For years I worked in Vocational Rehabilitation, helping people determine their skills and abilities and how to put them to use. I loved helping people unlock the potential they had, perhaps seeing things they hadn’t seen before, and watching them as they embarked on a career path. Most of the people I worked with had suffered a catastrophic event that had slammed the door of their current occupations shut. They were at a loss as to what to do, where to go. I had the opportunity to help them carve out a new path, show them all the things they could do, and send them on their way, hopefully with renewed energy and purpose.
My fascination wasn’t limited to just my professional life, however. Recently, our daughter fulfilled a lifetime goal of graduating from EMT training and she is now working for a nearby ambulance service. She loves her job and the opportunity to help others, although as a woman she is in the minority at her station. Watching her through the training process and hearing about her job now is every bit as captivating to me as any of the clients I had during my years in rehabilitation.
While she considered pursuing this goal, we frequently reminded her of the Henry Ford quote, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” Lately I’ve come across another quote that is also important in terms of setting and achieving goals, this one attributed to Marian Wright Edleman. “You can’t be what you can’t see.” How true those words are.
My husband and I both grew up in the deep south. We were well acquainted with an agrarian economy. Of course, being natives of Atlanta, we were also well acquainted with the types of business jobs offered in a metropolitan area. Our knowledge informed our decisions regarding what we would study in college, and how we would shape our future. It wasn’t until later, when we moved around the country, that we began to realize what a wealth of different paths there were out there. From the School of Mines in Colorado to Oceanography on the Florida coast, there were tons of jobs we hadn’t known about.
Looking back, I wonder how different our lives would have been if we had seen other jobs, other opportunities. The Ford quote was appropriate for us both, and we heard various versions of it all through our early years as we both became part of the first generation of our families to pursue higher education. Even more a propos might have been the Edleman quote. We had never seen jobs related to mining or the ocean, so we hadn’t even considered them.
I just finished a book that could change some of that for young people entering the workplace, particularly young women. It’s called Women’s Work, Stories from Pioneering Women Shaping Our Workplace by Chris Chrisman. Chrisman has accompanied each of the stories with a photograph of two which are absolutely stunning. The narrative, along with the captivating pictures, create a book everyone can read, enjoy, and learn from. It might even be considered to be an absolute must for anyone in the business of helping young woman forge a career path for themselves.
This is a book I would love to see in every library in the country. It is filled with the stories of women across the country and the jobs they are doing. Many of them are non-traditional, some not so much, but they all tell the story of how the woman got into the field, what she enjoys, and some of the challenges she has faced.
As we move more toward a workplace that is one that seeks the best employee for the job, regardless of race, religion, or sex, this can become a valuable tool for the young women of today. Whether the individual reader wants to read the entire book, or research a particular job or jobs, that opportunity is here. The stories are short, and highlight some of the highs and lows of the job, as well as some of the hurdles the women have had to overcome. Regardless of the different roadblocks most of the women encountered, they all speak of having a passion for their chosen work, a determination to make it a success, and the supporting factors that helped them achieve their goals.
There are several recurring themes that unite the women, including a willingness to work hard, a recognition that often they have had to work harder to “prove” their capability, and a development of a thick outer skin to ward off the criticism they have encountered. While these issues are not exclusive to women, nor to women in these particular jobs, the women’s responses here offer some ideas in terms of how a woman, or a man for that matter, can go about achieving their goals in the face of sometimes daunting criticism.
In addition to the information and the inspiration offered here, the stories are accompanied by some stellar portraiture photography. These photographs are crisp and offer a high contrast that seems to bring the individual, who is typically involved in a task related to their job, into sharp focus. The photos show a wide range of women in terms of age, size, ethnicity, and physical attributes, and manages to turn the focus of the viewer to the woman as a worker and an achiever.
It isn’t necessary to read the book cover to cover, although I found it fascinating to do so. This book would also serve well as a “coffee table book” or as a book you might find in a pediatrician or youth counselor’s office, anywhere a young person might pick it up and be inspired to follow her dreams. While it does exclusively highlight women, there is information here that could also be useful to young men and boys. Not only does it talk about determination and goal setting, but it talks about some of the descrimination these women have encountered as they have pursued their place in the working world. It could be helpful to those who are on the outside looking at these and other women and girls as they pursue their goals within the world of work. After all, you can’t change your perspective and your prejudices if you don’t know you have them.
My thanks to Simon and Schuster and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
My husband once said you could take me out of rehab, but you couldn’t take rehab out of me. I think that really extends to the world of work in general. It’s fascinating to me, and I think we could all benefit from looking at work from the points of view offered in this book. No matter what you are perusing at the moment, however, I wish you Happy Reading!