Updated: Feb 14, 2022
In November, I turned 51. Instead of having lunch with friends on my birthday, I had a job interview. It was the second in pursuit of a role I see as my dream job. After a decade on career hiatus, I begin the New Year employed, managing communications and events for a public school district foundation. I feel fortunate and appreciate the support I had in “returning.”
When my second child was born, I left a career in communications and PR to be a stay-at-home mom (A misnomer, right? When are we actually home?). Did I plan to be out of the workforce so long? Not really, but I’ve learned that few things accelerate life like raising kids. During this pause, I didn’t stop using my skills and experience. I just directed them toward volunteering with schools and community organizations. In those roles I learned a lot about what kind of work matters to me and why.
In my late 40s, I decided I was ready to go back to work. What I didn’t foresee was the long and, at times, trying journey this would be. It was a three year process and a genuine roller coaster. For someone who’s more of a Ferris wheel gal, this was uncomfortable but also illuminating. Were there days (or weeks) that I wanted to cry or abandon the whole idea for something that felt easier? Sure were! But other times I felt energized and on top of my game. I encourage those who may feel the same to embrace the highs and lows even though it’s not always fun. This is how we grow.
Going back to work has itself been a lot of work, and it’s fair to acknowledge the barriers women face. I credit my husband of 15 years with turning me on to an organization – now The Swing Shift – that became a catalyst for my return to the workforce. Above all, strategies and support of other women restored my self-confidence and belief that I was still credible as a professional person. This didn’t happen overnight, but I needed a kick-start as well as perspective of others in the same boat. I found both. Following the career accelerator, personal coaching and a small-group workshop helped me package my non-linear career path and gaping hole in employment history. I argue that neither are negatives – they’re strengths if you discover how to talk about them. I struggled with my resume, LinkedIn profile (always a work in progress) and, yes, my age, wondering how it might affect my job prospects. I also sought new volunteer opportunities that would connect me with a community of professional peers and…confirm the almighty power of networking.
Networking opened the door to my new role. A brief chat at a dinner led to an introduction that led, not just to a job, but to the right job. And here, again, is something that took time. I’m an introvert, for real. I didn’t just jump in and start collecting business cards. This piece was hard – but so essential. I learned to accept the need to network and got comfortable when I found approaches that are authentic to me.
A new year is always inspiring. We have aspirations and think about possibilities. If you’re on a journey back to work or a new career, this can be your year. Look for support where you need it, don’t doubt your value in the workplace, be true to you. The right role is out there to find or create. Have a happy and successful 2019!
Jennifer lives in the Greater Seattle Area with her husband, two young teens and assorted pets.
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