It hit me yesterday as I was fielding a call from a former colleague who happens to be in transition. She was reeling from what sounded to me as a normal twist in a job pursuit cycle. Maybe you’ve seen this movie too. You finally find a target company or role that is perfect for you but the cavernous void created by online recruiting puts obstacles in your way. My friend’s plight was amplified by a heaping tablespoon of self-criticism. Even if it wasn’t Valentine’s Day one might suggest that there were two answers for her; networking and chocolate.
I picked up Tuesday’s 2/14/2012 New York Times and stumbled onto an article that got me thinking even more about my friend’s current state. The article entitled “Life’s Frailty, and the Gestures That Go a Long Way‘” by Tara Parker-Pope was a quasi-obituary for a well-known Wall Street Journal columnist and author, Jeffrey Zaslow, who died suddenly last week in an auto accident. Until Tuesday I hadn’t heard of him. The article’s message was simple; be authentic, love, and never leave important words unsaid.
Love. The two above events got me thinking about how easy it is for women to love others but not ourselves. Our capacity to love seems boundary-less. But our suspension of love when it comes to ourselves can create rigid boundaries. Ever experienced this?
I remember reading Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s Off-Ramps and On-Ramps: Keeping Talented Women on the Road to Success this past summer. She made an impassioned case for female networks as a necessity for women who are navigating life’s decisions. It reminded me of a funny comment that Gloria Steinem used when I saw her speak not too long ago. She said, “we called them consciousness raising groups in the 1970’s, you call them book groups.” Her point was simple; regardless of the name women’s peer groups play a critical role in our success as people, let alone job seekers.
Our summer authors seemed to know that female networks help us imagine, a critical source of energy throughout the arc of our lives. Steinem has an interesting quote on her official website. “Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of the possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”
I remember debriefing with my husband a long time ago on my performance at a critical meeting. Ever the type-A male he wanted to know how I’d done. He was looking for a number. I think I used 8.5 out of ten. He was instantly on this…. viewing it as a tragedy. I however in assessing my performance viewed 8.5 as stellar. No one ever gets 10. We weren’t too far into the conversation when I realized that had he been me at the same meeting he would have graded himself a 9.9 on the same performance. So he viewed my 8.5 as a failure whereas I saw it as a victory. Our self judgment runs deep.
This Valentine’s Day week I don’t wish for you romance or flowers or chocolates. I wish for you a friend or two who can listen and remind you to dream dreams. To reach for all that you wonder about. Be authentic. Love. And go easy on yourself – even in the middle of a down-cycle in a job pursuit.
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