Jennifer Beach, 38, is a mom of two girls, Alaina and Rianna, ages 8 and 11, and earlier this year married Jeremy, her new husband. As a quality and process improvement director for a Fortune 500 healthcare company, she loves her job and explains how you can too. She shares with us how she prioritizes her time to achieve a healthy work/life balance and how she relies on others to be a successful working mom and make it through challenging times, like divorce. She describes how she has allowed the difficult situations in life to mold her and grow, and that when life throws you a curve ball like someone you love getting cancer, you have to keep moving forward and living fully. I am honored to know Jen (since the first days I was born, actually, as she’s my cousin) and consider her a dear friend. You will be honored to hear her story and wisdom.
Quoted words are Jen’s, edited for context.
Make sure your personal values are in line with the values of the company you work for to find your dream job.
“I have my dream job. I work for a huge global company where I am the director of a few teams, including project management, data analytics, and reporting. My teams are all over the world, in all time zones. I recently took over a team in India. I know and work with people that come from diverse background. We all work together for a common goal.
I was in a really crummy job before. I left a company where I was really burnt out and went to another job. Even though I was somewhere new I realized I was still not happy. I thought, why am I not happy? What do I not like?
I started to think about what I wanted in a job, what to look for. What are my values? What do I value in my life personally? In work, I like to be innovative and think of new ideas, like my love of adventure and trying new things in my personal life. Integrity is big for me as well. I realized I should look for a company with similar values to my person ones.
I started researching companies I wanted to work for and reading their mission and value statements. My current company said we value these five things: compassion, relationships, integrity, innovation, and performance. This rang true as theirs are pretty similar to my own personal values.
I researched the company further and found it had mixed reviews from employees. Five years before I started they had a bad culture and their CEO worked really hard to turn it around. So I took a leap of faith that the company practices what they preach.
I also wanted a global company that would allow me to travel or move somewhere else in my career. I was also looking for something that had more flexibility. The job I’d had previously was a 9-to-5 suit-and-tie kind of job. Now I am able to work from home.
I love my job because of the company’s values, diversity and global-ness, and the ability to work from home. Cutting out the commute time frees up a couple hours a day for me.”
Don’t seize all opportunities; seize the ones that are in line with your goals.
“For me there’s a fine balance between patience and seizing what you want. And really knowing what it is that you want and going after it. I feel at times in my career I really wanted that next level and I wasn’t getting there so I thought the best thing to do was walk out the door at the promise of something else.
But someone once told me the grass isn’t greener on the other side, it’s just a different shade of green. I had to know what I wanted in order to seize the opportunities that were right for me.
I knew I wanted to lead people. I had to have patience and hold out for what I really wanted and not steer away from what my personal goals were. I looked at what I wanted personally and also how I would benefit from working at the company. At times, I was doing work to benefit others professionally, but was not getting to where I wanted to be in my career.”
Make the world a better place.
“I want to make the world a better place than when I first entered it. I think its in my DNA. I have always seen that piece within me as I look back at my life. It’s something that has always stuck with me, to have compassion.
I need to remember to do it. I get so busy I can stray away from this focus. And when I get too busy, stressed, or feel I’m going to break I have to take a step back and re-focus. It might be as simple as journaling, meditating, sitting in silence with a fire and cup of tea, or going for a run. Anything that allows me time to think. It’s in those moments when I reflect on where I am spending my energy and that’s how I re-focus or re-prioritize. I get energized from helping others.
Even when I felt I couldn’t volunteer any more when I had two little kids at home, I thought I am making this world a better place by raising two caring kids. And now that I’m settled in a new community I started volunteering in my kids’ school and at church. And I was just asked to sit on the school district’s advisory board whose mission is to, “inspire and prepare all students with the confidence, courage, and competence to achieve their dreams; contribute to community; and engage in a lifetime of learning.”
Focus on one priority at a time to achieve a healthy work/life balance.
“I tell my employees that everyone needs to find their own work/life balance and do what works for you. Some like working weekends and some say these are my set hours when I will work and that’s it.
In order to simplify my life I try to focus on only what my top priorities are. And I try to be fully present in whatever I do. Even for this interview, I’ve put my phone down and the dog outside so I can focus on this specific moment in time.
I am reminded of the story of the teacher who brings a jar to her class. She fills it with rocks, and then pebbles, then sand. I focus on the rocks, the big things that are important. In the mornings before the kids get up, the rock I focus on is me. When the kids wake up, I focus on them. And then work becomes my rock. I shift which rock I focus on throughout the day.
All the other things are just noise. If someone wants me to help them move or do something else, I will fit it in if I can, but I focus on the big things that fill up the jar first. I focus on them one at a time instead of all of them at once.”
It takes a village. Rely on others, especially through something like divorce.
“And I rely on others. It does take a village. It takes a village to be successful and raise kids. I want my kids to be interdependent and successful in the world. When I was in England I learned that they did not use the word independent for their kids. Instead they want their kids to be interdependent, to function on their own while relying on others. When I went through my divorce I asked for help a lot.
I have heard the saying and adopted it myself: It’s a lot harder to go through divorce than to stay in an unhappy marriage. Because you don’t know what’s on the other side. You know the crap you already have to deal with in your marriage, but you don’t know what life will be like after divorce. Every day is sort of a battle walking into the unknown. I relied on my village. And therapy helped.
The hardest part of it was that I had to be the rock for my kids. My ex-husband had his own things he was going through so it fell a lot on just me. I had to make time for myself. My kids went to bed a lot earlier at that time! I would have a cup of tea or take a bath or meditate. I did that to help ground myself and deal.
I compartmentalized. I focus on my kids, then found the time to grieve rather than deal with it all at once. I took time to go through it, deal with it, and cry and break down. Fortunately, after a while, I was able to carve time out to do that at safe times.
It was hard. I didn’t have a lot of friends who had been through divorce so I leaned on those that I could. It was a really joyous time to see myself on the other end of it. My cousin Stacy and I went out when I wasn’t sure if I would leave my ex-husband yet and she asked me, “Do you know who Jenni is?”
I didn’t know for sure. I was so much part of this team being a mom and a wife, but what did I like? I had to rediscover who I was.”
Make a grand gesture to signify you are moving on!
“The other piece was my trip to Europe with the girls. It was the closing chapter on my divorce and something my therapist nudged me to do. It was a way for me to move on with my kids and share something I love with them: my love of travel. I lived in England before I knew their father so it was a way to share a piece of me with them that their father didn’t know about.
I was really nervous about it. Three weeks away in foreign countries with a 6 and 10 year-old and myself as the only adult! I took a leap of faith and just did it. My therapist said to me, you have been to Europe before, you will figure it out. And I did.
It felt so good! Seeing Rianna’s sense of accomplishment when I taught her how to navigate the London Underground. I know that both of my kids can play with kids from other countries, speak a little of other languages, and won’t be afraid to order food in another language because they have done it before. Alaina now wants to move to Belgium and Rianna wants to go to college in England!
I am most proud of my kids, who they are and what they are becoming. I like knowing that I had a little part in that. I can’t take credit for all of their success and they are still young, but despite what life has brought them, they are resilient young ladies that will become strong women.”
By dating many people, you get a clearer understanding of what you want in your significant other.
“After my divorce, I started dating a lot sooner than most people do. I went to bed one night after our three-week trip in Europe and realized I was ok being alone. I had to be ok with who I was before I was able to let anyone else into my life.
I also needed an idea of who a new guy in my life had to be before I would let him in. You will not likely marry the first person you date. But by dating you will learn what you like and don’t like. You can take this information into your other relationships then.
Finally I got to a point where I met a man (Jeremy) where I was able to check off all the boxes I was looking for. I had really high standards because I was ok with being alone.”
When life throws you a curve ball, like cancer, keep living your life.
“I reconnected with Jeremy and then we were married in January. In February, he got a cancer diagnosis. He went in for a routine eye exam, then after a series of tests and doctors, was told he had cancer.
The first day of the diagnosis was crazy. We went into autopilot mode, but needed time alone to process. By myself, I cried the whole time. Later with Jeremy we cried together and asked what this means for our lives. We had been looking at buying a new house and he said, I don’t want to leave you with a house if something happens to me.
But I didn’t want to stop living my life. People deal with cancer every day. Or someone gets in an accident and you are on one income and you figure it out. I wasn’t going to let it stop us from living.
There’s this cycle with cancer. We recover and get back to living our life, and then get notice of a follow up appointment. We hold our breath through the appointment then breathe a sigh of relief or deal with the prognosis. I am not going to stop living. Instead, I will deal with it as it comes.
With the kids, the biggest thing is deciding when to allow them into the information we have. And then how to share it with them and what to do about it. I wanted the girls to hear about Jeremy’s cancer from me, so we told them together and were able to answer their questions. We are keeping them informed as best as we can with what’s appropriate for their age. We are not hiding or keeping a secret because they sense when something is wrong.”
Allow the circumstances of your life to mold you and contribute to your growth.
“So much shit has happened to me but it’s the reason that I am who I am today. I allowed my life circumstances to mold me. I learned and grew through them. I let it change me instead of devouring me and throwing me into despair. We can let things stop us in our tracks or we can choose to continue down the road of life.
One thing that affected me tremendously was being raped my sophomore year of college. I allowed the experience to mold me. I didn’t stuff it inside of me; instead I learned from it and grew a ton. I became a sexual assault counselor certified by the state of Minnesota and I started helping other victims.
From that I learned how to use my voice. I learned coping skills and how to deal. If I would not have gone through that I think I would have literally died when going through my divorce. But I had coping skills and I made it through. I look back and think being raped was a blessing because it helped me survive my divorce.
God works in mysterious ways and we never know the plans he has for us. Jeremy and I dated briefly in high school which laid just enough foundation for us to meet and fall in love later in life. We met and were married at the last possible second before he got cancer and we were able to go through it together. It’s crazy how things happen.”
Meditation is powerful. Start a daily practice NOW!
“As far as inspiration, Oprah and Deepak put together meditations and every quarter they release a free 21-day meditation. They also offer ones you can pay for. I have done their free 21-day meditation programs for the past 2 years. They have all happened for me at just the right time with whatever I needed in life at the time. From finding your spiritual self to gaining strength in times of adversity, I look out for them. (Not that I’m trying to sell these, but they have one starting up again on October 30th!)”
Now your turn. Journal or reflect on the following. Even share your thoughts in the comments below!
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