Anne’s Winding Path
Anne Osmer is a friend & the partner of another friend from graduate school. She’s an example of someone who did a variety of different kinds of work from Communications to Real Estate Salesperson and is currently the Operations & Marketing Manager for Ethos Development Partners, LLC. .Anne, 52, resides near Detroit, MI and currently holds a BA in French Literature and is about to start a low-residency MFA in Writing program with the University of Nebraska Omaha.
In two-three sentences how would you describe what you do most days/weeks? In addition to writing each morning, I handle the back-end operations for the small business my husband started. I handle human resources, payroll, bookkeeping, insurance matters and the like. I also handle marketing.
What did you want to be when you were eight? A writer.
What did you learn about work that you learned from your family? It was very important to do something to support oneself, especially as a woman. My parents divorced when I was nine, and I watched as my mom struggled to support our family. Thankfully she was pursuing a master’s in social work when they divorced and eventually landed a stable job in development (fundraising).
What professional experiences/employers had the greatest impact on you? I’ve always been an observer of people and how they relate to one another, so I think the greatest impact on me has been the stories I’ve absorbed from those I’ve worked with, as well as experiencing how humans exist within human-created power structures. The longest job I had was with Reed Business Information which was part of a large, international corporation with a rigid hierarchical structure. I saw how workers’ lives were affected when, for example, a new CEO took over who did not last long but whose policies had lasting effects. (One example: He took away Summer Fridays, at the time a beloved perk of the New York City publishing industry.) I learned many useful things working at Reed, for example diplomacy and how one goes about getting what one wants – how to play the game, so to speak. I met people who are still my friends. I was a hard worker and liked being part of a team. That’s very interesting to me now, because what I relish now is finding time alone to write.
What is something about your career journey that people might not expect? Well, I’m about to embark on a new journey that many people aren’t aware of, and that’s going back to school to get an MFA in writing, with a concentration in fiction.
Why did you pivot? In elementary school, our kids had to do a unit on wants and needs. They went to the dollar store and had three dollars to spend, two on “needs” and one on a “want.” I’m pursuing an MFA in writing now as a need. It’s something I’ve needed to do for a long time, something I’ve put off. Any kind of artistic endeavor can be difficult to pursue in our results-driven culture – we are supposed to pursue education as a means to an end, the end being to get a better or different job, to gain a tangible, material outcome. A degree in art feels frivolous. (You can see my childhood emphasis on the importance of supporting oneself coming in here.) I’ve had a lot of therapy to start the process of listening to my needs and pursuing them. I’ve worked hard in various jobs for many years, making a good living, and will continue to work as I get this degree, but I can still hear myself justifying why I’m doing it! To answer the question more succinctly: I’m pivoting because if I don’t, I will starve my soul.
What skills were portable from what you had been doing previously and what was brand new to you? My core skills of writing and critical thinking have served me well in every job I’ve had. These are skills I learned in high school and college. A decent education in liberal arts will take you far.
What was the hardest part about making a career pivot? Starting an MFA in writing is a big leap for me. My goal is to flip the balance of my life to favor writing as my main endeavor. Thus far in this interview I haven’t talked about the other responsibilities in my life. Our patriarchal society (yes, still) insists on making many of the tasks that people – mostly women – do invisible or not important. This is true especially if one has children. Keeping the house running, creating and maintaining schedules (childcare, medical, lessons, sports, etc.), figuring out meals, making holidays happen – men and fathers typically don’t hold overall responsibility for these tasks. They’re expected to “help out” of course, but they’re not usually in charge of making them happen. My husband is amazing and it’s not his fault that it has mostly fallen to me
to initiate these tasks. Through therapy I’m learning to let go and know that it’s not only okay to fulfill my needs, it’s imperative.
What were the most important lessons you’ve picked up along the way? It’s never too late to follow your dream. That sounds terribly cliché, and I suspect it’s also terribly American in sensibility, but there you have it.
What would you say to others who are doubting their ability to make a change in their career/vocation? Just take the first step and then see how you feel. Reach out to that person who may mentor you, do some research on that program you’re interested in, listen to that voice inside you. Get some outside help from a therapist or life coach who may be able to objectively give advice and guide you.
Where did you get the confidence and support to make such a change? I did a lot of introspection and realized that I had to make this change. My husband has been very supportive. We are both artistic people – his art is music – so that helps.
What was the hardest thing you had to overcome in your professional life? A couple of times I’ve been promised promotions that didn’t happen, despite me holding up my end of the bargain. I had to leave a job for that reason – the organization was horizontal in structure but with very few people at the top, with no plans to add leadership or growth positions. There was nowhere for me – or other employees – to grow.
What is something about your career journey that people might not expect? I worked at the Bronx Zoo for a few years. Our office was in front of the sea lion exhibit and we would hear them barking throughout the day. My colleagues and I would often tour the zoo at lunchtime. There was a special café for employees only, tucked in the woods, that served excellent grilled cheese. I wonder if that café is still there.
What, if anything, are you hoping happens next in your professional life? Here’s a new one for me: I’m leaving it open. I’m not placing expectations on what happens after my MFA. I need that open space to learn as much as I can, to immerse myself in writing, reading and learning, to experience those as deeply as possible. I’ve never done that before. What comes next will come.