As research for my upcoming book, I’ve connected with so many interesting women nationwide. They’ve shared great wisdom about the impact of work and life decisions on their long-term financial security.
In their words there is evidence that it’s smart to always “find the work that fits your life”—even small part-time jobs—as a cushion against all of life’s you never knows. Few women sail along in a picture perfect existence…we all face and work through challenges at different ages and stages. As you’ll see in these brief stories, overcoming—and moving far beyond—a challenge is often eased by a woman’s independence, confidence and ability to support herself and her family.
Pass this great wisdom along to young women in your life to help them choose careers that can be flexible when they later want to balance work and family—and to women who have one foot on the off ramp, thinking they’ll leave the workforce for “a couple of years” (which turns into an average of 12 years) while their children are young.
Women in their 40s, 50s and 60s who wish they had made different work+life decisions at some point in their lives can also find inspiration in some of the stories. It’s indeed never too late to reinvent, pursue many different kinds of work (beyond the traditional, corporate more-than-full-time job), and make a big difference in long-term financial security.
HERE ARE 15 THOUGHT-PROVOKING SNIPPETS:
“When I left the full-time workforce I was an editor at a big New York City publishing house. My mother told me to make sure I could always support myself, so I’m glad I took on occasional freelance editing jobs while I was raising children. When my husband died suddenly at age 48, I was able to ramp up my freelancing—and eventually land a full-time editing job at a newspaper close to home…”
“I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to advise my daughters to always stay in the workforce. I didn’t—and I paid the price when my husband lost his job and never found another one. I had to scramble for a job—rather than building a skill set that became more valuable over time…”
“Although I practiced as an attorney for a few years, I’m glad I didn’t make myself stay in that box. When I decided law was not the profession for me, I dabbled in many areas—taking on part-time roles in TV, book publishing, real estate, retail sales, substitute teaching and more. When I was blindsided by divorce and alimony did not cover all my expenses, I could build on many different experiences to find work…”
“I’m glad that even during years my family lived abroad, I always found ways to keep my hand in the game. I’ve been a writer, researcher, PR specialist and photographer sometimes for 4 hours and other times for 40 hours a week. If I could have predicted my divorce, I would have returned to consistent full-time work much earlier—but the transition was easier because I never fully left the workforce…”
“I’m glad I was ‘selfish’ about investing time in one personal passion while my children were young. Having the proverbial ‘ten thousand hours’ in a specific field leads to surprising opportunities. My photography paved the transition from stay-at-home mother to part-time and then full-time work…”
“I wish I had continued working in some way throughout my marriage. In the early years, when my husband and I were both working, we had more of a partnership and we shared responsibility for our finances. When I stopped making money, I let my husband manage all the finances. Not only did this leave me clueless when we divorced, I also discovered that my husband mismanaged—and lost—most of our money and even stopped paying for life insurance…”
“I’m glad I was always willing to take a chance, to see where something might lead, to put experience before prestige, to make a little less money than I hoped—and to see that work is not only a traditional, black-and-white, full-time job. This flexibility has always given me the ability to earn a paycheck—in the years when it was a nice extra and in the years when it paid the rent…”
“I’m glad that when I was not offered a job I really wanted after a long workforce hiatus, I did not give up. I wrote to the CEO suggesting some specific areas where I could add value on a project basis. The CEO had a pressing need, so she hired me to work on a project basis for two months. It got me in the door and now I’ve been with the company four years…”
“I’m glad I put my ego aside with my first back to work job and took a salary that was a lot less than the one I left behind. It has been such a great chance to redefine myself professionally in a cutting-edge sector. I’m bringing home a paycheck and also finding great value in the fact that my flexible office allows me balance in my personal life…”
“During all the years I was volunteering I wish I had taken on jobs that would have required me to keep up to date with technology. Fourteen years out of the work force left me way behind on the technology curve. That’s been a huge area of catch-up for me as I’ve returned to work…”
“When I was feeling unfulfilled in the unstable financial services industry and worried about finding a job that would be steady source of income until retirement, I’m glad I gave myself the opportunity in my 50s to explore my early interests in medicine and take biology and statistics courses at night. Now I’m in the more stable nursing field with more financial security and the chance to make a difference in people’s lives…”
“I’m glad that in my 30s I went back to school to pursue an Occupational Therapy degree. A wise friend told me “do it now” because time slips away. Now I’m done and can’t tell you how good it feels knowing I completed this as a mother of two. If you want to, you can make it work…”
“I’m glad I stayed in the workforce while growing a family. I took it back a notch for those first few years and worked part time, but my ability to earn and be independent is stronger for having stuck it out…”
“I’m glad I went to school part time and worked part time when the kids were young so I could obtain my MBA by the time I was 40. It has opened the doors to job opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise…”
“I’m glad I took a “leap of faith” and quit my job in retail to pursue a career in my field. I had been a stay-at-home mom with no recent marketable skills and an unused degree. I took free computer classes at the library to get myself up to speed and applied to any and all environmental companies. I landed a wonderful job and have been here for 8.5 years…”
You’ll read many more stories filled with work and life inspiration in my book, Ambition Redefined: Why the Corner Office is Not for Every Woman & What to Do Instead (Nicholas Brealey, Hachette Business Group, October 2018).
Photo credit: franky242/www.freedigitalphotos.net