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Reentering the Workforce

Rachel Alexander June 26, 2016

Divorce is such a troublemaker because it brings up so many troublesome life issues. One of them is work. Work carries with it meaning replete with status, value, identity, maturity, self-reliance, our relationship to the outside world and how others relate to us.

Amidst the other complex issues surrounding divorce, re-evaluating one’s work-life may present yet another challenge that was not asked for. What’s more, financial pressure usually dictates these next steps rather than pure desire or curiosity. What under normal circumstances may feel stressful, can now feel terrifying.

But it is not just about getting a job. It’s about posing a lot of profound questions like:

  1. Who am I?

  2. What do I want to do?

  3. Can I take care of myself?

Prior to attending law school, I went to career services at my undergraduate college to research whether I was a good candidate for law school and the legal profession. At that point I was envisioning a career like a jello mold one pours oneself into in order to take on a specific shape.

The woman at career services administered a test to evaluate suitability in this field. What was more influential than the actual test results was the discussion I had with her afterwards. The advice she rendered shifted my paradigm about careers forever. She said it is not about fitting yourself into a career, it is about your voice and what education and experiences you need in order to fully express it. This inverted my understanding of where I needed to be looking for information regarding what I needed to do.

I began to consider the effect I wanted to have with my life, and began viewing work as one of the vehicles for accomplishing this. Rather than defining myself by identifying with a particular career, my task wasfirst to define myself and then make employment and educational choices aligned with that.

What in you calls for expression? Even asking that question is self-honoring, placing you in command of your future. What flows from this inquiry will supply a direction that can be operationalized into next steps, whether that is returning to obtain a degree, taking a part-time position to build experience, or going to the library to do research. As your vision takes shape, be prepared to modify your course and refine earlier choices – this is part of designing your work life so it continues to reflect your expression and intended contribution.  While this may be no small task, I submit that this is the right task.

Evaluating one’s work identity at a later stage in life is challenging.  It may be normalizing to be reminded that many of us, for a variety of reasons, particularly in today’s volatile economic environment, are in the same boat – beginning new careers, investing in self-inquiry.

Approaching work in a more personal way can restore a much needed internal nucleus of control.

So what if you aren’t terribly career minded? How do you approach reentering the job market then? More about that in an upcoming blog.