Last Thursday evening, the Park Slope Parents Career Networking group, in conjunction with HipSlopemama, held its first event, a panel discussion featuring three successful working moms with three very different career paths. Had there been a dull moment in the discussion, guests would have had the opportunity to peruse the huge selection of glass frames hanging from the walls of the evening’s gracious venue host, the Park Slope Eye. But the panelists, whose careers range from scenic painter to career coach, kept the audience engaged with personal reflections on their individual career choices and triumphs. Though none of the women left with a new pair of glasses, all were no doubt able to see clearly that ‘there’s more (to career choices) than meets the eye.’
Joyce Szuflita spent approximately 25 years working as a scenic painter for theater and film, launching a variety of art-related side-businesses along the way. Recently, Joyce started NYC School Help, a successful private consultancy that helps Brooklyn families with their public and private school search, nursery through high school. Joyce said one of the things that made this business successful was that she “finally had the good sense to take out a small loan to get started.” While helping families sort out their school options and choices might seem like a far cry from her former life as a professional working artist, Joyce said it actually taps into three of her strengths that do not get full play in the artist realm: ‘her ability to research information, public speaking and talking someone down off a ledge.’ Joyce also said that she has become a whiz at SEO (search engine optimization) without spending a penny, and shared some of her tips with the group. Her website is www.nycschoolhelp.com and she contributes to many popular blogs, including: www.mysidewalkchalk.blogspot.
Stephanie Hill Wilcroft, formerly with public radio for many years, is a full-time, working mother at Sesame Workshop and founder of the popular blog, MAMA BEE. Stephanie acknowledged that while the corporate world does not offer women everything they need in order to be successful and happy, many women do not have the financial security to opt out. She talked about the current study released by Maria Shriver which has shown for the first time in our history that half of all U.S. workers are women and that mothers are the primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of American families. The study also confirmed that women today earn an average of 77 cents to every dollar a man earns. Until society offers more flexible work schedules, comprehensive child care policies, redesigned family and medical leave, equal pay and policies that encourage fathers to be involved, the situation in corporate America will continue to create an environment that that does not help working mothers thrive. At the same time, Stephanie does not advocate a full scale walkout. She is concerned that if all talented, high level women leave the corporate world, the organizations will have zero incentive to improve the situation for working women. Stephanie writes an anonymous (mostly) blog about women in the workforce, for her own personal satisfaction and enjoyment, which has become more political over time.
Nancy Collamer is a professional career coach and founder of the Jobs and Moms Career Center. Nancy started her career at AT&T, moved to corporate HR, then recruiting and after getting a masters degree in Career Development starting running workshops that explored ‘part-time careers for full-time mothers.’ Nancy attested to the value of ‘volunteer’ work, having written dutifully for an online column for no pay, finding its financial rewards at the end of the rainbow two years later, when it was bought by the Oxygen network. In order to find your work calling, Nancy recommends a four step process: 1. Discovery- find out who you are and what your natural talents are, 2. Exploration- see what’s out there, 3. Method of Delivery- decide how you would deliver your services, 4. Action Plan- describe how will you implement your plan. Nancy pointed to Weight Watcher’s as a good model to follow if you are embarking on a new challenge. It’s a program with built-in support, accountability, group sharing, published tips and techniques and it values of progress in small increments. Nancy pointed to low self-confidence as one of the major stumbling blocks for returning-to-work mothers, and gave some tips on how to overcome this including getting involved in projects that stretch you a little, continuing education classes, taking on small project work, and slowly dipping your toes back in the water.
Though the three panelists have chosen very different paths, each of them was clear on one issue. In order to find happiness and balance with one’s work life, it is incumbent upon each of us to find our bliss in some way…even if it takes 25 years to uncover, is an endeavor of love over and above a full-time job, and part of your services are performed for free. The message from the panelists was quite optimistic- if you find something that matches your interests and skill set, that you truly enjoy, you will likely find a way to make it work.
This informative event was for members of Park Slope Parents Career Networking group. If you are interested in joining, please contact LB Eisen, one of the co-founders. There is a fee associated with membership. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org