Sunday, September 28, 2008

Going Back to Work: The Thrill

A friend of mine just went back to work after having spent many years doing lots of other things: raising multiple children, consulting, contributing as a board member to her pet causes. She is a person of great energies and interests and always felt that when the time was right, she'd return to full-time work.

Her main concern was that she had so many responsibilities outside of work that ultimately she would be derailed. Or go crazy.

Because this friend is someone who knows everyone and keeps up with her giant rolodex, opportunities have been coming at her for years. But earlier this year, she got a call about a job that seemed tailor-made for her. Plus it offered some flexibility.

To make a long story short, after a great many interviews and lots of hand-wringing and soul-searching, she took the job. And the interesting thing is that she reported to me the other day that she actually feels she is more productive, happier and even calmer, than she was before.

She attributes this to a couple of things which I want to share with you. First of all, the fact that she is now employed in her dream job means that she no longer spends the emotional energy worrying, fretting and feeling guilty about putting the fulfilling her potential piece on hold.

The other thing she reports is that she is amazed at how helpful her family has been. They understand she's working and they are pitching in--much more than previously. They were all supportive of her taking this job and they are stepping up to the plate.

The third thing she says is that she now has a space to call her own where she can do her work, return calls, pay bills, all under a work umbrella.

She feels she is more efficient and generally happier. And she's working four days per week, very close to where she lives.

Now I realize she's in the honeymoon period. But even if during her tenure with her new organization she regularly gets 50% of these benefits, it's still a good tradeoff. And don't forget, she's getting paid too.

If this is motivating to you, it should be. Even in a down economy, there are jobs that can be adjusted to meet your particular situation. It's up to you to package your credentials and advocate for yourself. Let me know if you need help!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What They're Doing Now

In the past month I've spent time planning something I never thought much about: my 30th high school reunion.

While I went to a really good small high school where everyone knew each other, I never really felt like my high school years delivered the optimal experience. Call me a late bloomer, but I have always preferred my adult life to the years that came before.

So I didn't really keep in touch with people, even though I had some good friendships lasting throughout.

Then a couple of months ago, an old classmate found me on Facebook, and we decided to organize a reunion. And so I've been spending much more time on Facebook than I ever dreamed and secretly enjoying it! (This may not seem relevant to careers but be patient, dear reader...)

As I tracked people down and got back in touch, I found that many people I was either peripherally or really friends with, and even those I didn't like, were doing very interesting things in their 40's. Not only interesting things, but things that seem like they fit the people they were beginning to be, even way back in the 70's.

As a career consultant, I'm always interested in what people gravitated to as children, because those proclivities tend to stay pretty much the same. We just don't tend to change all that much.

To give you a bit of an idea of what I found through my informal study, here is a short list:

-The fiery and intensely competitive athlete with one of the boldest personalities I've ever encountered, first re-named herself and opened a restaurant in the theater district and years later founded a successful yoga studio with branches around the country. She is now a poster child for the yoga and wellness movement and lives on the West Coast.

-The cerebral and intense daughter of a psychiatrist who was always fascinated with analyzing people is now a PhD research scientist studying the workings of the brain on behalf of a major NYC hospital group.

-The athletic, outdoorsy and no-nonsense basketball player who attended an East Coast state school and majored in biology, and is now a toxicologist living on a houseboat with her family in Northern California.

-The intellectual and incredibly articulate friend who was always an iconoclast, is a history professor in the Midwest focused on the issues of race, culture, immigration and citizenship.

So you see where I'm going with this. You too can do your own ethnographic study among people you've known for many years. It is definitely revealing. I suggest that doing a looking back exercise on yourself may be time well-spent. If you don't recognize what you are doing today as an expression of who you once were, you may in fact be on the wrong track.

Fast Company