Thursday, May 20, 2010

Kagan's nomination shows that life experience counts

I've heard a lot of women who are trying to re-enter the workforce worry that they aren't qualified to do much after years of being at home. And I've heard a lot of women who are thinking about switching careers mid-stream worry that they're not qualified to do any job other than the one they're trying to get out of. But the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court is proof positive that one doesn't need to have the perfect work experience in order to be considered qualified for a given job.

While most -- OK, all -- moms I know aren't gunning for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, there is a parallel, which I mentioned over at The 36-Hour Day and which they're talking about over at Babble Magazine: Much of the work we do as a parents helps us hone the skills that apply directly to the work we want to do for pay.

Some of those opposed to Kagan's nomination are focusing on comments she made about the Constitution while working as a clerk for Thurgood Marshall. Others take issue with the fact that, while Dean of Harvard Law School, she barred military recruiters from campus because of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Still others insist that she's not qualified because, even though she has worked in all three branches of government, has spent decades studying Constitutional law, and currently represents the government before the Supreme Court, she has never actually been a judge.

But Kagan isn't the first Supreme Court nominee to not have served as a judge prior to nomination -- not by a long shot. Her former boss, Thurgood Marshall, was a lawyer when he was nominated. Of the eight Supreme Court judges nominated by President Kennedy, President Johnson, and President Nixon, five of them (White, Goldberg, Fortas, Powell, and Rehnquist) hadn't served as judges prior to their nominations. In fact, 14 of the 16 Chief Justices were not judges prior to appointment. And they did just fine.

As work-at-home, stay-at-home, entrepreneurial, or part-time working moms, we've gained skills acting as the CEOs of our families that more than qualify us for the workforce at large. If you're thinking of a career switch, don't justify your decision to leave; focus on the skills you have that make you an asset elsewhere. Rejoining the workforce? Instead of dreading having to explain that so-called resume gap, think about how you can apply the skills you honed at home: scheduling, multitasking, personnel management, communication, budgeting... the list goes on and on.

Elena Kagan is inspirational for what she's already accomplished, regardless of what happens with this nomination.

Parents who are working in so many different ways: What skills have you already gained? And how do they apply to your job, or to what you want to do next?

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