Lessons from a Working Woman

By Katie, 5:43 am

How time does fly and how things do change! Since I started writing Health for the Whole Self, I’ve gone from being a full-time graduate student penny-pincher to a full-time 9-to-5 money machine penny-pincher. :lol:

Actually, I’m excited to share that I had my 6-month review at work this week, during which I was told that I’ll be getting a small raise! It was, of course, very welcome news, in part because of the money but mostly because it affirms that my work is appreciated.


Just look at these happy people, hard at work on their charts!

In honor of this good news, I thought it would be appropriate to examine some of the lessons I’ve learned during these past six months in the professional world.

7 Lessons I’ve Learned from My 9-5 Life

1. Plant the seeds.

From the outside, it can look like my job just sort of rolled into my lap: there just happened to be an opening at an organization that I just happened to visit during an internship that I just happened to get at the end of my graduate school stint.

But I honestly believe those opportunities didn’t just happen accidentally. Rather, I was planting the seeds from the very beginning, even though I didn’t know what might sprout. I treated every situation as an opportunity that could lead to positive things down the road, and some of them did.

2. I plan…and God laughs.

Like I mentioned above, I had no idea which – if any – of my planted seeds would sprout. But of course I had some hopes! Well, not surprisingly, those hopes didn’t pan out exactly as I might have liked, but what did pan out turned out to be better than what I even imagined! Just another lesson in letting go and letting life develop as it will.

3. There are many, many people in need…

…but also many, many people dedicating their lives to responding to that need. I work for a grant-making Foundation, and we fund a wide variety of nonprofit organizations in the Baltimore area. My job allows me to connect with compassionate people finding innovative solutions to the community’s toughest problems, and their commitment inspires me every day.

4. As my life changes, so does my body…and that’s ok.

In May I was running a half-marathon, and my body reflected that. Then I started working full-time, while continuing to write this blog, and the intense training schedule no longer fit into my lifestyle. The body I inhabit today reflects this new lifestyle I’m leading; I’m juggling more responsibilities, my schedule is less flexible than ever before, and a scaled-back exercise routine is both necessary and welcome.  And that’s ok. (Thanks, Megan!)

My body is still healthy and I’m still taking care of myself, but what that actually looks like has changed a bit. To me this is totally natural and logical: my life changed and my body did too. It makes more sense to embrace it than to fight against it.

5. Mistakes can be handled gracefully.

Everyone makes mistakes in all facets of life, and the working world is no exception. I’ve certainly made my share in these past six months. But I’ve learned that they are not the end of the world, or at least they don’t have to be. I’ve learned to embrace my errors by taking responsibility, apologizing (but only once, otherwise it gets annoying!), and immediately taking the necessary steps to remedy the situation.

6. A good boss truly cares about his/her employees.

I have been truly blessed; my boss is an incredibly kind man, and my more immediate supervisor is an extremely friendly, helpful woman. These two people – in addition to my other wonderful co-workers – have demonstrated to me what being in charge is really about. They guide me. They support me. They challenge me. And they obviously want the best for me. It makes all the difference, and should I ever be in a position of supervising others, I hope to follow their example.

7. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

That immediate supervisor I just mentioned? The first month I was in her office all the time, constantly asking questions or requesting clarification. Even six months in I still find myself coming across problems or dilemmas I can’t solve myself. But instead of being afraid to ask questions – instead of worrying I’m going to come off as annoying or incompetent – I am straightforward about my stumbling blocks. That approach has proved less stressful and more fruitful than any other.  

What’s your full-time gig? (pssst: stay-at-home-mom definitely counts!) What life lesson has it taught you?


I’m curious: any thoughts you’d like to add on Lesson #4?

40 Responses to “Lessons from a Working Woman”

  1. I am a wellness coach and blogger as well a coach to fellow wellness coaches teaching them how to blog. :D

    Yeah, it’s pretty cool.

    And it has taught me a lot about life, myself and the way the universe works.

    About # 4, my body has changed as well because I am actually able to exercise more than before. But I have also taken to the kind of exercise that actually works for my body rather than against it. Now, I mainly do walking and yoga as well as learning how to hula hoop (which I hope to teach someday soon!) but that works for my body. But I do think it is important to embrace where we are – both in life and in our physical selves in order to be most happy.

    What I have learned the most is that fighting what is is a never ending battle, it belittles who we are and ultimately makes us miserable. When we embrace where we are, we thrive.

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Christie Inge, Katie McLaughlin. Katie McLaughlin said: Lessons from a Working Woman http://goo.gl/fb/2ziAY [...]

  3. It’s so important to have a supportive boss. Not many people have that!

    And I love how you pointed out the change in your body reflecting your life right now. So many people strive to keep a body that desperately needs to fit in to your habits. This is where trouble happens.

    Right now I work as a Chiropractors assistant and I’m going to school to be a natural foods chef!

    I think that lesson #4 is that you just can’t do it all. I try to do everything myself and end up getting burnt out and stressed. I must learn that its ok to sit down for 10min before the dishes get done. And it’s ok to ask for help!

    • Katie says:

      Well-said, Val! I hadn’t thought of it quite like that, but you’re right: lesson #4 is about accepting/embracing the fact that I am not Superwoman, and that’s ok!

      By the way, I think you are going to be an AWESOME natural foods chef!

  4. Did you write this just for me today? Even though my work is the stay at home mom thing, I relate so much to the parts about planting seeds…then letting GOD do what He will because its His plan and letting him have control is a good thing. Also, the part about the body changing to reflect the current stage in life. I’m getting to the frustrated with my body change, but really I need to embrace it because it has to happen for what is going on inside of me right now. Thanks, Katie. :)

    • Katie says:

      I’m glad I put the stay-at-home-mom thing in there…I get very frustrated when people act like that’s not a job, when in fact it requires MORE hours and MORE effort than most office gigs.

      I’m glad you could relate to the post, and – as always – thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights! :)

  5. Full time gig: academic law librarian, meaning librarian in a law school — I’ve learned that getting enough sleep is vital so that I can maintain some concentration and quality of work all day long.

    On No. 4: I struggle with this. I struggle to exercise like I did before I started this job a year ago, and I’m still trying to accept in my heart that it’s okay that I can’t do it all… I know it in my head, but I haven’t exactly become OKAY with it yet. I’m working on it.

    • Katie says:

      I totally get that – the whole “knowing” something in your head but not yet fully believing it/accepting it in your heart. I’m in that same place with several issues right now, actually.

  6. I am an Analyst and I do math much of the day as well as chair a committee on one specific subject.

    I’ve learned that being consistently direct and honest (as long as you are also respectful) ensures that people trust you, and that’s really important for getting new responsibilities.

    About #4, I think exercise and the rest of life need to be balanced. Sometimes, I literally schedule meetings around my lunchtime classes. Other times, the workout schedule shifts to accommodate the rest of my life. That’s life, and it’s nothing to feel bad about!

  7. Sarah says:

    Congratulations on your raise!
    I’m an Adult Basic Education Instructor for welfare clients. This job…has taught me quite a bit. It’s taught me about learning and speaking cultural languages, about patience, about loving even if you don’t see the “end result,” about working with “difficult” people, about being bold and doing what needs to be done (even when that means my clients don’t “like” me), about trusting God, and sitting in a difficult place when I just want to run.

    • Katie says:

      On behalf of, let’s say, the entire world, I thank you for the work that you’re doing. It must be hard to not always see the fruits of your efforts, but you are making such an important difference in people’s lives.

      • Sarah says:

        Katie, I think the same (you are making such an importance difference in people’s lives) of you. Thank you so much for encouraging me..it sure doesn’t feel like those words are true a lot of the time, but it is like music to hear them!

  8. Full-time gig: freelance writer (but I don’t get paid full-time LOL). At one time my full-time gig was plastics industry trade magazine editor

    Lesson? If you’re able (and lucky enough) to put time into your passion it will eventually pay off. And the lesson from my previous gig? Don’t force your right-brained self into a left-brained career :-)

    #4: “Perhaps the physical body is not who we really are. Perhaps we are these invisible souls walking around, and the body is just an instrument or metaphor for something we are trying to learn.” Dr. Jeff Rediger (as seen on Oprah yesterday)

  9. Katie, I just stumbled upon your blog and love it!

    I feel like I have learned similar lessons since I graduated from grad school 1 1/2 years ago. I also work at an organization that I was “planting seeds” at long before I began working there and things just worked out.

    I love working here because I feel appreciated, my boss treats me well and I have learned a lot.

    I also was not working out as much my first 6 months in the real world. I thought it was really important to learn to adjust to my new lifestyle. Now, I run most mornings. I found that my morning runs made me more optimistic and more productive. I also think it depends on the person. If running is a great outlet, then work in the running. If you have something else as an outlet, do that.

    Thanks for the great post!

    • Katie says:

      Thanks, Sarah! I appreciate your insights, especially because it seems like we have a lot in common. :)

  10. These are great lessons. I don’t have much to add on #4 since I’m not working a tradition 9-5 but I can totally see how your ability to work out and therefore maybe experiencing body changes can occur depending on your work schedule.

    I love #6 though.. it’s great to receive mentorship from your boss and not just be told what to do from them…

  11. Jill says:

    I’m a nurse (just got my BSN in May and started working late in the summer). Needless to say, I’m still learning so much about so many aspects of my profession. Nursing has definitely taught me a lot about managing my time, thinking critically, having a non-judgmental attitude toward ALL types of people and staying calm when the day’s events don’t go my way. Of course some days are really tough, but I’m lucky to work with a group of really amazing and supportive people.

    Totally second #2, #5, and #7!

    • Katie says:

      Congrats to you! It sounds like you are working hard, learning a lot, and making a difference in people’s lives all at the same time. :)

  12. Heather says:

    Congrats on the raise Katie! I am thankful that my current position allows me to be flexible and I have a really caring boss. Unfortunately, I hate the work I am doing. I am a coastal geologist doing accounting. It does not jive!

  13. I am a therapist and am totally in love with my career.

    I love these lessons and I particularly resonated with #2 about how futile our plans can be! It can sometimes be frustrating to think that my years of hard work might not lead me down the exact path I had envisioned, but then I take a step back and realize that 99% of the time the path I didn’t envision is the best one for me. The universe has a way of working itself out.

  14. Remember that as long as youo’re exercising, that’s all that matters. It’s when you stop completely that it’s a problem!

  15. I really enjoyed this post, great tips and reminders (especially that your body will change and that’s okay!) My full time gig is school. Working on a 10 page paper right now isn’t exactly letting me workout as much as I’d like to!

  16. Becca says:

    I’m a self-employed accountant. I had begun to forget how much I love the flexibility that comes with my job until I started helping my Dad out this week. It has not been fun!

  17. Megan says:

    You’re so welcome, Katie. Thank you, too; and congratulations on the raise and a job well done :)

  18. Tracy says:

    I really enjoyed this post. You have a good perspecive about how work fits into life balance and how it is impossible to “do it all.” I’ve worked full time for 17 years and you will see that the balance shifts as you go through life. There have been times that I could maintain a regular work out schedule and other times when I couldn’t. Over the years my body has definietly reflected lifestyle. No doubt.

    • Katie says:

      Thanks for this comment. It’s good to hear that what I’m experiencing happens to many people; it really is quite natural.

  19. I already wanted to comment on #4 before you asked that!

    “As my life changes, so does my body…and that’s ok.”

    I really think this is a good one. One time my mom was talking about my grandpa and she said something like this as part of whatever she was saying about him. Like, “you know, you’re body changes at different times in your life a little bit depending on what’s going on.” She said it like it’s a perfectly normal and ok thing. It struck me at the time because I had never thought about that being ok before. I think people have a sort of set point but that the set point is more of a set range that is individual and natural for them depending on what is going on.

  20. Hi! I’ve just started reading you blog and love to read about other blogging/working women! I’m finishing up my PhD in Psychology and will finally be going on my internship next year, which I’m actually looking forward to having a consistent schedule instead of the grad school craziness.
    I also noticed you live in Baltimore – my home town! I went to Loyola and then worked at Hopkins for a while. I’d love to know more about what you do because I work in the schools with at-risk kids so I definitely hear you on populations in need.

    • Katie says:

      Hi, Lindsey! Congratulations on finishing up your PhD – very exciting stuff!

      Very cool that you are from Baltimore. I’m actually going to send you an e-mail, so hopefully we can chat a little bit more! :)

  21. sophia says:

    I’m a full-time student now…and the homework, stress, and future instability of it all feels more like a 24-hour thing to me. Probably the same thing as motherhood.

    I don’t see the problem in #4. A normal, healthy person don’t run 8-12 miles a day. I wouldn’t call that healthy; I’d call that abusing your body. You could do that when you’re young for awhile, but so many bodies are not adaptable to that and that is why a lot of people get injuries.

    My bro said something that really hit me. He is skinny like a string bean right now, but he said, when he’s 40, he doesn’t mind getting a nice pot belly, and a bit of flab. Because that’s what happens when you age. And you look natural and happy at that age with a bit of flab, he said. But then, he also said he doesn’t wanna get bald like his daddy…lol.

    • Katie says:

      Ha! I completely agree with you – I hope that I didn’t write #4 in a way that implies I think it’s a “problem,” because I certainly don’t. All I meant was that this experience is teaching me that our bodies are MEANT to change, it’s a natural thing, just like your brother said. Unfortunately that’s not always the message we get.

  22. Ahh, I needed this!! Even though I work a 9-5 job right now, it’s very flexible and different from what I’ll be embarking on in the near future.

    I think that #1 is especially important, for sure! In fact, it’s something I should probably start practicing right about now…

  23. Right now I work at a public library, as close to 9-5 as I can get. Its taught me not everyone can be a good supervisor/manager. Some people are more suited to the task than others. (Which is making me wonder if I’m suited to be a supervisor/manager.)

    As for #4, I really think we should learn to roll with the punches when it comes to what life dishes out. (Easier said than done, I know.) If you had the time and inclination to train for a race, awesome. But if your work schedule doesn’t really allow for that level of dedication–or if you don’t even want to train for a race–thats ok. As long as you are healthy and treating your body right, that is the most important thing.

  24. [...] do believe we have the power to work towards goals and pursue a better life. As Katie mentioned in her post this morning, we take action and plant seeds of opportunity that can later take fruition. Yet we, [...]

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