been overlooking.  Counseling and coaching can help, before current circumstances undermine the pursuit of your vision of your Ideal Professional Self.

For more information on counseling/therapy or coaching sessions, call/text 310-339-5778, or email Ken@GayTherapyLA.com.

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