Privilege Blog

Fierce At 50, Or, Having A Good Job Helps

I’ve spent a fair amount of time recently with young people about to take their first steps in the world. Otherwise known as 1100 new Princeton graduates sitting in chairs on a lawn in the sun. To say nothing of my daughter on the other side of the country getting ready to go to her new job. I’ve also recently had a reader do me the honor of asking if I had any advice on careers, as in, how to have one.

All of which has gotten me to thinking.

I do not believe there is any way around the reality that in order to be fierce at 50 you have to find a career that works. But once you figure out what clothes to wear, (nudge nudge wink wink), what else has to happen in order to have the kind of job which generates fierceness vs. draining it right out of your body? (As an aside I will point out right away that full-time homemaking is a career. Just not one that I know much about.)

Me, I’ve been alive for a while and I have had a lot of jobs. The ones that made me happy included; assistant to at a summer art class for 10-year olds (time spent making pretty things and when not making pretty things spent outside in the California summer), senior product manager at Sun Microsystems (working cooperatively and creatively with teams of terrifyingly smart people who thought I was wonderful), and VP of Product at a (leading teams of terrifyingly smart people who thought I was wonderful). The jobs that drained every ounce of my soul included; selling $1M/month contracts for industrial gases, (sitting in a car listening to Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty trying to make myself cold call on yet another man who touched valves and pipes for a living), group marketing manager for a wunderkind (took me through Europe in a private jet and made me leave my children behind for two weeks), and VP of Product Management for a software company (had to lay off 25 people including one man who was at his wife’s bedside in the hospital and had a very smart subordinate who was good enough at trying to take my job that he made me miserable but not good enough to ever actually get me released from that employment).

So how then could I have known in advance which were the soul-suckers? Most of them were in high tech, right? How to know which jobs would make me get up early and walk happily to the train station? Which jobs would bring me home at night stunned, unable to speak, looking forward only to too many glasses of wine?

Well there’s the question. I’m getting to it. But this is somewhat tougher than what shoes. As you might imagine.

14 Responses

  1. Wow! You have had many interesting jobs! I think what satisfys us in a job can change as we change. I think as we grow older and more secure within ourselves, we discover those things that we really enjoy and are good at. I think we grow into ourselves as we mature. Some of my most favorite jobs have been those have been a joy to go to yet have sucked me dry over time. Maybe because I worked too much? And gave too much? Maybe because I changed and no longer found it fullfilling? Not really sure…maybe a little of both.

  2. Hmm, this is timely for me. I'm looking forward to what else you have to say on this topic.

  3. Okay, now I'm intrigued.
    I feel like this second half of my life I'm having several careers, all in the effort to achieve some success at the only one that matters. Love to hear what conclusions life has led you to draw.

  4. Great post! I am fascinated, as always. I can't wait to hear how you balanced work with raising your children…and not just the esoteric things, but the concrete things of daily life like, did you ever have a job that allowed you to pick up your kids from school?

    (p.s. you asked about my shoes on my post…i was worn out from chasing my children and working. the heels just pushed me totally over the edge).

  5. Different priorities, different wants and needs at different stages of our lives.

    A corporate career that was totally fulfilling (in all aspects) and exciting for me back then, I can now walk away from (and did). But then I can calmly make that assertion because I've done what I'd set out to achieve and have had my fun. Now, I'm on to a different set of challenges…

  6. Looking forward to the next part of this post – finding the soulful after leaving the souless.

  7. As a very lost 20-something this post couldn't have been more fascinating to me. I've enjoyed reading your blog for a bit now… But, this post was so timely and inspiring I had to come out of my anonymity and say thank you.
    One thing I noticed about all the fulfilling jobs you mentioned was that they all dealt with great people in some way or another. The soul sucking jobs, on the other hand, seemed to be focused on anything but. Not knowing the specifics and being young and inexperienced I may be in left field with this observation!
    I am really looking forward to reading more about this topic! Thanks again for sharing!

  8. this is so fascinating to me. i've never met someone (in real life or the internet) who would actually know what my husband does for a living. but you absolutely would, down to the title.

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