BUILD YOUR FOUNDATION
It might seem obvious, but to build a non-linear career, you need to have a career to start from. In essence, you need to have established yourself professionally so you can pause.
Ask Kella Hatcher’s father; he’ll tell you. He had a career in human resources. He told his daughter that if she wanted to be able to navigate having a family and having a career, she should build a professional foundation on which to grow.
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“My dad taught me to establish myself first because he knew my experiences, skills, and contacts would be the lifeblood I needed to accomplish my long-term goals, ” Kella explained to me during our interview.
She took his advice, and today her life path could be a model for working, pausing, and thriving. Kella’s career, like that of so many of the other women I interviewed, zigged and zagged. She worked full-time, paused for kids, worked full-time again, worked part-time, paused again, worked part-time again, and now is working full-time at her “dream job. ?
Kella had always been a passionate advocate for disadvantaged youth and went to law school with the idea that she would focus on the juvenile justice system After law school she became an assistant district attorney in Orange County, North Carolina. She loved her work, but struggled when she was forced to prosecute juvenile cases. The trauma of seeing children commit “horrible” crimes or be the victim of other equally horrible crimes became too much and so after her second child was born, Kella paused her career.
“I wanted to step back and figure out how I could be part of the solution, ” Kella shared with me during our interview. While she relished her time at home with her two young children, it didn’t take long for her to realize she wanted to be back in the paid workforce. Kella got the word out to her network. It was her sterling reputation as a skilled lawyer that inspired a former colleague to invite her to apply for a job as the legal counsel for North Carolina’s Guardian ad Litem program, a statewide government child advocacy program representing abused, neglected, and dependent children in the court system.
“I worked there full-time for a number of years, then I was able to negotiate a part-time work schedule. Eventually, I transitioned to a job-share. My boss was absolutely willing to work with me to find the optimal work-life solution. It made all of the difference, ” Kella said. But Kella’s family demands eventually proved too imposing, so she decided to leave her job.
“I had a great situation, but my children were having issues in school and I felt I needed to be more present for them, ” Kella said.
She didn’t stay out of the paid workforce for too long. One of her colleagues at the Guardian ad Litem program was working on a project for the University of North Carolina School of Government. The school wanted someone to create a manual for judges and attorneys who worked with juvenile cases. Kella’s experience was perfect for the job, and the job was perfect for her. She could work part-time on her schedule and still be available to her family. For the next six years, Kella worked for UNC completing the report and others like it.