According to a recent article written by an economist in the Bureau of Labor Statistics, today’s workforce is increasingly comprised of individuals who are older and more ethnically and racially diverse. There are also more women in the workforce than ever before, and by the year 2020, roughly 77 million women in the U.S. are expected to be actively working.
Yet, while the Pew Research Organization reports that having a family and children, and being a good parent still trumps career, women are not leaving their careers to marry or have children. Rather, most choose to balance career and family. However, what happens to that career as women start to age, children start to grow up or leave the home, marriages and partnerships break up and work that once fueled souls and passions no longer appears to do so? What drives the urge to change careers during midlife? What exactly is ‘reinvention?’
When I posed this question a few months back, one of the first women I heard from was Hessie Jones. Hessie defines reinvention as “rethinking about your life, where you were, where you are and where you’re gonna go, i.e. having the courage to follow the path you were meant to lead regardless of your present state.”
A former VP of Marketing at Jugnoo and now in the process of yet another change, Hessie says that the first time she reinvented herself, she was only 39. That was 6 years ago, and since that time, she has used her drive and instincts to transform how companies view social media from simply another marketing or PR channel to an essential medium that can fuel organizational transformation and evolution. The key to successful reinvention, she notes, is being in the right frame of mind and possessing the vision to recognize when the timing is ripe for change. Yet, for Hessie, reinvention did not come without a price. “The hours away from home, my passion to meeting people with the same mindset, the need to network and experiment with different technologies/companies caused many disagreements at home. It also left my kids without an ‘attentive’ parent for a time. I received a lot of criticism from both sides of my family, especially when it was apparent that I was not fulfilling my responsibilities as a parent and spouse.” Still, her husband never asked her to step back, believing that her attempts at change are important to her personal progress.
All this disruption appears to have also yielded a deeper sense of self awarenesss. Hessie says that it’s most important to follow one’s heart but not at the expense of the rest of one’s life. “Don’t fight it. Let it guide you to making the right decision for yourself. But do not forsake your family in the meantime.” She shares a pearl of knowledge that was once shared with her; while passion may fuel change, it is important not to let the job take over; having no one to share one’s successes with is a lonely avenue.
Hessie’s courage to forge a new path several times over has yielded a few pearls of its own, including the fact that courage should be wrapped in a whole lot of happy. She says that it’s important to figure out what ‘happiness’ is and conduct a sanity check to see if your present situation is making you happy, adding that when her daughter asked what she should be when she grew up, she told her the following:
Do what you love to do not because of money, but because it makes you smile. Do not stay in a job because it’s safe. Move towards a job that challenges you. And never stop learning.
Is happy the mother of reinvention? Hessie Jones appears to be following her bliss.
What about you?