Passion, Work and Motherhood
Welcome to the "On Balance" guest blog. Every Tuesday, "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Writers need to use their full names. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life.
By Catherine Clifford
When I was in high school, I only knew one type of passion (hint: it had nothing to do with work).
So, when my son, a junior in high school, came home from Career Day fired up about finding his passion, I was all ears. He was in charge of the day, which they called FYI (Find Your Inspiration). He and his peers invited "cool adults" (aka not Mom or Dad) to discuss how they chose their respective career paths. As the recent co-founder of YourOnRamp.com, a site for women in career transition, I found the entire process enlightening, especially since it took more than 20 years for me to figure out my own passion.
When I was only a few years older than my son, I graduated from Indiana University with a business degree in accounting, and got my CPA soon after. I spent 16 years in financial services with Peat Marwick, Chrysler Capital and GATX. My last position was as Managing Director at GATX, where I worked part-time for eight years. In 2001, I left work to spend more time with my four children.
After four years at home, I began to search for a new career, and was frustrated by the limited options and resources available. At the same time, I was amazed by the number of professional women I met who had taken time off to spend with their children, but were at a loss as to how to re-enter the workforce on a family-friendly basis. My intrigue with start-ups, and passion for helping fellow OnRampers, led to the creation of YourOnRamp.
So, naturally, I watched my teen-aged son with curiosity. First: the choice of speakers. Most of the parents at his small school are investment bankers, lawyers and consultants. The committee was quite clear that they did not want to hear about "boring" jobs where (in my son's words, not mine), the only goal was making money. So, they chose the media director for the San Francisco Giants, a local comedian, a group of hip hop dancers, a Latin teacher, and a favorite English teacher who also happens to play in an alternative rock band.
The favorite speakers were the teachers. Their message was crystal clear: Life is too short to spend working in a job you don't enjoy. The Latin teacher had several careers before he found teaching -- the Army, studying classics in graduate school, then onto Africa to teach. When the program's money ran out he returned to the States to teach. When the English teacher was asked why he didn't want to be a full-time musician, he said his music fed his teaching and his teaching fed his music. He enjoys coming to work every day and is passionate about teaching kids. That message resonated with the students.
So, as my son routinely stays up past midnight completing his homework and assembles too many college applications, I hope his hard work will pay off and give him many career choices. When Mom and Dad no longer foot the bill, and earning a living enters his equation, I hope he doesn't lose sight of his passion. He assures me that he and his generation are much more focused on passion and giving back than we were. Time will tell.
Are you passionate about your career? What messages about work do your choices send to the next generation?
Catherine Clifford is the co-founder of YourOnRamp.com, an online community where professional women manage their career OffRamps and OnRamps, and connect with employers. YourOnRamp provides women them with a targeted job board, social network, and career resources, including online career coaches. Clifford lives in Tiburon, Calif., with her family.
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