Kitchen table a 'safe haven' for considering life changes

By Jane R. Elgass

Laurita Thomas emphasized developing a plan for change, committing yourself to the plan and enlisting the support of colleagues and friends if you're considering a job change. She addressed an appreciative audience of more than 650 at the March 5 People of Color Conference. Photo by Bob Kalmbach
Your kitchen table, or that of a colleague or friend, just might be the spot from which you'll launch your next step up the career ladder.

Talk among friends, offering tips and ideas about what may or may not work, is one of the best forms of support and networking one can have in a world in which the doors to more fulfilling jobs are not opening as easily as they once did.

And if you're serious about that climb up the ladder, or want to change jobs to prepare you for that next step, you first must make a commitment to yourself to do all that is necessary to effect that change, Laurita Thomas told an appreciative audience at the annual People of Color Task Force Conference on March 5. More than 670 people attended the conference, which is sponsored by the Women of Color Task Force.

Thomas noted that even though she has a beautiful, color-coordinated living room that dreams are made of, the important work gets done at the kitchen table.

That's where the major decisions are made-in a comfortable, non-pressured environment that permits exploration of all the options. The friends and colleagues sharing your pot of tea are your network and your support system as you try to map out the next few months of your life. You trust them and they trust you, giving everyone the freedom to express themselves, Thomas explained.

Her remarks brought sharper focus to a skit performed prior to her address by five women, sitting around a table topped by a red-and-white-checked tablecloth, all working to help a friend sort out her life and determine what she wants, having decided that her current job of two years doesn't hold any more challenges.

First and foremost, Thomas and the role-players emphasized, is developing a plan and committing yourself to that plan. If you need to develop new skills or sharpen others, take a look at courses that are available through Human Resource Development and the Information Technology Division.

Once you've developed a plan and committed to seeing it through, put out the word and let everyone know what you'd like to accomplish. If you're a bit shy and not about to shout out your desires to the world, participate in activities in which you're comfortable, possibly groups at church or your child's school, and quietly let others know about your goal.

In determining what you'd like to do, don't overlook the opportunity to change the job you're in. Maybe your current job can be enhanced in a way that will satisfy you, allowing you to stay in a setting in which you're already comfortable. And it's to the supervisor's advantage to retain staff members who know what needs to be done and have the skills to it.

Thomas, who started at the University 25 years and 12 promotions ago as a diploma clerk, acknowledged the support system that has helped her along the way, including her mother, her sons and her father, as well as staff from Health System Human Resources where she is human resources administrator and assistant director-personnel.

Alluding to the conference theme of "Ready, Set, Go TEAM," Thomas noted that the strength of that bridge over troubled water lies in teamwork, noting that it's OK to give as well as receive. Key to successful teamwork, no matter the level or circumstances, Thomas emphasized, is hard work and a unity of purpose that is based on trust among the members, all elements combining to build a foundation of commitment.

The unity of purpose you developed with your colleagues before you embarked on the journey will give you a foothold when you need it, a chance to reflect and renew your commitment, Thomas noted. And when you reach the peak, reflect on your heritage and get ready to sit down at the kitchen table with one of your colleagues who's thinking about looking for a new job.

You received. Now it's your chance to give.