Who am I? Over the last few years, as I have re-launched my career, I’ve had to do a lot of work on this question.
You see, there was a time when I had no idea who I was. I had quit my corporate career to spend more time with my children, but I loved to work and found jobs I could do while the kids were at school and on the weekends. This work style felt more like a defective mutation than a hybrid at times. Isolated from the career women, and honestly increasingly intimidated by them as they kept growing and climbing while I didn’t, I tried desperately to fit into the stay-at-home mom crowd. I failed at cooking, housekeeping, crafts, and even tennis. I had a husband and kids, but this was one of the loneliest, most purposeless times of my life. I really thought God had messed up when he made me…or maybe I just needed to try harder.
Am I alone in this loss of identity? I don’t think so. I am a work in progress, and God has to continually remind me that it’s ok to not be like the women around me. Recently, several women have asked me how I launched back into a full-time career, and while I don’t claim to have done much right, I do want to be a tour guide to help women choose the well-lit path and avoid falling off the cliff on the side of the road.
Many women return to a career after a break for various reasons and for various amounts of time, while some people simply want to re-invent themselves because they’re ready for a change. The most important step to take before making a drastic change is to figure out who you are, especially if you feel you lost your identity along the way. Strengthsfinders, DISC, and many other groups offer online quizzes that can get you started in the right direction. Take some time to think about your dreams and what you really want. My prayer journal is full of questions asking God what he wants from me and why he made me this way. Start asking your good friends and family what you’re good at or what they like best about you. (You will be amazed at some of their answers!) Read books like "Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance" by Bob Buford and "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren.
Another task I recommend, ladies, is the most difficult. It’s time to pull the weeds.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts,” (Psalm 139:23).
What fears or flaws are you harboring? What bad habits do you need to shed? Which relationships need mending? What could be a stumbling block for your success? It helps to build a “personal advisory board” to surround yourself with people who will tell you the truth about your weaknesses. You also need a close-knit group of people praying for you.
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results,” James 5:16.
Next, it’s time to find a mentor. You may have connections to someone in the career field you want to move to, but if not, consider joining a mentor program like the one 4word has, which pairs professional Christian women with extremely successful, humble women who want to help other women. During times of transition, it’s great to have someone watching out for you who has already walked a similar path.
Now…it’s time to learn something new! During my journey of figuring out what to do next, I decided to learn how to teach French. I took courses and tests and found my way into a high school classroom for two years. I learned I was way more interested in developing my students as people than teaching them French, so that pointed me toward working on my Master’s in Pastoral Counseling. It doesn’t really matter what you decide to learn. What matters is that you remind yourself you CAN learn, and you’re exercising your brain at the same time.
I think the key is to just start doing something. If you can’t get hired in the field you want right away, consider volunteering or taking a lower level job. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion! Besides, you will be brushing up on terminology, skills, and tech in the meantime.
I found that my thinking during my “hybrid” years had been increasingly self-destructive. I actually needed some Biblical counseling, intense daily meditation, and changing my thought patterns to begin to scrape away the layers of “failure” I had heaped upon myself. What emerged was a self-confident, resilient woman who was better than she ever was before. I still struggle and regularly ask God why He made me so opinionated, ambitious, aggressive, and decisive when these are the total opposite of what my culture views as feminine. Bit by bit, God has been revealing the need for those traits as I put them to use in leading other women through 4word.
A word of warning: jumping into something completely new and different is exhausting. Make sure your family is onboard and supportive of your decision before taking the leap. No matter how hard you think it will be, it will be harder. But it’s worth it!
If you’re in a position to make personnel decisions, please consider hiring women with potential and strengths that match your organization who may have a “hole” in their resume. They may be returning to the workforce after taking a break to raise families or care for sick relatives. They may have been catapulted into a change of career by divorce or death of a spouse. Take a chance on them! I am so thankful for the people who took a chance on me.
Who am I? I am a dearly loved daughter of the King. I am strong, wise, capable, decisive, opinionated, and caring. I am a competitive woman of action. I am too serious but also goofy and enthusiastic. I cry easily and jump up and down about things. I’m learning to love myself more for these things every single day.
“I am God’s masterpiece. He has created me anew in Christ Jesus, so I can do the good things he planned for me long ago,” (Ephesians 2:10, emphasis mine).
Now, tell me…who are you?
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