Sunday, December 28, 2008

Me? Just Like a Kennedy?

Although I'm an inside-the-beltway kind of person, tracking political news daily, I hadn't given much thought to Caroline Kennedy's run for Hilary Clinton's New York Senate seat. But today I read Anne Glusker's op/ed in the Washington Post, "She's a Kennedy, But She's a Lot Like Us," and it really made me think.

Anne describes her own resume (big career pre-kids, consulting/freelance since then) as being very similar to Caroline Kennedy's, and shockingly like the last chapter of my own. As a middle-aged woman, whose young children are no longer young, returns to the workforce, how is she received? What does all of her part-time or consulting work mean? Can she, or any of us, return to a full-time career when our resumes have a more winding path than Lombard Street in San Francisco?

As Glusker points out, many women don't "opt out" when they have children - they're pushed out by a workforce that is entirely incompatible with family life. When the family's all grown up, many women are faced with a stark reality: many contacts are no longer valid, their job skills are out of date, and much of their volunteer and freelance work is not valued in the marketplace.

Since the writing's on the wall for us, what can we do while out of the traditional step-by-step career force?
  • Keep Networking: make a MONTHLY commitment to yourself to have lunch/coffee/drinks with people from your past life; your old assistant, a vendor you loved, you name it, keep their contact information updated in your Blackberry and USE that contact
  • Join a Professional Organization: most industries have strong national trade organizations with local chapters that have regular networking events, educational seminars and opportunities to earn professional development credits. Although it seems like a stretch at the time, putting on a suit, shaking hands with a stranger in your field and keeping those skills fresh should be on top of your to-to list.
  • Volunteer Strategically: Every school needs volunteers, lots of them, but do not spend ALL of your waking hours at your own children's school. Find a cause you believe in, use a skill you can't hone at home, and dig in. Make friends and contacts outside of the ever-important (but very small) world of your children's school.

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