Today’s career is a self-published autobiography with many chapters where you can write your own story.
When I retired from Cisco Systems – my last chapter of a career in Corporate America - I had the unique experience of receiving an actual book that told much of my career story.
The Essence of Peggy Ballard was created and “published” by my assistant and dear friend Jean Middleton and contained letters, news articles, and photos from people who were a part of my career and life story. Both people who touched my life – and people whose lives I’ve been able to touch. It’s a book I return to from time to time to remind myself that I have much to be proud of and grateful for.
When I look in the rearview mirror and ask myself what connects all the dots of my career story and how I make a difference, so much of it has been about the journey itself. I’ve had the financial rewards, industry recognition and powerful relationships to support my work. But it’s only by making consistent choices along the way and always striving to live up to my potential that I became my passion.
Knowing your passion is about feeling. Becoming your passion is about doing. And that’s how the story of a great career becomes a great life story.
When I began my career over 35 years ago, the narrative was limited and the ending predictable. But while I had no strategy or plan of action, I did have an incredible role model: my mother.
Even within the limited parameters society granted to women at the time, my mother showed me that there are always options. She graduated from high school early, put herself through secretarial school, and started work at age 17. She married, but not until age 30. She had an infectious passion for the work she did, and her work ethic showed me that “doing your best” was more than a slogan.
Like so many women, my career story could have been: teach, marry, have children. The End. But that’s not how it unfolded. Through the role model of my mother, I realized there was always an opportunity to make a powerful choice – and I took every opportunity to do just that.
Choose to follow your potential
To make powerful choices you have to follow and leverage your POTENTIAL, and for me that meant leaving my first job - teaching - to explore the corporate world.
I started off as a great employee. I always gave 110% and kept pushing. I honored my interest in learning technology and slowly found my footing in the corporate world by combining my love of technology with my business teaching skills.
I progressed rapidly in marketing and chose to take the opportunity to move to San Francisco for advancement. From San Francisco, I was transferred to New York and expanded my role to train and coach sales and management leaders. Each move had risk – but I also knew that these choices were powerful opportunities to stretch – to learn and grow and follow my potential.
After two years in New York, I learned the term “layoff.” I began to ask myself, “What do I want in my career?”
What am I good at?”