20 March 2013

On my mind...college graduates

My 1979 Graduate Handbook

If you are like me, you will be in the year of the college graduation or thinking of it. The one you thought would never come when your children were trailing behind you with their favorite doll or truck in hand. Now grown and about to graduate, you guide them, in your own way, recalling the years when you were the same age, marveling at the similarities and differences to yourself at that age. It is natural for us to draw on our own experiences, they are the ones closest to our heart.

I find myself in a conundrum.  I often feel like I am in the dark ages. As a mother, who started her career in 1979 when the world was a different place, I feel at a loss when comparing the differences to women in business in 2013.  In 1979, companies were hiring and they were looking for women. I graduated from a women's college with a Bachelor of Arts in Management. I was focused, I knew what I wanted and was offered a great job with a large consumer products company, renowned for it's sales management training program.  At the age of 21, I loaded up a truck with a few belongings from home and set off for a new job, in a different state..to discover a 'new working world'.

The reality was that it was hard work, very hard work. I did not realize that I was one of a handful of  women in the training program. There were 250 trainees at my first national sales conference and six were women. I stepped into a man's world and the competition was intense. I loved the challenge and felt my time with that company was a changing point in my life. My career progressed and then something happened.

A greater challenge presented itself, my husband, Mr. H. Between marriage, children and moving around the world frequently with his job...I fell out of touch with that side of my life and fell in love with my new life. I held on as long as I could, working full time, then part time until I realised that looking after a teenage au pair was harder work that my three young children and decided to call it quits. The au pair finished her contract and I took full charge. Another new world dawned and I was ready for a new set of challenges.

With time, you tend to forget. I always called my early work experience my 'other life'. With friends in similar positions, we would talk about our 'other life' like it was from a mystical land. We were the Band of Stay-at-Home Mom's...speaking less frequently of days gone by and focusing on our day to day life and cherishing what we had. Occasionally we would come across the Band of Working Mom's who managed to slip into school events when they could. I admired their ability to navigate both world's, some with success and some struggling along the way, just as many stay-at-home mother's did. At the end of the day we were all there for our families, doing the best we could, regardless of our situation in life. That fact still holds true today.

These past weeks, my husband and daughter have been reviewing resumes, reading cover letters and talking through job strategies. Although I feel out of touch, I feel at the very least, I can read as much as possible and guide where I can. I secretly admit...it has been exciting, to throw that hat on again...however lightly. I went into my LinkedIn page, found my old resumes and started typing. My last paying job was in 1995 but no matter, it felt good to remember. It helped me to look at my life as a bigger picture and not just segments. If you have been thinking about doing the same...I say do it! There is not telling where it may lead...


Sheryl Sandberg,
Chief Operating Officer
Facebook via

Along the way, I started reading and searching, looking for articles that might inspire, direct and encourage my daughter. First up Sheryl Sandberg and her new book 'Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead'. I have yet to read it but I have to say, if the reviews are anything to go by, I am looking forward to it. She has people talking..and 'leaning in', there is no question about that. Whether they want to or not is another matter. Book aside, if you want a light read into the woman..she has a few book suggestions which I have noted for my daughter, here. If you are curious about her...and want to hear her thoughts...you can watch this.






This morning I came across an article by NY Times writer, Adam Bryant. He writes the 'Corner Office' column. The article, 'When I Hire You, I'm Hiring Your Mentor's Judgement'  prompted me to write this post. Mr. Bryant interviewed Ilene Gordon, C.E.O. of Ingredion, drawing on her advice to young managers. She talks about tenacity and never giving up. She recommends having Plan A, Plan B and Plan C or D..if needed. She looks for people who treat other people well, who are focused and organized.  When interviewing, she asks potential candidates who their mentor was. Who did they learn from? She feels she is hiring not just the person sitting before her, but the four people who mentored the candidate and she wants to know why those mentors were important to the candidate. She looks to see how people have handled adversity, if they came back or walked away. Ms Gordon summed it by saying... "Very few people have perfect lives. You want people who are able to have Plan B and C, and to rise above a challenge, move ahead and just get on with it, and have that can-do attitude". I like the way she thinks.

Illene Gordon, C.E.O. Ingredion
Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

I am enjoying this little quest of mine.  In many respects, as in the comments by Ms. Gordon, I can see that the 'words' have not changed over the years. Many of the qualities considered when I was interviewing are the same as what employers are looking for today. As for women in the workforce today, there has been a lot of progress with still a ways to go.

If you are like me, in a similar place in life, as I know many of you are, I hope there is something here that will resonate, if not now, perhaps later. Interestingly, in exploring this changing world for my daughter, I discovered something about myself. I still have the good fight in me and am looking forward to new chapters in my life. My other life may be in the past...but it's today that matters and what I have planned for the next day and the next. My father always had one word for me....Believe. I believe as strongly today as I did back then and only wish he was here so that I could tell him.

With that, I sign off from this lengthy post, one I felt I needed to write. I thank you kindly for reading. If you have any thoughts on any of this, I would be interested to read them. If you have any links, books or sites you would recommend for my daughter, I would love to know and would love to share.

Let's talk...have I sparked a thought or two in you?


POSTSCRIPT: 

As always, once we start taking, the ideas start flying. 
Thank you for your comments...I love them!
The highlights follow here:

I mentioned Sarah @ Thyme videography..
it's fabulous, look here

for suggesting the book 
'Knowing Your Value' by Mika Brzeniski. 
You can find it here

Vicki @ French Essence wrote a great post 
on the extraordinary women that we are...
'Jane Austen Got It Right'..you can read it here

I downloaded the Kindle version 
of Sheryl Sandberg's book 'Lean In'.
You can find it here

I mentioned a book review by NY Times
writer, Maureen Dowd,
'Pompom Girl for Feminism'.
You can read it here

Tara Dillard  commented and got me thinking.
I then went off to explore..
Joseph Campbell and 'Follow Your Bliss' here
Helen Reddy.. 'I Am Woman here
'The Feminine Mystique' by Betty Friedan which
led me to an interesting article here

Keep them coming...loving 'the talk'!

34 comments:

  1. Oh yes Jeanne...yes, you have sparked conversation here. This is very much a topic that seems to be discussed weekly, monthly? For my daughter, deciding what to "do" or "be" is not a clear path...but it wasn't for me either. So, I do have empathy for her there. As for me, my work career sounds very similar to yours...sales training, large corporation, lots of travel, male-dominated industry....loved the challenge! I hung on to a paycheck for a long time too after kids...doing various jobs that offered flexibility...ballet school owner, nanny to my friend's child, assistant teaching. Yesterday, I had my first phone conference with a national client that will be commissioning me for photography to use in an upscale hotel chain. I had to work so hard to calm down before the call I was so excited and nervous at the same time. I am indeed ready for the next chapter. I don't know what it will be but I feel so much more readier for the ups and downs than I did when I was 21 years old! It's going to be exciting Jeanne!

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    1. Sarah...I am so so excited for you! Your photography is beautiful and I hope you told them about your video talents. I have been spending time with Vimeo and think yours are some of the best..if you have an account, do tell...I would love to follow! I agree...it is going to be very exciting! xx

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  2. I liked your description of the job world for women grads in '79. I graduated in '69 and it was so different. Sometime between the day I started college and graduation, the expectation changed. Where I had planned to graduate, marry and be charming at cocktail parties for the rest of my life (hence the major in French), suddenly I was expected to make my way in life... with a job and without a husband.

    While I have loved the life I have had, sometimes I do wonder what would have happened if I had been interested in a management degree. That assumes, of course, that the management department at my college had allowed women majors - which it did not!

    It cheers me greatly to see all the successful women in the business world today.

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    1. Thank you for your story Webb...I am trying to imagine a college that would not allow women to participate in a management degree...incredible that you could not! It is interesting, to hear people's stories...and discover that common thread between us all. I agree...it is heartening to see what is possible today..lots of great achievements for women...xx

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  3. Hi Jeanne,

    Sheryl Sandberg's book does look interesting...I am about to check out her interview in both the Times and the video. A book I would recommend for your daughter is called "Knowing Your Value" by Mika Brzenziski. I gave it to my daughter recently when she was searching for her first job.

    Your post brought back many memories of my own graduating from college and heading into the business world and then opting to be a stay at home mom. It also brought to mind when my own daughter graduated (in 2011) and was finding her way into the "real world". It is a daunting time for graduates, especially here in the US, but most seem to find their way. My daughter is now very happy living in DC and working for an arts non-profit (her degree was a double art history and classics - not the most marketable but she made it work), but I remember how sad she was on graduation day that she hadn't found a job. As it turned out, she interned in NYC for six months and realized she didn't like big city life...since it wasn't a permanent job there was no issue with moving on after only six months.

    Sorry I didn't mean to write a novel...your post just hit home with me!

    xoxo

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    1. Thank you Sandy for the recommnendation. I am glad to read your daughter is happy in DC..funny how things work out. I am glad she had the chance to study what interested her the most. I think better to do that than to struggle in a course you do not have your heart in. My daughter enjoys history and classics as well. I have thoughts on having taken a management degree but will save that for another time! Many thanks for your comment...the longer the better for me! xx

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  4. Loved this post, Jeanne. Plan A, Plan B...absolutely. I left the corporate world in 1984 when my son was born, went back to school for a teaching degree, and went to work in an entirely new career when my youngest was in second grade. When studying education, I was told I'd likely never find a job, yet I have never been unemployed -- and have built a business in this field. So much depends on belief in yourself and the ability - and willingness - to act like those ducks, paddling like crazy underneath the surface while staying calm up above. Your dad gave you (as did my parents) the best career advice possible. And I'm sure he knew you'd use it long after he was gone!

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    1. Thank you Teri...I know from reading your blog and our discussion back and forth that your career has been very rewarding..as it has been for those worked with you. Best of all you are doing something now to further draw on your talents...your creativity...which I love. You are an inpsiration Teri...truly! xx

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  5. We are our kids mentors ... and I love the others who have along side to help.

    Great thoughts, Jeannie.

    Fondly,
    Glenda

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    1. Thank you Glenda... you are so right and how lucky they are! xx

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  6. This subject is so often on my mind Jeanne...

    The first path they take post college (university) is just that... the first... and I think that the subsequent directions are even harder to navigate. There are so many choices and opportunities... yet the competition is so fierce in this global marketplace of ours... Enough is not enough anymore...our children need not only Plan B, C and D... but E, F and G... They also need to understand that many paths can lead to the same place...

    Great piece of writing and I will be ordering, Lean In... Thank you Jeanne... xv

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    1. Thank you Vicki, you raise an intersting point, in that many paths can lead to the same place. The challenge is getting them to see it! I downloaded Lean In onto my Kindle...very interesting. Would love to know your thoughts... xx

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  7. I hope you write about Sandberg's book when you finish it. There doesn't seem to be a middle ground in the reviews I've seen. They either agree wholeheartedly with her or claim she's too privileged to understand the choices today's working women have to make between family and the workplace.

    Too right about the au pair. I remember feeling that I was mothering a teenager before I had figured out how to mother my babies.

    P.S. So excited you were my first comment!

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    1. Thank you Kyle..you are right, the reviews have been very intersting reading. I especially enjoyed Maureen Dowd's review, 'Pompom Girl for Feminism'.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/opinion/sunday/dowd-pompom-girl-for-feminism.html?_r=0

      I do not always agree with her but she does make me laugh, she does not hold back...ever! If anything, it has prompted me to read the book.

      Very happy to be your first comment! xx

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  8. I graduated college into Jimmy Carter & 21% interest rates.

    The alphabet is not long enough for how many plans I have to get my mission statement done.

    Helen Reddy, I am woman, hear me roar in numbers too big to ignore? Knew as a child, I am woman, hear me roar, alone, too big to ignore.

    Joseph Campbell said when we follow our bliss helping hands will arrive. They do, and my mentors are proof. One mentor was attracted to me because of how I spoke about another mentor. Mentors are grace. Paying them back is easy, mentor others.

    My career? Thriving for every year of this terrible economy. Who knew Garden Design could ever be a go-to career?

    Sad part of BF & Feminine Mystique is my mom's generation. She hated having children & keeping house. And my grandmother's generation of knowledge, LOST. None passed to me. Did you know there is a term for my generation of unwanted kids? 'Obligation Children'.

    .....

    XO T

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    1. So much of your story sounds familiar Tara...we must be of the same generation. The Feminine Mystique and that generation...don't get me started! You prompted me to revisit Joseph Campbell...an interesting reading week for me...Sheryl Sandberg and Jospeph Campbell...I wonder what the result will be?? xx

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  9. How life changes. I became a teacher because the opportunity presented itself in the 1960s. I was the only girl from my old set who completed their tertiary course. My family knew no-one who had ever been to a university even for a social visit.
    Then my daughter grew older and, in the way of the strongly independent, wanted none of my advice about careers or lifestyles.
    Now she employs other people. She has told me that she flatly rejects people who claim to have been mentored because they are usually incompetent people who have failed to learn by themselves. It is my experience that those who claim to be mentors are frequently overly ambitious and seek their own advancement rather than to genuinely assist colleagues. Few people with genuine mentoring qualifications claim that role as their own. A boss is not a mentor. A mentor makes a plan and works through it with the colleague. My daughter checks every reference carefully and seeks assurance of competence before the second short list.
    I believe that intellectual rigour is great preparation for a real career, whether it is as a tour guide, a housekeeper or a physicist. Application not social climbing and networking is the mark of a successful career woman.
    Teach your daughter to be careful of those who want to know her. Teach her to be wary of flatterers. Teach her to study hard and apply for genuine opportunities to gain more knowledge in her field, not more contacts.

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    1. Thank you for your thoughts Louise...so interesting! Your daughter sounds like an accomplished and successful woman, a credit to you. I appreciate your advice. My daughter is following this post and the comments. She is enjoying everyone's thoughts...taking it all in. The wisdom of women...a good thing! xx

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  10. Gosh, Jeanne, I wish we'd talked about all this over our fruit smoothies. For me, life has been a series of unexpected surprises starting, perhaps, by going to college. I went hoping for new opportunity that would allow me to escape a future that seemed to me to offer nothing more than a rather humdrum life. In that sense, I'm not sure I ever had a Plan A much less a Plan B but somehow doors kept opening and I had the courage to walk through them with each one leading to a place more interesting/challenging. How grateful I am for each one of those opportunities for they have shaped my life in ways I could never have expected. If you encourage your daughter to open herself to possibility, to not be afraid of the unknown, you will have given her your best advice. It will then be up to her to find that place that allows her to be all that she can be no matter what the endeavor. She and you just might be surprised at the outcome.

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    1. I hear you Linda and I agree...we should have talked about this over smoothies. Speaking of which, whenever I hear the word smoothie, I will forever think of you in the photo drinking both at one time. Priceless! Thank you for sharing your story..and I agree..as long as you are not afraid of the unknows, the world can pretty much be your oyster. I think her expat life will have served her well. Hope the jet lag is about over for you...best wishes Linda.. xx

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  11. Jeanne, so much food for thought here. In the last decade since I stopped full time work, I seem to have reverted to an earlier and more traditional era - no plan A, B or C. Just a life of reaction to the needs and plans of others. There are plans in my head - maybe in case I am not needed here or there (parents, children), but definitely buried away. Maybe it is time to dust some of these plans off and revisit them?

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    1. Anne..so glad this post struck something within you. I love the idea of dusting off plans and revisiting them but I can only imagine what a task that would be with your life between Australia, England and France. Maybe it could comprise all three? Now that would be fun! xx

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  12. Oh Jeanne I remember the day my last child graduated from college (also a daughter). She was a history and communications major and had no clue what to do with it. Her career found her. She is now a commercial property manager in San Francisco and loves her work.

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    1. Wonderful to hear Cindy...these things have a way of working out..if your eyes are open, your ear is to the ground and you are ready to act when opportunity knocks, I believe you will eventually get there. Just like your daughter... :)

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  13. Jeanne...yes, there is such conversation going on. This topic is one that seems to be talked about weekly. For me or my son & daughter, deciding
    what to "become"is not a clear path.... As for me, my work career was varied... large corporation + small corporation + male-dominated industry.I loved each one! I needed a paycheck for a long time after I quit the big world of corporations...doing various jobs that offered me flexibility...clothing store owner, production-(too much travel),freelance stylist. Finally landed on my feet as an interior designer(I adore what I do-finally found my niche) I am indeed ready for the next chapter of my life. I don't know what it will be + It will be exciting! I found out "Words do not teach" so I show my daughter + son everything I have done makes me what I am today,I know that lesson will benefit them both. love this topic. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

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    1. Peggy...you hit the nail on the head for me..showing them what you do and how you do it. I think of the countless blank stares as I explained something only to discover when you actually show them and get them involved, it makes all the difference. Saying that...i am still working on that duvet cover with my daughter and she is in college! Kids..you gotta love them! Thank you for sharing your story...so intersting to read. :)

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  14. Dear Jeanne, thanks for this post. it is an eye-opener and I needed it right now. Work is not all a bed of roses, as you know, and I am going through a bad patch right now. We are under-staffed and over-worked. There are days when I dread opening my mailbox. But I plough through because each day is a learning experience.

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    1. Hi Loree..so glad you found something here amongst the wisdom of these lovely ladies. I think that is why I decided to write about it, for my own clarity. I know that feeling well...dreading the mailbox. I hope there is a light at the end of the tunnel for you...soon! xx

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    2. Thanks Jeanne. I am so tired today - but the weekend lies ahead, so I will not complain.

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    3. Thanks Jeanne. I am so tired today - but the weekend lies ahead, so I will not complain.

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  15. This is such an interesting post Jeanne. The reality now in the job market is that an education with both undergraduate and Graduate degrees will get the students "in the door" of major companies but the what will give them the edge is about their personalities, interests, passion, their vision and also accomplishments not only in school but their extra curricular activities. I have been working in a Bank here in Toronto for almost 25 yrs now and have seen all the changes every year that we go through. It is very competitive now. An Education is not enough now to get you in. That is the reality. In one of last job interviews for a higher position asked me mostly about what have I done outside of work that I accomplished by myself? Luckily, I have my own blog to talk about which I have established outside and separate from my work life. My interview was not about the job Per se but about the committees that I joined and the projects we have completed which are really not the main job. I just hope that parents will understand that too. It not just the Education but to make sure your children will be well rounded individuals so that they have an edge and able to compete in the real world. Unfortunately, getting the best Education is not enough anymore.

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    1. Ah Pamela...very wise indeed! I have been reading much along the same lines and find it so interesting. What you are saying here is popping up in lots of articles. Those life experiences are so important..I had the same discussion with my 13 year old son this morning. We are getting him ready for school interviews. There were a lot of groans over the questions we asked but we need to get him thinking outside of his world. As rich and diverse as it is...the brain constantly needs to be challenged. Kids can get so complacent these days. Oops...that's another topic. I will take off the Mom hat now to thank you for your very thoughtful message. I appreciate it! xx

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  16. What a thoughtful and thought-provoking post Jeanne. As you know I have children of a similar age to yours, and although I am proud of their strong characters and optimistic about their ability to adapt, I admit to worrying a great deal about the working life that lays ahead of them.
    I feel that their fight will be much harder than ours - I don't know if that is a reflection of the situation or whether it is simply the mother in me who continues to want to protect ....
    I was surprised by the Ilene Gordon question about mentors: I don't think I could answer her, could you?
    You are indeed a very thorough mother, your children are lucky to have you.
    Sharon
    xx

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    1. Thank you Sharon and yes, I had the same question as you and I then asked everyone around me if they recalled who their mentors were. I don't think I thought much about it was I went along. Teachers played a strong role for me and through my summer jobs, a boss here and there. They live in a different world..so much more seems to be expected and at an earlier age too. We mothers of four..it is a challenging world! xx

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Can I just say....that I so enjoy what YOU have to say. If you would like to write to me directly, I would love to hear from you... jeannecollageoflife@gmail.com

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