I don’t really get this post–A Career Substitution–at the BusinessWeek Working Parents blog. Guest writer and former museum curator Lori Gilbert writes about well-educated women with specialized skills who left full-time paid work for their children and chose to return as substitute teachers and librarians?! She asks:

Has giving up our full-time work placed us permanently in the category of substitutes?

Heck yeah! And that’s only because you let yourself be placed in that second-tier category.

going to workFrom high school onwards, I have never taken a job that didn’t have some relevance to my future goals. For my first job, I worked as a receptionist at my mother’s company where I learned business etiquette and practices. Later on, I worked as a pharmacy clerk and research assistant at biotech start-ups. While I may not be the full-time professor or researcher that I envisioned for myself 15 years ago, I am still working in my field part-time. If I were no longer involved in science and biotech, I’d feel that I’d wasted the specialized knowledge I gained through many years of hard work and study.

FYI, here’s the comment I left at the blog:

Your experience and anecdote about your friend are both interesting but I have to wonder how smart women could have ended up with less than suitable jobs. I have a PhD in public health (genetic epidemiology) from Johns Hopkins and have an undergrad degree from Stanford that I finished in 3 years (and a quarter) as well. I left the full-time workforce a few years ago to take care of my son and now have another child on the way.

When I was ready to return to paying work, however, I chose to make a “comeback” as a science writer and biotech consultant. Both positions give me even more flexibility that the substitute jobs you’ve mentioned because I work from home. Yet I’m still involved in science and public health.

I fear you may be selling yourselves short by not reaching for jobs that can utilize your full potential and specialized knowledge. For women like us who are experts in our field, it’s a real shame to lose your input and skills in the marketplace!

I’ve learned over the last few years not to sell myself short. And don’t you do it either!

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