Careers don’t always follow a straight path. In fact, more often than not there are detours, timeouts and reboots. That reality is the inspiration behind our Career Journeys series, spotlighting people who have taken unique and inspiring journeys in the course of their careers.
The last profile in the series features Michele Gonzalez, a former Army Captain and Iraqi veteran, Ironman, marathon and ultra-marathon runner and mom of two who recently returned to working full-time. She’s also known as NYC Running Mama, the name of her popular and inspiring blog – with over 49,000 followers on Instagram alone – about running, motherhood and life.
Here’s what Michele had so say about her Career Journey.
What would you consider to be the single most significant transition or comeback that you’ve made during your career, and why?
After 6 years in the military and one short year in the corporate world, I decided to stay at home after my first son was born. Six months turned into a year which soon turned into two and before I knew it, I had been at home for almost five years.
Last summer, I made the decision that I was ready to return to work outside the home and to starting my career in the corporate world again. It's been almost a year at JP Morgan and I could not be happier!
Was this transition or comeback made as the result of a personal decision, or were external factors involved? Please explain!
The return to work outside the home was a result of missing the intellectual stimulation that I had experienced when I was in the military. I like being challenged – and although I was challenged in other ways being a stay at home mom – I missed the intellectual challenge that goes with working outside of the home. I don't regret my decision to stay home and raise my boys at all – but I'm incredibly happy to be back in a fast-paced intellectual environment.
Did you think about making this transition or comeback for a long time, or was it a more sudden decision?
The return had been on my mind for years. It was meant to be just a short term break from work when my oldest son was born. I was unhappy in my position (at the time), so my husband and I decided that I would take some time off, spend time with our child and I would look for a job. Well, six months turned into a year – and then I found out I was pregnant with baby #2. So the return to work got pushed until after he was born. At that point, however, we decided to wait a bit longer since my husband was in the process of buying a company (which was located in Buffalo, NY and required a lot of travel). We decided that it wasn't the best time for me to return – so I pushed it back until his work travel subsided and the boys were both in school (which was last summer). During that time, it was always on my mind. I looked at job openings frequently to see what was available but did not start actively pursuing jobs until last summer.
Describe the specific challenges you encountered in the course of your career transition or comeback? Did they make the process more rewarding or just more difficult?
The biggest challenge I faced was that my entire background and professional experience was in the military and the crossover to corporate experience was often difficult to make. On paper, I wasn't qualified for most of the jobs because I lacked the required experience (or my experience didn't align completely). It definitely made the return more difficult and frustrating but eventually, I found some recruiters who were experienced with service members and who could help push my resume in the right directions.
Would you consider your career transition or comeback a success? Why or why not?
I'd like to think it was! I am 11 months into the "return" and have not felt this amount of satisfaction in a long time – work, life, family, running – all are adding to my happiness at the moment and it's a satisfying place to be.
What did you learn about yourself as a result of making this career change?
I always sell myself short. I would read the required job qualifications and feel that I was under qualified or wouldn't be able to perform the job. It was my husband who pushed me to apply for these jobs. I've learned that just because I don't know something now doesn't mean I don't have the ability to learn it and become proficient. Believe in yourself and your ability.