“Please pull out a piece of paper,” so started my facilitation of a career event sponsored by the Emerging Leaders Program at the University of Massachusetts Boston.  I asked each participant to write down what their professional aspirations were – using a 5 year time frame.  We spent the next twenty minutes discussing what folks had jotted down.  What happened next amazed me.

“Please pull out another piece of paper and answer this question: If you had to work for the rest of your life but couldn’t get paid, what would you do?” Silence.   We then went around the room and discussed the answers to this second question.  Do you know that no one had the same answer to #1 versus #2!   In fact most of the #2s contained rich insight into the people who sat in the room – their genuine, honest, and exciting selves – none of which we had seen in the answer to #1.  Did I mention that all attendees were women?

I had been asked this question a decade earlier by Professor James Cash, one of my professors from The Harvard Business School.  Honestly I am still searching for an answer ten years later.    Here is the quandary – for the decade that evolved since I first learned of this great question – I’ve achieved an enormous amount!  Or have I really?

This blog is about my journey to answer THE QUESTION.  It’s about the transition process, with particular emphasis on women’s professional and personal transition.

My hypothesis is that women, more than men, face transition throughout their lives.  The typical roles we serve are broader and evolve more completely based on a number of factors: Are you a parent? What are the ages of your children?  Are your parents still living? What are their support requirements? What type of community are you involved in? What have you chosen for your vocation?  What types of requirements go along with that role?  And many many more questions.

If you choose to walk with me through this transition process I’ll share with you the major & minor victories along with way and likely the wonderful energy that it produces.  Maybe we’ll learn something together….

So, if you had to work for the rest of your life but couldn’t get paid, what would YOU do?

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8 responses to “The QUESTION

  1. Thank you, Linda, for starting this conversation about the journey we are all on. As I think about “THE QUESTION,” that I also struggle with, a million things go through my head. For me, I wonder if it is a matter of perspective, seeing life differently from one day to the next? One year to the next? Is it about worry that I will regret doing or not doing something in my life? I don’t have an answer for myself…yet.

  2. Linda,
    This is great and good for you for having the courage to share “The Question”. I too do not have The Answer as I think there are many; Do you get paid to be a wife, a mother, do you really work for money? What is work and how do you define “paid”?

  3. Linda, thank you for sharing your lessons learned. It’s true, it is about the journey, not the destination. I have found my current transition has been amazing. I feel that I am more true to who I am as a person and a professional, and it’s attracting the right people. Now I just need to find a way to turn it into revenue!! Thanks for the encouragement……keep the DREAM ALIVE!!

  4. Hi Linda – love the question! I answered both and for me the answers were similar. The ‘what’ is obvious to me. I am fortunate to have a vocation that is in alignment with my values and my purpose. However, what was different in the two responses was the ‘how’. What came up as most central to me, was the need to create or connect to an environment that best supports my contribution. Having flexibility, autonomy, and collaborative colleagues that respect and support one another is at the top of my list. I almost feel like if I can have that, then the ‘what’ takes care of itself. I’m curious about what other women think about the ‘what’ and the ‘how’.

  5. Linda,
    I love that you are sharing your journey with others!! I am originally from Boston and after graduating from Northeastern, started my career in sales with Wang (remember them:)?). After years of top producing sales and sales management experience with Wang and other tech companies, I hit a wall. I was very successful but felt empty emotionally and spiritually. This led to some health problems which forced me to STOP and look at what I was doing with my life and career. It was a scary time but one of the most rewarding of my life – it led me to a life that I love today. I am a Career & Life Transition Coach, working with people all across the country to help them define their life’s purpose and to then live a life that honors it. I see that you recently spoke at a WITI meeting in Boston. I lead a teleclass with WITI called “Exploring Your Life Mission” – It is a wonderful opportunity to create a Mission Statement for your life and career. I love this quote from George Eliot, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” Our lives are true gifts and meant to be lived with passion and joy. I am so excited to hear about your journey and look forward to following your progress!!

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