More Than A Paycheck
Johnson & Johnson -- a company where I spent my late 20s and early 30s -- is often called a "Family of Companies." Surprising to me is how often this sprawling conglomerate does feel like a family. Fifteen years ago, when I was going through the dissolution of my first marriage, my job felt like a safe haven, a place of consistency amidst chaos. Once I'd rebuilt my life, Johnson & Johnson sent me to Australia, Brazil, Dubai, Argentina and Mexico, places where I met people and had adventures I'd never have had without work. When I became a mom, J&J showed me how work and motherhood can enrich each other, and when I had to move to Minneapolis for my husband's job, J&J let me work long-distance, part-time, from halfway across the country. The company supported me in myriad life situations.
I recently was in New Jersey near the company headquarters for some Mommy Wars book signings. Later I went out to dinner with two women I'd worked side-by-side with for nearly 10 years. Between us, we now have six kids, two husbands and two ex-husbands. Both women have reached the top of their careers at J&J.
We laughed, caught up, and good-naturedly harassed the waiter as only three type A women can do. I found myself asking these friends for advice about career and family problems I hadn't yet shared with my real family members (nothing I'm willing to divulge here, either). We unraveled complicated family problems, tough bosses, what to do next in our careers. After we hugged good-bye and I drove away alone down the New Jersey Turnpike, I thought about all that being a working woman and working mother means to me. I imagine volunteer work at my kids' school or in my church or community would mean the same to me if I didn't have a job. We all need work, paid or unpaid.
Work has given me far more than I ever imagined when I got my first paycheck. Many times, my job has been my lifeline to sanity and a better future. A few times, a particular boss or project has driven me nuts -- and toughing it out has thickened my skin. Through work I've found friends who've stood by me for 15 years, who dole out good and caring career and personal advice, without expectation of a promotion or hard work or increased profitablity in return.
Have you had similar results from your jobs or volunteer work? Which companies -- or experiences -- would you recommend to someone starting out today?
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