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 dot.com (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.