Joining the working world

What was your first job? How did you get it? What was your first full-time job? How did your life change at that point?

Though my mom stayed home with us kids when I was little, I always expected to work myself. I assume that came from some set of values my parents instilled in me from an early age.

She eventually did go back for her PhD and started an awesome second career, right about when I started mine. She did that with a drive and conviction of what she wanted to learn that impressed me. Similarly, my dad found his specialty in children’s clothing and stuck with it through several company changes over the years. Ever since my family renovated our house when my sister was in fifth grade, she knew she wanted to be an architect. She went through a 5-year BA/MA program and is an architect today! And my brother’s interest in research and science has been singular and continuous from the beginning.

My career path has been just as fervent, though in every possible direction. I remember moments of panic before writing college essays, in which I had to decide whether I would pursue Spanish interpretation, musical theory, or genetic counseling. Even now, I often get ridiculously excited about career pathways that I’m wildly unqualified for. HR Director of a massive corporation? Sign me up! Talent sourcing for diverse tech candidates? I’m in! Human Rights Commissioner of the UN? That’s perfect for me!

So, where did it all start? My dad likes to say I could play tennis before I could walk. Maybe it was his enthusiasm that led to my first job as a children’s tennis instructor. I was a child myself! I tossed balls to kids who could not even see over the net, and they swung wildly with their too-big rackets, sometimes smacking the balls into the net or each other (or me!) and sometimes missing entirely. Those few hours a day led to my first full summer job as assistant for my coach’s tennis club. That meant hours upon hours picking up balls, instructing kids’ camps, and dodging wayward lobs.

Around the same time, my sister and I branched into catering by starting our own business – Sister Act II, inspired by the classic Whoopi Goldberg film. We had dressed up in button down whites and black pants with red aprons and helped serve food and clean up my parents’ Christmas party one year. One of their friends asked if we could do her party the next week. We made business cards and from then on, we worked a few parties a month for several years, making more money than we would have babysitting!

As you might imagine, neither of those turned into my full-time adult career. Since then, I worked in international development at a think tank in Washington DC (my first job out of college, which I committed to over the phone without a second thought and before they even told me the salary), in partnerships for an Au Pair agency, in workforce development and training at local branch of a national nonprofit serving underprivileged youth, and now at a community college developing partnerships for STEM education. Each time, I was thrilled to dive into work!

Working, first job out of college

“Where’s the through-line?” You might ask. “Why do you work?”

Well, primarily, the through-line is that I find purpose in helping others. Specifically, I get excited when I can support organizations to improve their impact, particularly when working toward a cause I believe in. And I’ve had a chance to do that in each of those settings.

And I work partially for money – who doesn’t? I work because I crave feeling fulfilled, and work in the social impact sector is how I accomplish that feeling (selfish, I know!). I also feel a sense of duty to my gender, to show that women can be productive contributors to society. And finally, (and this is hard to admit) I work because I don’t think I have the creativity or self-discipline to be a stay-at-home mom and stay sane at the same time. I have a ton of respect for stay-at-home moms & also wouldn’t be able to do it myself.

Why do you work?

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