You have the power to choose your future and make it happen. A decision that resonates within you, that connects with the person you believe yourself to be, and that draws on your true talents and deep emotions is much more likely to lead to success than a decision based on external factors or chance. The U.S. Department of Labor’s research suggests that people will have 3 to 8 different careers and up to 25 different jobs in their work lifetime. 75% of the jobs that exist now did not exist 10 years ago.
To make the best career decision, it is important to identify the fields and occupations projected to have the most rapid growth, for example: desktop publishers and database administrators, medical records and health information technicians, special education teachers, library technicians, and registered nurses. Look at the occupations in which women are being offered the most lucrative starting salaries: investment banking, all types of engineering, and network administration. For those without advanced degrees, look to the construction trades and manufacturing, including driving a fork lift—jobs that pay 3 or 4 times more than an entry-level office job. Far from being stuck in a career, most of us make the decision to change jobs over and over during our work life.
To maximize your chances for success, one must identify a well-paying job that matches your skill set in a high-growth industry and with a "women- and family-friendly company” that will appreciate their value to it. Here’s how:
- Recognize if you are fitting like a square peg in a round hole, because success begins with finding your true interest and aptitudes.
- Don’t give up; value yourself, invest in yourself, and take a chance on yourself. Barbara Corcoran made straight Ds in high school and college and had held 20 jobs by the time she turned 23. She decided to quit her job as a waitress, borrow $1,000 from her boyfriend, and bootstrap a real-estate company in New York City, which is now a $5 billion company.
- Look to non-traditional fields such as construction or manufacturing, if your credentials don’t include an advanced degree, and you still hope to make decent wages.Carol Brown chose a non-traditional career climbing telephone poles and rose through the ranks to tech executive, traveling to Latin America to help AT&T set up networks in those countries. She achieved a work-free retirement devoted to the arts. Consider that about 54% of all working women are employed in low-paying support jobs such as clerical workers, retail salespeople, waitresses, and hairdressers. Starting wages for a child-care worker and a carpentry worker might be $7 - $10 per hour. However, once in an apprenticeship, a carpenter receives $12 - $16 per hour. By the time the apprentice reaches a journey-level position, she could easily be making $35 per hour or more with excellent benefits. Those who move on up to custom work, or those who go into technical computer fields, can pull down hefty executive-level wages.
- If an opportunity to get training and move up comes along, jump on it. Sue Swenson started as a competitive swimmer when she was 12 years old, got a bachelor's degree in French from San Diego State, then held a series of low-level office jobs until she took a telecom management course in 1979. Ultimately, she became president of what is now AT&T Wireless, then moved on to become the president and COO of the 10th-largest cellular phone operator in the U.S.
- Don’t miss a chance to show off your capabilities. You never know where your next career break will come from. An oriental studies major, Judith Luther-Wilder is co-founder of the Center for Cultural Innovation, a non-profit that provides access to business training, financial resources, group services, and a communications network to diverse artists and creative entrepreneurs throughout the U.S. Luther-Wilder was so impressive speaking as a volunteer on another subject that she was appointed executive director of the $5 million L.A. Festival, a position for which neither her academic training nor prior job history "qualified" her.
- Be flexible and open to change: understand that your career can grow and morph. Joan Matalon Stark, president and founder of Matalon Designs, Inc., started her career as a children's-wear designer, a display designer, and an illustrator, then took a position as a shoe designer, where she gained a deep understanding of both the technical and creative aspects of shoe design. Then, armed with both expertise and reputation, she launched Matalon Designs, Inc. to provide product design, marketing, and merchandising services for shoe manufacturers, leather tanneries, materials companies, and jewelry and handbag companies. Matalon now consults with firms like Stride-Rite Shoes, Brown Shoe Company, North American Tanning, Biltrite Corp., and Siap Man-Made of Italy.
- Don’t get stuck in a single career; the same skill sets can apply to multiple professions. Val Ackerman started out playing basketball, then got her law degree and joined the NBA commissioner’s office, where she contributed to the launch of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), of which she is now president.
- Look for an ideal workplace where you’ll be appreciated and have the opportunity to thrive. Eileen Fisher, founder and CEO of Eileen Fisher, Inc, with more than $100 million in revenue, has been described as a nurturer and recognized for her employee-friendly workplace. Fisher has a mission to encourage individual growth, collaboration, and social consciousness, as evidenced by her generous benefit package and work environment. Her motto: “We want employees to love this place.”
- Don’t cling to an old job when you’ve outgrown it or can move on to a better deal. Listen to Patty DeDominic, founder of PDQ Personnel Services, Inc. (one of the country’s largest privately held staffing and service firms) and a national leader in entrepreneurial and employment issues: "Get the gold watch as part of the signing bonus” because, before long, you will likely be moving on.