Thursday, July 11, 2013

Stop Reading and Start Working

Magda asks  from the backseat of the VW wagon, “What are you going to do while we’re at camp today Momma?”

I immediately respond, “Look for a job, sugar plum!”
Image borrowed from TriplePundit

“Are you going to work at Subway?” she suggests.

Caught off guard, I stammer, “Ah…um…no. I wasn’t thinking of working in fast food.

“Well, you like to serve us food,” she replies assuredly.

I smile and nod in agreement. Yes, that is part of my J.O.B. as a momma.

But then I drop the conversation. How do I explain to my 8-year old that I’m struggling to piece together a seemingly divergent work history in order to identify my ‘perfect job’?...

Fast forward a few weeks. Since that conversation, I’ve read and re-read books, watched videos, and completed countless exercises on finding fulfilling and meaningful work. Note to self: finding work is hard work.

What did I learn from all that pontificating?

Ironically, I found I shouldn’t be doing any more reading or thinking about finding work.

As Herminia Ibarra in Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career states, “By far, the biggest mistake people make when trying to change careers is to delay taking the first step until they have settled on a destination.”

Great. All that work and I've been barking up the wrong tree? Yes, and no.

For Ibarra, a work identity is not a hidden treasure to be excavated but a dynamic construct of many possibilities, many selves. Humans are improvisational creatures, each with ever-evolving skills, interests, passions, and subjectivities. For example, upon earning the Ph.D., I chose to work as an assistant professor. But after having babies, I wanted more time and flexibility to be with my children so I off-ramped academia to work alongside my husband in our construction business. My 'improvisations' not only changed over time, but continue to be shaped and reshaped by my education, experiences, relations, and societal expectations too.

Thanks to Attract A Life for image
While Ibarra's thesis makes intuitive sense, at least for me, culturally we remain are entrenched in the "what do you want to be when you grow up mindset." A singular work identity is a powerful elixir in the human experience, particularly for Americans. We use employment to categorize, to understand our place in the world, and to assign value. And we start young. Say little Jenny likes to put band-aids on her dolls. Viola! 'She's going to BE a nurse!', her parents announce with pride. So for someone like myself who has had the luxury of clearly defined worker identities, the ambiguity of an undefined self contributed to my confusion about what I wanted to BE next. If I’m not a professor, who am I? If I am not a business owner, who am I?

Clearly I was having trouble ditching the notion that my worker self should have a singular design in this life.

Then I happened across Sheryl Sandberg’s twist on the issue in her bestseller, Lean In. (Let's be real. I can never stop reading!) She writes, “As a child, I never thought about what I wanted to be, but I thought a lot about what I wanted to do.” Her reflection spoke to me, particular as a Montessori momma who encourages active engagement in her children. How do we learn what we want to do? By doing! By getting our hands dirty in different activities, by acting, now.

So dear daughter, back to your suggestion. Yes, I could work at Subway. I could make sandwiches. I could manage employees. I could recruit and train staff across the organization. I could study customer practices, which could be used for innovative marketing. I could work with corporate leaders to expand nutritional education initiatives or create partnerships to help feed hungry children across the globe. Or, I could simply ask Subway, “What is your biggest problem, and how can I solve it?”*

Most importantly, I could must stop thinking about the destination and act, now. 

*Question to Sheryl Sandberg by Lori Goler, former senior director of marketing at eBay, upon wanting to join the Facebook team.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Kids Just Want to Dance!

That I had to confirm I was 18 years of age or older in order to watch the video was clue number one.  LMFAO's video of the song, "Sexy and I Know It," has explicit content and requires parental control.

Ok, I'm over 18. Heck, I'm the parent! So I double-clicked, then watched and listened.

"I got passion in my pants and I ain't afraid to show it," repeats the refrain. "I pimp to the beat." "Ah, girl look at that body." And so forth. Wow, I think to myself, these lyrics ARE explicit. Then the camera zooms and my vision fills with wiggling penises. Seriously?! The more I watched the more confused I became.

Why is my 7-year old daughter singing LMFAO music and practicing the wiggle dance AT SCHOOL?