How to Find Meaningful Work

If you’re returning to the workforce after time away, answering the “What do I really want to do?” question can be daunting.

But it doesn’t have to be impossible.

In a panel presentation at Make It Better Media’sRE:WORK IV conference, local experts Sue Blue, Eve Bremen and Marjie Killeen shared their paths to finding fulfilling careers in their 40s.

The first step, says life coach Sue Blue, is to be able to tell your story in a few simple steps. Start by filling in the blanks:

Once upon a time, _____________.

One day, _____________.

Every day, _____________.

Because of that, _____________.

So finally, _____________.

Complete those sentences, she says, and you have your basic “elevator pitch.” The next step? Get out there and tell your story. Start networking, and set a goal.

“It can be as simple as, ‘I want to shake the hands of five people,’” Blue says. For her, it’s about meaningful conversation.

Networking doesn’t have to be scary

It’s not all about suits, says Bremen, who has built an outstanding business with Coldwell Banker in Winnetka. “Just being involved is a wonderful, natural, easy way to network with people,” she says. It’s as simple as joining your child’s PTA, volunteering or finding a club or organization with interests that match yours.

Marjie Killeen, who has fostered a strong writing and speaking career (read her Sex & the Suburbs articles here), suggests that networking isn’t really about talking—it’s about listening.

“One of the things to remember has to do more with questions,” she says. “You ask and listen actively for responses. Ask open-ended questions. Look for points of common interests.”

And when your circle of friends is out of the workforce? You can still network. “Look online and find events to go to,” Blue says. “Get to know people. Ask yourself, ‘I wonder, who am I going to meet today?”

Part-time is possible

Think part-time work is out of reach? Not so, says Blue. “People are coming to me. There’s a lot of part-time work out there.”

Killeen also says adjusting your mindset helps to make part-time work possible. “Don’t be afraid to take part-time work if it gets you closer to your ideal.”

Inventing your own career

Maybe your best job is the one that’s not out there…yet. Killeen didn’t set out to become a relationships columnist and speaker. But life experience and opportunity combined to create a niche only she could fill.

“A lot of women are becoming solo-preneurs,” Killeen says. “Start on your path, and you’ll see the signs. In a way, you have to see what people need.”

If you want to do what you love, Bremen recommends assessing what qualities you need for success by speaking with people already doing what you’d like to do, and evaluating what you already know you can do. “It’ll help you understand what you are doing that is successful.”

And don’t let your age or timing get in the way, Bremen says. “It’s never too late and never the right time. Just go for it.”