In my career coaching practice I’ve found that women often need help getting out a small box. That’s the box they feel they’re stuck in—the one that relates to their college degree, work they pursued long ago (before they left to raise a family) or work they’ve consistently pursued for a decade or two. In all cases, you have the freedom to continually reinvent yourself as long as you think of new ways to use the skills you’ve developed and connect all the dots to show potential employers the logical links among a diverse set of jobs.
If you received a law degree, you don’t always have to be a lawyer. One of my longtime clients took this view and let herself wander through many different career paths. Along the way she continually used the skills she honed as an attorney. She used writing skills as she co-authored a book with a health professional. Her negotiating skills came into play as she closed on real estate deals. Presentation skills were the foundation of her ability to run seminars, plan events and figure out the production needs for a show on TV.
In an interview for my book, Ambition Redefined: Why the Corner Office Doesn’t Work for Every Woman & What to Do Instead, a professional woman told me “What I’m Glad I Did” in terms of work and life choices she made:
“Although I began my career as an attorney, I’m glad I didn’t make myself stay in that box. I dabbled in many areas—taking on part-time roles in TV, publishing, real estate, retail sales, substitute teaching, and more. When I was blindsided by divorce, and alimony didn’t cover all my expenses, I could build on many different experiences to find flexwork and support my family. Ironically, I’ve now come full circle after many reinventions to practice law again. Had I told myself I could only be an attorney, I never would have had so many interesting experiences, which will now give me different perspectives and insights for my entrepreneurial practice.”
Wondering what your next step should be toward a flexible job?
Leap out of your comfort zone. An array of skills are used at every company in every industry. Lots of employers value the fresh perspectives from professionals who haven’t toiled in their trade day in and day out. The trick is to get out of your own head and do what I call “networking research”. Allow yourself a period of networking not to find specific jobs…but to do the research that will show you many jobs that need your skill set. Contact professionals in your inner circle and then make your outer circle wider and wider through LinkedIn. Have three or four very specific questions that you ask via email or in 15-minute conversations by phone.
Once you gather all the data, you’ll start to see patterns of information and strong signals that you’re headed in new and interesting directions. Most likely you’ll break free from a once confining box.
Lots of wisdom from the “Everyday Sisterhood” can be found in my book, “Ambition Redefined”, where 97 women share their experiences about both positive and negative work and life decisions that helped them find the flexible work that fits their lives for long-term financial security.