Work and Life: Inseparable From the Start
Copied with permission from the Preface to the book Running for Office, Getting yourself elected to the career you really want by Mary Anne Gale with Shelley Cowan
I graduated from Michigan State University in 1971, and moved to Washington D.C., where I found a job working for the U.S. Selective Service. This was a period in American history when the country was still torn apart by the war in Vietnam. The President had decided to end mandatory service in favor of an all-volunteer military; the Selective Service, an independent federal agency within the executive branch of the U.S. government, was responsible for implementing the change. I was hired to serve as a youth advisor liaison, helping the states and the federal government hammer out the details of the new system. I reported to the agency director, who reported to President Nixon. It was an exciting time, an exiting job, and I felt like I was making a contribution.
I'd only been in Washington for six months when my grandmother had a stroke. She moved into my family home near Lansing, Michigan, and I moved back home to help my mother take care of her. While I was disappointed to leave my job, I did not necessarily have my heart set on a career in Washington. I knew I wanted to be at home, where I could make a different kind of contribution and get the kind of reward that comes from being with family. In Lansing, I found work at a small retail department chain as a personnel manager. My primary responsibility was training. While not nearly as exciting as my Washington job, it was still challenging and rewarding. I realized that I liked teaching others - and that I was good at it.
I stayed in Lansing for a year and a half, until my grandmother was well enough to move back into her own home. I married my college sweetheart and moved again, this time to Indian River, a small town in northern Michigan where Bob, my husband, was hired to teach history and coach the basketball team.
I was prepared for the fact that it might be tough to find an interesting and challenging job. But like my decision to move from Washington to Lansing, this was a decision I made with the belief that my work - although vitally important to me - was just one part of my life.
There were no opportunities for me in Indian River, but Procter & Gamble (P&G), the largest consumer products company in the world, had a manufacturing plant in nearby Cheboygan. Armed with a bachelor's degree in retailing and great recommendations from my previous bosses, I approached P&G and was hired as an employee-relations specialist.