One summer my friend complained to me constantly about how she had to supervise a summer intern. To her, it was a babysitting job that required time and attention away from her real job. She was frustrated that supervising a summer intern had caused her to put in extra hours and lose focus.
On the face of it, supervising a summer intern doesn’t sound like the role most people view as desirable or interesting. For the intern, it is hugely important. People with internship experiences report having higher rates of employment and higher starting salaries, according to CNBC.
With some perspective though, managing a summer intern can be a huge career booster and an opportunity to make yourself more relevant.
Whether you are assigned or volunteer, working with an summer intern has benefits.
You gain insight. Millennials think differently, use technology differently and communicate differently. By interacting with a young millennial in a work setting, and answering his questions or concerns, you may begin to see your job from another perspective and bring fresh thinking to how a task has always been done. Before your intern sets foot in the door, set goals so you both can use your time well.
You gain management experience. It may feel like babysitting, but managing a summer intern is résumé material. It shows you can supervise others and provide direction. When an intern performs well, it reflects on your ability to be a leader. When you review assignments, encourage your intern to give feedback and ask questions, which will help you develop your skills as a manager.
You pick up tech tricks. Technology is second nature to millennials who grew up with smartphones and gaming systems. Give them a tech device and most know how to use it instantly, and often better than you. By watching how they use their phones, work on their laptops and interact with company software, you are almost guaranteed to learn how to use the tools you own or work with in new ways.
You have another set of hands. Are there projects you want to get to but don’t have time? Tasks to be done that will make your job easier in the long term? Emails to send to drum up new business? Interns are your eager helpers. The key is to show a summer intern how he or she contributes to the organization through a task, which is big motivation for a millennial. As Betsy Aimee of The Muse notes, “Beyond the benefit of having some help for your job, finding substantive tasks for your intern to take on provides you a great opportunity to learn how to delegate.”
You become more relatable. Having a career for the unforeseeable future means working with people who are younger. Supervising a summer intern is an opportunity to do that in a non-threatening way. Consider taking your intern to lunch or coffee to discover his interests and pave the way for you to become someone he feels comfortable around. In the ideal arrangement, you become someone your intern can learn from, but you also become a great boss.
When you spend time around a young person with fresh ideas, big goals, and a can-do attitude, it rubs off. At the end of the summer, the experience should be a net positive for your intern — and for you, too.
The day you become a parent your life changes. Everyone warns you this will happen and it’s true. This experience is emotional in a way that feels odd and exciting at the same time.
Eighteen years later, a parent feels as emotional on high school graduation day as we do the day our first child came into our life — maybe even more emotional. Regardless of how much we know it is coming, high school graduation day catches us off guard.
And then, before you know it, more years zip by and then comes college graduation. This weekend I will attend my daughter’s college graduation. I face it with a strange, difficult-to-explain feeling.
I wonder if other parents feel as I do. I think part of seeing a child graduate high school or college is bewilderment, the feeling that so many years went by in your parenting life and you can’t account for every day of those years.
Part of it is fear, the feeling that you are getting older and entering a new phase in your life, too.
Part of it is excitement, the feeling that there is so much opportunity ahead for your child.
Part of it is pride, the feeling that you have shaped another human being and guided him or her to this day of accomplishment, a day when your young adult heads to college, or in my daughter’s case, steps out into the real world.
As life events go, a graduation, is pivotal. It marks a change in the parent/child relationship. From this day on, you treat your teen or young adult differently. You give him or her a little more independence and engage in conversations on a different level. You can offer advice but the choices are his or hers to make.
A quote on Parents.com from Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, author of No Regret Parenting, sums the emotions up well: The days were long, the years were short, and the time I had with them was then. But I made the time and I took the time.
As a parent, there are so many adjustments as your children mature into adults and leave home. It’s not easy, but you come to accept that you may not know where or how they are doing much of the time. They are out there living their own lives, and as a parent you can only life your own life, too, and hope for the best.
As I head into the auditorium this weekend, I will look around the room and see the faces of students with big dreams for how they will contribute to the world, land their perfect job or make an big impact on their chosen profession.
Somehow, I feel as if watching my daughter graduate will be happening in slow motion. But as strange as that is, it also is freeing. The responsibility for making sure she makes her way in the world is now hers.
This weekend when my daughter graduates from college, in many ways, so do I. Realistically, I know I will always be a concerned parent, but now I am a sounding board rather than a hands-on chaperone, permission slip signer, and school supply shopper.
I feel confident there is an interesting path ahead for both of us. When she walks across the stage in her cap and gown, we both are one step closer to taking it.
I am watching the Today Show when Savannah Guthrie describes motherhood as “messy.”
I immediately nod my head in agreement. Yes, Savannah that’s the word I would use, too.
Motherhood in 2018 is messy.
When you are the mother of young children, the mess is literal. Fingerprints on sliding glass doors, spilled juice in restaurants, filthy soccer cleats staining your carpets.
By the time your children are in high school, the mess is more about mounds of dirty laundry on their bedroom floor, and text messages coming in at all hours and fights over curfew and parties.
You start to wonder, how did my child get older and the mess get bigger?
But then, the college years arrive, and the mess continues to grow.
When you are the mother of college students and young adults, the mess is about arguments with roommates, dropping classes, choosing majors, signing or breaking leases and making life choices.
As mothers, your role changes over time, but your job is still messy. Let’s admit it, for mothers there are times when we come feel overwhelmed by the mess and demands of being on 24/7 problem-solving duty. Sometimes, worry overtakes you, and you find yourself awake in the middle of the night expending emotional energy on concerns that seem both deranged and justified.
In 2018, when social media offers a platform, many mothers have taken to these outlets to broadcast the highs and lows of motherhood and some, including celebrity mothers, have been brave enough to let the world see their messes.
But then, motherhood in 2018 also is amazing.
There is a bond with your children whether they are right next to you or staring at you from a computer or phone screen. You are close with them in a way that is different from the relationships you had with your parents. Today, kids teach you patience, amaze you with their independence, humble you with their compassion, and come to you as a sounding board. They give you hugs and sometimes even compliments. On most days, you feel grateful for being given the amazing gift of a child.
So, Savannah, you summed it up well when you said motherhood is messy. But most mothers are okay with the mess. Actually, we love it.
It’s close to midnight and I’m still awake. Not only that, but I’ve broken all my own rules about logging on to the Internet late at night. The house is quiet, everyone but me is asleep and I’m feeling extremely productive. Maybe that coffee I drank after dinner wasn’t decaf like I thought.
I have just composed a response to an email I had meant to get to all day. But now, I’m faced with a dilemma. Do I send it?
On one hand, if I do, I can go to sleep knowing the task is off my plate. On the other hand, it may look odd to the receiver that I’m working at midnight. It may even look like I have no work life balance.
Ugh….what to do? What are the rules of late night email, anyway?
The new rules of email?
The rules, or rather the etiquette of email, have changed. So have our work life habits. Most of us get back on our computers after dinner or after our kids are in bed — at least a few nights a week. Most of us check our email late into the evening hours and send email well after the traditional work hours.
According to a CareerBuilder survey, one in two workers in the information technology, financial services, sales, and professional and business services sectors — industries that historically keep traditional 9 to 5 work hours — check or respond to work emails outside of work. Let’s add journalists and publicists to that list. Heck, let’s add teachers, lawyers, doctors, business executives and most other professionals.
Working mothers survive by sending late night email
I have noticed working mothers tend to send emails in the evening hours. They recognize that “doing it all” often means logging on when the kids go to bed and sending an email at 10 or 11 p.m. or even midnight to get the task off their plate. Saving an email as a draft to send the next day has its drawbacks. For those of us prone to distraction, even if we plan to send an email the next day, we may forget or get sidetracked.
Sending late-night emails may be necessary at times, but do be aware that recipient’s devices may make noises when an email comes in, potentially disturbing them.
Note that emails received at odd times—weekends, early a.m. hours, etc.—may send the proverbial wrong message to the recipient. Why was he or she working at 3 a.m., let alone thinking I’d be on the job then? Be cognizant of differences between time zones and territories.
Some people are opposed to late night emails
There are people who don’t believe in logging on regularly at night. My husband prefers to stay in the office – or go in early – to get work done rather than bring it home. Unless it’s an emergency, he believes sending late night emails creates an impression you’re disorganized.
Some people want clear boundaries between work and home and they don’t appreciate others who break those boundaries by sending after hours email. A banking executive told me she often composes late night emails but won’t hit send if it is after 10 p.m.
In a column by Sue Shellenbarger at the WSJ, she pointed out that your boundary style and tolerance for late night email may depend on the kind of job you hold or your life stage. She noted that some people celebrate the option to log on at night as freedom, a sign of success in balancing home and work. For others, it feels like the opposite of freedom—a burdensome intrusion on their home life.
With that in mind, you need to consider who you are sending the email to late at night, and how they might perceive it.
The New “Always On” Attitude with Email
To be clear, I don’t think anyone should expect a response to an email sent after 7 p.m. But others will disagree. Some clients, co-workers and bosses expect a quick response, regardless of the time the email is sent. Unfortunately, this “always on” attitude is the direction business is going.
For bosses, sending late night email definitely sets the precedent that your employees are meant to stay in constant communication with you. It is worth asking yourself whether the email’s content is so urgent that it cannot wait to be sent in the morning.
What are your thoughts on late night email? Do you think there’s a hard stop time to hold off on hitting send? Are you annoyed when someone sends you a late night email?
Last week I registered for a LinkedIn workshop at a local college because I wanted to learn more about how to build my online network. On the day of the workshop, I felt overwhelmed by work deadlines and my son’s activities and the thought of driving across town wasn’t all that appealing.
When busy balancing work and life, networking can feel like another chore. I decided to push myself to go to the workshop and I’m glad I did. I met the instructor, Debbie Wemyss, who explained how she builds her business network by investing only about 15 minutes each day.
Wemyss told us that regardless of what we do for a living, we should be building a professional network — and it’s easier than most of us think.
According to the Harvard Business Review, research shows that a professional network leads to more job and business opportunities, broader and deeper knowledge, improved capacity to innovate, faster advancement, and greater status and authority.
For those of you with a jam-packed calendar, or lots of obligations and little free time, I have discovered it is possible to network efficiently and possibly even without leaving your office.
Here’s how to go about it:
Extend invitations online
Debbie Wemyss, a LinkedIn specialist, says she takes 15 minutes a day to invite five people to connect with her on LinkedIn. She writes each of those people a personal note about why she wants to connect. Debbie has a LinkedIn network of close to 1,000 connections. She told us she gets business regularly from people in her network. If you haven’t touched your LinkedIn profile in a while, update it and seek out people you want to connect with. To make yourself memorable, Debbie advises thanking people who connect with you.
Join online groups to network
Both Facebook and Linkedin have online groups for just about every profession. I am in writers groups on both sites. People in the groups who are in the same field you are in can be great contacts, referral sources and information providers. Group members often are willing to share information on pricing and offer strategy. You can also join groups with people you want to get exposure to such as HR directors. Once you are in the group, participate in discussions, offer your perspective and start conversations. This guide to using LinkedIn Groups may help.
Touch base with your contact list
This week I worked on a writing project that required I reach out to hundreds of business people in Florida. I realized how many of them I knew personally from building a network over many years. When I sent an email with a personal note, it was amazing how many of my contacts wrote back, eager to catch up. If you haven’t touched base with a contact in a while, reach out with a note about what made you think of them. It’s amazing how this type of networking can pay off.
Adam Penenberg, author of Play at Work: How Games Inspire Breakthrough Thinking (Portfolio, 2013) noticed several years ago that games are virtually everywhere. Companies are using online games for training but they also are using them to encourage employees to network with each other as well. If your company uses games or an internal social network to connect employees with each other, take advantage of the opportunity.
Today, video games and game apps are social activities that allow players to see each other, hear each other and talk to each other. In Forbes, Penenberg offers the example, WhaleFM, through its Whale Song Project, has rounded up legions of citizen oceanographers to listen to orcas and assist researchers in matching similar-sounding calls in the app. You can be sure those oceanographers participating are building their networks by getting to better know researchers and their peers in the profession.
Eat lunch with other people
If you truly don’t have any time outside of office hours and you normally eat at your desk, change that up. At least once a week, schedule lunch or coffee with colleagues and eat in the cafeteria, lunch room or outside the office. Ask your co-workers how they build and their networks and how you might be able to help each other. If you work from home, make an effort at least every other week to make lunch plans.
Go big with networking events
Rather than crowding your calendar with monthly meetings or stressing yourself out about getting to networking lunches, put a big industry event or annual conference on your calendar. At these large-scale events you have an opportunity to not only catch up on industry trends but also meet a lot of great people who can open the door to opportunities.
In our daily struggle for work life balance, it’s easy to push networking to the back burner. However, at some point in everyone’s career, they rely on someone in their professional network for client referrals, information, references or job leads.
I wanted to go back to school for a masters degree. I really did.
But the thought of taking online classes intimidated me. Could I learn the skills I wanted without even stepping foot in a classroom?
Now that I am half way through, I recognize the most valuable skill I have acquired is how to learn virtually.
Instead of raising my hand to ask the teacher a question in class, I send an electronic message through the learning platform.
When I need to talk to my classmates, I go into online discussion boards.
Digital learning is a very different way of learning from what I was used to when I was last on a college campus.
Get Ready to Learn Online, Too
In every profession, digital learning will be critical to train for a new position or advance in your job. For those who grew up reading textbooks and instruction manuals, the current learning tools are a big departure.
To keep ourselves relevant, we must learn the way our organizations and our professions offer training, which increasingly is becoming digital. It’s an easy way of learning for young workers but for the rest of us it’s a skill we need to add.
We already have made progress teaching ourselves all kinds of things! We have taught ourselves how to shop online, download songs and movies, stream television shows and program our DVR.
Now, we must teach ourselves to embrace new learning methods that allow us to keep our job skills current, use the newest technology in our industries, and respond to emerging trends.
What are the new digital learning methods?
Video has become a more common and engaging format for learning. So has gamification and short tutorials accessible on smartphone apps. Virtual lunch-and-learn programs are gaining in popularity, too.
Dominos, the pizza chain, has created a pizza game to teach its new hires how to make pizza faster and boost menu knowledge.
Taco Bell has created a searchable library of digital content with videos and quizzes so employees at all levels can learn about customer insights and new products from their mobile devices.
Managers will need to learn leadership skills digitally, too. According to a data from the Chief Learning Officer Business Intelligence Board, 62 percent of companies are using e-learning for leadership development. That’s a pretty clear indication of the future when only 32 percent of companies use formal mentoring for leadership development.
As a society, we’re busy people. We struggle with work life balance.
We don’t have time for instructor-led training and tutorial-heavy courses. As Chief Learning Officer notes, “That’s why Google has become the default learning management system for the modern connected worker.”
Once you open your mind to digital skill building, try these 5 steps
1. Analyze your skill gap
Recognize what you need to learn to succeed in your job today — and tomorrow. As Kelly Palmer, chief learning and talent officer at Degreed told CLOmedia.com: “If you stay up to date on current trends in the world and in your industry, that will help you see where the future skills and roles in the world of work are headed.”
2. Look for opportunities to learn that skill
Your company may offer training, but don’t rely on your employer to keep your skills up to date. My friend, a graphic artist, enrolled in an online course at a local college to learn how to use a new software program that would advance her in her job.
3. Refuse to be intimidated.
There is no doubt digital learning will take you out of your comfort zone. It may take you a few times of replaying a video to catch on. Digital learning often happens individually rather than in group settings. If something isn’t clicking, even if you are at a high level in your company, you need to be okay with asking someone for help.
4. Practice what you learn
Last summer I took a course on video editing. It took a lot of practice to ensure I had somewhat of a command of the skill. It’s okay to need to do something a half dozen times before you feel like you are getting it right. Just keep practicing!
5. Promote your new skill
Once you have learned a new skill, use it, and let others know you are using it. You want to let your employer or clients recognize you have a new skill and are staying current.
Digital learning is great for work life balance
The future will be even more reliant on digital learning as artificial intelligence and augmented reality are used in training. The intention of digital learning methods is to allow people to find the task more engaging and fit learning into their work life balance.
If you haven’t learned a new skill in the last year, be ready to change that.
If you are frustrated because your young co-worker just took a mental health day, get used to it. Where older generations have adopted a “push-through-your-personal-problems” attitude, the younger generation sees work life completely differently.
As one millennial explained to me, “My generation is growing up understanding that mental health is as important as physical health. I would rather push through a work day where I’m physically not feeling well than a day when I’m mentally drained or overwhelmed.”
A millennial will use a mental health day (also known as a self-care day) to catch up on sleep, take a long bath, do yoga, see a therapist, go for a run, or practice mindfulness. Millennials view these days off as necessary. “Taking a day off for self-care or mental health can improve your job performance for rest of the month,” the millennial explained.
Millennials prioritize mental health
Unlike the Gen Xers in my generation who rarely talk about mental health, millennials have gone through the college years speaking openly about anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses. “It’s not a taboo subject anymore,” said Mackenzie, the millennial daughter of Jenny Marie, a mental health advocate and blogger who writes for The National Alliance on Mental Illness blog. “I know a lot of people at work and friends outside of work who see therapists or take medication for anxiety and depression.”
Millennials, often referred to as the “anxious generation, grew up in a fast paced, always connected world where it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
“We are seeing a whole new generation who is coming up having been more exposed to these (mental health) issues than in their parents’ generation and want to figure out how they can stay healthy,” Michelle Riba, director at the University of Michigan Depression Center, said to Marketwatch.com.
How to Take A Mental Health Day
What that means for those in prior generations is that we need to better understand where millennials are coming from and their motivations. Rather than become annoyed or perplexed when they take a day off, and instead of looking at their downtime as lazy or not necessary, we should consider following their lead. When we need it, we, too, should take a day off just to regroup – without feeling guilty about it.
What this millennial way of thinking means for employers is a fresh look at employee benefits and the consideration of workshops on sleep, mindfulness, stress reduction, meditation and perks such as on-site yoga classes.
With information coming at us from every direction and pressure to be superstars in whatever we do, it’s easy to let stress take a toll on our mental health. I admire the millennials flooding our workplaces with a better understanding of what they need to do to be at their best. Now, let’s embrace their way of thinking and be good to ourselves.
Here are the 5 steps toward taking a mental health day:
Schedule it now. Figure out a day to take off when it will least interrupt your work flow.
Hold it sacred. Once you have a mental health day on your calendar, don’t let guilt change your mind.
Plan your day. Decide the types of self care will you practice based on what will allow you to go back to work relaxed.
Turn off your devices. A mental health day requires disconnecting from devices that connect you to your workplace.
Reward yourself. At the end of your day off, use self talk to reinforce the benefits of your mental health day and recognize the positive emotions that will make you more motivated going forward.
You run into an old friend but can’t remember her name. It bothers you for the next few days until suddenly her name comes to mind. Is this memory lapse normal or is it something to be concerned about?
The good news is your weakening memory it is normal.
A person’s ability to learn and recall newly presented information is half as good at age 70 as 35, explains Philip D. Harvey, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t sharpen our memory. So, how do we do that?
Certain vitamins and fatty acids have been said to slow or prevent memory loss such as vitamin B-12 and herbal supplements such as ginkgo biloba, and omega-3 fatty acids. But none of them have been scientifically proven to have any benefit on memory.
Medical experts say the best way to keep your memory sharp is a brain-healthy lifestyle: moderate physical exercise as well as a Mediterranean-like diet rich in fruits and vegetables and healthy oils — and no excess fats, sugars, red meat and processed foods. They also advise staying active mentally and socially doing things that bring you joy, meaning and purpose.
Here are some more strategies offered by Shulamit Assif, an international expert in memory and learning techniques:
*A strategy to remember where you put your car keys, or a person’s name or an important date is to associate it with one of your senses or an emotion.
*Avoid stressing over what you can’t remember. It’s when you relax that the fleeting memory often returns.
* Keep your brain challenged with crossword puzzles, card games, and mind stimulation games
* Limit distractions and don’t do too many things at once.
* Get adequate sleep
*Repeat things out loud such as where you are putting something or who you are meeting.
The old saying goes, “Time is money.” So, why waste it?
To me, one of the biggest time wasters is waiting in line. In my struggle for work life balance over the years, I quickly realized I’m all about shortcuts. Why wait in line when you don’t need to? By using a few apps, I have gained back hours of time by eliminating long waits. Here are a few I can suggest.
Coffee: Why wait in line at Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts when the brands’ apps let you order your drink ahead of time and pick it up when you arrive. The apps are easy to use and once you order your favorite drink, the apps remember and offer you the opportunity to re-order the same drink next time. So easy!
Grocery Deli Orders: At the grocery deli, you can easily waste a good half hour waiting to be called and then starting the process of having your meats and cheeses sliced. You can cut out all that wait time if you go on the Publix app and do easy online ordering. You can even order a sub online, made just the way you want. The best part is you can program in your nearby Publix location so when you order on a regular basis, your order goes right to your neighborhood store. I’m pretty sure other grocery stores offer the same service.
Restaurants: I hate waiting for an hour for Sunday brunch as my stomach growls. Restaurants like First Watch (which also operates The Egg & I, The Good Egg and The Breach Company in 26 states) allow you to put your name on the waiting list prior to arrival. When you download the mobile app for iPhone or Android, it will allow you to check wait times and add your name to the list before you arrive.
There also is an app called NoWait, which has partnered with Yelp. Let’s say you’re standing around waiting for a table and you are debating whether to head to a different place, but worried there may be an even longer wait. This free app alleviates some of that frustration by telling you the wait times of nearby eateries. The NoWait app has thousands of chain and independent restaurants in its directory, and they’re expanding. Still, not all restaurants in every city participate but many of my favorites do.
Theme Parks: Don’t even think of venturing to the Disney Parks unless you use the My Disney Experience App. You can make dining reservations, find character greeting locations and most important, use your FastPass sign up to cut out the wait for popular rides. You can also go on the app to get wait times for attractions and showtimes for fireworks and parades. If you use it wisely, you can save yourself a headache and tons of wait time in the park.
Medical treatment: There’s nothing worse than sitting for hours waiting for a doctor and constantly looking at your watch. More doctors offices are using an app that provides the wait time before you arrive and sends you a text or automated call when it’s your turn. The app is called WaitList Me. It’s definitely worth finding a doctor who offers this service. Lots of hospitals offer apps that give the wait times in their emergency rooms. Those apps can be huge time savers when needed.
Delivery: By now most of us know about delivery apps like Amazon Prime and Walmart, which can save time and cut out waiting in check out lines by getting products delivered to you quickly or by shopping for you and having your products waiting for pick up.
Movies: Why wait in line at the movie theater or get there early to get a good seat when you can use apps to buy tickets ahead of time and choose your exact seat. Many of the theaters have their own apps, the Paragon Theater by my house does, but there also is the Fandango app. What I like about Fandango is its favorites system is simple and straightforward. You can designate certain theaters as your preferred destinations, buy your tickets with a few clicks and arrive at theater minutes before the movie starts.
Every day there seems to be more apps coming out to make our lives easier. If I missed some of the favorite apps you use to cut wait times, please share in the comments below. Let’s all put that saved time back into something productive — or maybe just plain fun!
After the success of her 2015 book, Nightingale, best-selling author Kristin Hannah began writing a romantic thriller with an unreliable narrator. But two years in, she saw an abundance of similar novels flooding the market. (The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, etc) By her own admission, Hannah said her thriller wasn’t good.
At a crossroad, Hannah made a bold choice to strive for something better, rather than stick with the book in which she already had invested time. Her new novel, The Great Alone, an instant bestseller, shows she made the right choice in going in a new direction
I recently went to a fireside chat at the David Posnack Jewish Community Center in Davie, Florida, where Kristin Hannah was the featured speaker. Listening to her life story, I realized that Hannah, a master of the page turner, has made some tough career decisions that seemed risky at the time —but paid off. It made me think about how the rest of us can use her lessons in our own lives to make tough choices or career decisions when we’re confronted with them — and recognize when a different direction can make us happier or better off.
Sometimes a career pivot happens naturally.
Hannah had been a practicing lawyer. When she became pregnant and the doctor put her on bedrest, she began writing a novel that she had started years earlier at the side of her mother’s sickbed. After giving birth, she decided not to go back to law, and instead continued writing as a stay-at-home mother. Her son was two when she sold her first book. She since has published 20 novels.
We need different things at various life stages.
When faced with a decision, the path we choose may depend on what we need in our life at that point in time. Hannah said when her son was young, she needed her books to have happy endings. I can relate. When my children were young, I needed a job that allowed me flexibility. I made tradeoffs to get it. As we get older, our choices might be guided more by the people around us. For example, Hannah said by the time her son was 13, she was spending more time with her girlfriends, valuing those relationships, getting her friends’ input and weaving more complicated relationships and outcomes into her plots. Now, as an empty nester, Hannah chooses to write books that tell women’s stories because “it feels like a calling” and because she has to be enamored enough to spend two years with the characters. “I’m looking for an idea I feel obsessed about.” Her desired to be obsessed with her work is something to consider when making career choices. If you are going in a direction because you think you should rather than because you find it alluring, you might want to reconsider.
Others’ lessons can guide our career decisions
When making tough choices, it helps to look at those who forged the path before us and how they fared. Hannah based one of the main characters in Nightingale on a 19-year-old Belgian woman who created an escape route out of Nazi-occupied France. Hannah’s books includes a lot of historical perspective and she describes them as more character than plot driven. Are there people in your company, your industry or your life who have taken the path you are considering? How can you learn from them and use their successes or mistakes to guide your choices?
Do your research
Hannah spends a lot of time researching a topic before she jumps into writing. It pays off for her in the detail she captures in her books. With The Great Alone, her descriptions of the Alaska landscape are vivid. When making a tough career choice, doing research is key. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Chances are someone else has confronted the decision you are about to make. Use facts and gut instinct to guide your choices.
Don’t fear risk
Hannah looks to television for inspiration. She said in good television today, writers are willing to put characters in high risk situations to test them. Seeing how it’s being done has influenced her. “When I consider which high-risk situation to choose from, I choose them all,” she said. In her recent books, Nightingale and The Great Alone, her characters risk a son’s life to help a stranger, put themselves in the wilderness to try to make a marriage work and confront a volatile former Vietnam POW to protect others from harm. Faced with choices such as whether to take a promotion, give up a client who has become abusive, or transfer to another department to get away from a toxic boss, you may need to become okay with the risk involved and “just do it.”
Find your own voice
Over two decades as a writer, Hannah has learned a voice is a powerful thing. She spends about six hours a day writing, and works hard to ensure her protagonists are well developed with strong voices. Her other books, Firefly Lane and Winter Garden also are proof of that a strong voice is critical. In our careers, we too, need to find our voice and use it to be true to ourselves. That voice should be heard at meetings, guide us in negotiations and we should listen to it when making tough decisions.
See your decision through.
Not everyone will switch career paths like Hannah, but all of us want to like our jobs. Hannah said she sees a pattern in successful novelists: “What I’ve learned is that the ones who make it keep writing no matter what. When life is tough, they write; when the kids are sick, they write; when rejections pile up, they write. That’s really what this career is ultimately about. Showing up at your computer day after day to hone your craft.”
In other words, making a tough career decision may seem hard, but what’s really important is giving your best once it has been made to make it a good one.