Hi Rene.

I’m a single mother of two who lost her job over a year ago. I can’t explain the emotions I experienced! During my time of unemployment, I thought about what my passions were and where I saw myself five years from now, but my problem is, I’m not sure how to get there. I recently accepted a contract position that probably will last three  months and prayerfully, something permanent will come along. But my question is, should I settle? I’m 34-years-old and I feel as though my career, life, etc should be much further along than it is. In the meantime, everybody around me keeps telling to accept ANY job that comes along! But what if I don’t want the job or don’t see myself there long term? Should I settle or seek out opportunities where I’m going to grow, learn and utilize my skills in leadership? I feel like I don’t know which way to go, which direction to take and I have 2 children that I’m trying to build a future for.

Help please!

Signed:
Not sure which way is up

Dear NSWWIP:

Okay, first things first; take a deep, cleansing breath because I want you to be able to concentrate on what I am about to tell you. Please, if you hear nothing else, know this; life is long, the road is winding and it’s not about racing to the destination as much as enjoying the ride. That bit of advice is to specifically counter those who are telling you that you should be further along in your career.  Secondly, I actually think some of the angst you’re feeling might be a result of the job loss, which is completely understandable. But that panic is not helping you right now. So here’s what I would do if I were you.

*LOOK AT THE REALITIES OF THE JOB MARKET: You ask whether you should settle, which I take to mean, on a job that you don’t love. If you haven’t been following the news about what’s going on in the job market in general and your industry specifically, I think you need to start there. As someone who’s been working for herself for the last several years, I can tell you it’s rough out here. I have a number of friends who aren’t trying to do what I am (reinventing), rather they’re looking for work in established fields and THEY can’t find jobs, even with goo gobs of experience. So if you’re asking me if you should take this job, I would say yes. It doesn’t mean that’s the place you’re going to be forever, but you can learn, (even if that learning is about what you don’t want to do) and get a paycheck in the process.

*LOOK FOR OPPORTUNITIES: Not all jobs come from you pounding the pavement and papering the city with your resume. Many, MANY opportunities come from just making contacts. So if I were you, I would approach every single day as a chance to meet people who you might like to work with down the line. And even if they are not in a position to hire, they might be later or they might know someone who is. You just never know. Put in the work, both on the job and in the networking space and see where that leads you.

*LOOK FOR MENTORS AND PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS: Speaking of networking, I cannot underscore this enough; no more waiting for things to come to you, you have to go get them. That means that you should be clear on the kind of job you want to do or at least the field you want to be in.

*LOOK WITHIN YOURSELF: As you know, I’m fond of saying you can’t steer a still ship, but you need to have a general idea of the direction you want to go. That means it’s time for you to think about the kind of job you see yourself doing. Do you want to make a lot of money (nothing wrong with admitting that; got to name it to claim it). Are you will to forego some cash in exchange for something that offers flexible working hours, something that might be good for you as the single mother of two? Figure out what you want, write it down then, follow it like a road map. But like a road map, sometimes you need to make adjustments so be open to that. By the way, that includes the aforementioned mentors, professional organizations and internships (which can be done while you are working a paying job)

Two points in closing: You mention you want to use your leaderships skills and build a future for two kids. The two kids is why you should take a job with a paycheck attached to it. As for the leadership opportunities, well those don’t fall into people’s laps necessarily. Go in, show some people what you can do, express your desire and try and carve out a path for yourself, either in the temporary gig (that could turn permanent) or take that experience and use it somewhere else.

Honestly I think your problem is not that you should have accomplished so much by now but just the opposite; the option out there are plentiful and overwhelming. Remember that learning is lifelong, as is the opportunity to reinvent again, and again and again. Trust me; this I know.

Good luck to you.

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