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There were so many mornings and afternoons when colleagues and friends would track me down. It was by phone, by email or by a tentative knock on the door followed by a face peering into my office. "Do you have a minute?" And of course I always did.

The questions ranged from:

  • I feel lost at work and it's not fulfilling. But how do I figure out what would be? And what I would be best at?
  • How do I navigate this sticky situation with my boss? Or with a difficult colleague?
  • I think I have a great job opportunity - but how can I be sure?
  • My maternity leave is fast approaching - how do I convince my employer to consider flex-time or tele-commuting?
  • Would you help me write this letter? This memorandum? My resume?

I always enjoyed these conversations, and felt an enormous sense of satisfaction when my advice was well received and even more so when it was effective. My female colleagues would return again and again, each meeting building from the previous one in terms of career clarity and personal goal realization.

Then it happened. After eight years with one corporation, I was caught in a wave of downsizing that took me and 18 others. As anyone who has been through this can tell you, it is an enormous blow to the ego.

After awhile, however, I realized that I had been unhappy for a long, long time. I didn't miss my work, I missed the community and helping other women. I also knew that returning to corporate life at a new company held little interest. I found the politics draining, the jargon ridiculous and the time spent in meaningless details energy depleting.

I phoned some of the women whom I had counseled, asking if they would act as my references. Not only were they happy to do so, but they refereed me to friends of theirs for coaching services. My own career coach (who had been instrumental in guiding me through a period of professional confusion) offered to refer clients to me. I began to network with women I knew everywhere: my son's school, my exercise studio, our extended families, etc.

Working with a four year old around does provide its own set of challenges. The biggest of which is that we share a computer! But he is old enough to understand that when Mommy is on the phone he must wait, and that Mommy is working hard to build a business that benefits our family.

Sometimes working solo is a little lonely - I miss the camaraderie of my co-workers. But the pluses far outweigh the minuses - I am helping other women be happier, I have increased flexibility and control over my schedule, and am earning a living doing something I enjoy and am good at.

Nancy Halpern
Career Advisor
Strategic Positioning for Women in Business

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