I once had a boss who sent a taxi to her daughter’s elementary school to pick her up when the nurse called saying she was sick. The little girl was ten, just a year younger than my youngest son is now. I was fresh out of college at the time and recall thinking to myself that I never wanted to be a mom, or an employee, like that. I didn’t want to be stuck making a tough choice to put family or career first. I couldn’t imagine what sort of job would put me in the middle of a career Sophie’s Choice. I vowed then to manage my own career based on my personal values and priorities. It was a “whole person” approach I took, even though I was in my early twenties, fresh to the workforce and impressionable. And yes, I was brimming with naïveté, yet it’s a philosophy I carry with me still.
Now that I have the pleasure of teaching college kids myself, I impart this personal wisdom on them. Live life guided by your own values. Work-Life balance is a myth that mimics the Life of Sisyphus. You never get that rock to stay at the top of the mountain. This nebulous balance pits work and family against each other, when in reality, both are fulfilling, and vital. My years in the workforce, and subsequently in graduate school, punctuated this for me. I haven’t sacrificed earning potential by following my values, and I haven’t sacrificed personal fulfillment. We spend most of our days at the office, so work should be meaningful, fulfilling, and by golly, fun. When I was in Corporate America I had a bumper sticker from Ben & Jerry’s on my office door. It said, “If it’s not fun, why do it?” My boss ripped it off my door and told me that sentiment was “off brand.” Incidentally, this was the same job where the boss sent a cab to pick up her sick child. Clearly that position wasn’t a good fit for me.
I do not regret my days in a Fortune 100 company. The lessons were valuable, and I left well prepared for graduate school’s challenges. My liberal arts degree in History and English taught me to think critically, solve problems creatively, and write with aplomb. Finance and statistics were tough classes, but I surprised myself by acing them both (not without a struggle, mind you). I was admittedly intimidated by the financial whizzes in my midst, but I quickly gained confidence and excelled in all the courses that interested me, and dare I say I even performed better than many of those mathy professionals among my peers. Beyond prerequisite courses, I focused on what sparked my curiosity.
This leads to the other lesson I impart to my students. Do what you’re passionate about. The old adage is true; if you do what you love it won’t seem like work. I’ve been lucky to strike a career that marries my work in advocacy and communications. I get to make a difference and earn a good living. I get paid to do something I love, proof that work must not be a trial or a sacrifice. I hope my professional experience can serve as a glimmer of hope for young women entering business school and the work force.
Know what I wish were around 25 years ago when I was kicking off my career? The Forte Foundation. The Forte Foundation is a nonprofit organization encouraging women to pursue leadership careers in business. This network of 75,000 members and 120 top schools and employers work together to launch women into fulfilling business careers. Had I been armed with this sort of support all those years ago, I would have ruled that corporate job…like a boss.
Check out the Be a Boss Campaign, an initiative aimed at introducing female college students to rewarding careers in business. An MBA can help them stand out when competing for jobs, increase their earning potential, and help them make an impact in their community. I can personally attest to this. For those liberal arts thinkers and writers like me, I encourage you to consider a career in business. That advanced degree will tee up young women for success in the public and private sectors, and most importantly, will expand the choices you have to determine the direction you want your career to go.
Want to be the Boss? Visit http://fortedrivingforces.org/ to download 10 #Boss career tips and enter to win the #BossKit sweepstakes filled with items to help you succeed. Listen, I would do this if I could, but I just celebrated my 25th college reunion.
Connect to the Forte Foundation and share with young women you know who are eager to make a difference, personally and professionally.
Disclosure: This post is made possible by support from the Forte Foundation. All opinions are my own.Tweet