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Jake, Relationship Manager

Sara Lingafelter
Sara Lingafelter
4 min read

One of the things I’ve been working on in balancing my life is prioritizing the stuff that needs doing for my personal life.  I’m not talking about date nights or hair cuts or spa days (although whoa – that sounds good right now) … I’m talking about the business of my personal life.  My goal a few weeks ago was to complete my Washington State Bar Association license renewal; I made progress but didn’t tick it off the list completely because I needed to check one thing with my old business bank.  For whatever reason, that one thing was unable to be handled via online banking or a call to the customer service center; I would have to visit a branch in person.

One day this week I took a lunch break (which I never do, and need to do more often) and went to the bank branch closest to my office.  Bank branches are pretty strange places nowadays — when I walked in, there was a woman working behind a desk off to my left, and a man sitting in the chair in front of her.  There were three tellers behind the counter, one of them on the phone, and the other two eagerly awaiting my question.  Perhaps scarcity of takers makes customer service more enthusiastic, in banking.  After telling the young man behind the counter what I needed, he phoned the woman at the desk approximately 20 feet away, whose voice I could not hear through the phone, but could hear clear as day through my left ear.  She said Jake could handle it, and after I waited a few minutes, the “customer” got up from the chair in front of the woman and walked over to greet me.

Jake’s desk had two sets of business cards on it — the ones on the left had a really finance-y job title, but the ones on the right were what caught my eye, with the title “Relationship Manager.”  As he typed numbers into his terminal window — who still uses command line interfaces? Your bank, that’s who — and gregariously asked me questions about my work and my career path and sprinkled in stories about his own.  We had in common that we both were seeking a career that would let us help people.  I tried out practicing law, which didn’t often satisfy that particular criteria.  He wanted to be a firefighter or police officer, but “Had a little too much fun in college,” and couldn’t pass a polygraph.  I thought about telling him that he’d probably be better off passing a polygraph (by telling the truth and dealing with the consequences) than trying to cheat one and failing but who am I to dole out such advice… that could be totally wrong.  He didn’t share how he landed behind the Relationship Manager’s desk at a suburban bank — but he did say that he’s reached a place where he’s comfortable… it’s less, now, about what he does, and more about the fact that he’s living comfortably and can pay his bills each month.  Although he did observe, with a momentary faraway glance, that there’s a sweet spot between “In the last five years, have you …” on a polygraph, and the magical age of 35 at which time he said he’s “too old” to enter the fire academy.


I’m 35, and I feel like I’ve just started being grown-up enough to live my life with any kind of direction.  I can’t imagine deciding that my life’s calling is to run into burning buildings to save peoples lives before reaching this level of maturity.  Maybe I’m just a late bloomer.

I started to give him a little “it’s never too late” pep talk, that if the academy really doesn’t admit folks past a certain age, there’s always some other way to fill that desire — I’ve wanted, ever since I was a kid, to be a teacher and never have for more than a lecture or a semester at a time, but I seek out ways to teach and coach and design curriculum in whatever work I’m doing at the time.  But who am I to pep talk anyone else about their career choices?

Simply Hired lists 586,663 openings right now with the job title “Relationship Manager.”  I gotta say, that’s a pretty cool job title for a connector like me.  But man – the companies those jobs are listed at… no thank you.  I’ll take the freaky new fluorescent lights above my shared cubicle anyday over the likes of those.  It does remind me, though, that I can think about my job as an opportunity to leverage my real strengths, and to try to work toward making my current job something that better uses my skills.  Maybe someday I’ll be a Teacher / Trainer / Coach / Relationship Manager / Storyteller for a living.  Who knows.

So, thanks to Jake for opening my eyes to another new job title, and for reminding me not to settle or grow apathetic.  I like to think that he’ll decide to apply for the academy just in the nick of time, in this window between the expiration of the “too much fun” he had in college and the magical age of “too old” at turning 35.  I picture him using his people skills and the responsibility that you earn over years of living as an adult to show up the 20somethings in school who don’t realize how serious the undertaking they’re embracing truly is.  I see him graduating with honors, and being snapped up by his first choice fire department.  I see him struggling with the learning that a dream job is never actually a dream job for very long.  But I see that awareness balancing that with the sheer bliss that comes from realizing a dream you’ve had for your whole life.

And I’ll ask myself… what have I always wanted to do?  If someone asked me, “What do you really want to do with your life?” what part of my answer would involve a faraway glance and a sweet spot that may just happen to be right now?  What have you always wanted to do with your life?  Have you?  Will you?


Sara Lingafelter

Sara (Grace) Lingafelter takes steps forward and backward toward a right-sized life on a daily basis.