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Changing Careers: Maggie Mistal Inspires Moms to Actionable First Steps 

By Ellen Bari

When was the last time you tapped into your core genius?  According to Maggie Mistal, career consultant extraordinaire, chances are you do it every day. In fact, Maggie maintains that it’s likely that you’re already doing what you do best and that in the face of an ever-changing employment landscape, you are the best source of your own job stability. She should know. Maggie was consulting at Arthur Andersen when Enron fired a torpedo at that company and at Martha Stewart Living when Martha was asked to take a brief hiatus… at a women’s correctional institution. Maggie came out the other end, finding her true career bliss and has spent the rest of her career helping others find theirs. At an inspiring event hosted by Park Slope Parents Career Networking at the spacious, green Brooklyn Creative League space, Maggie offered insight and some great hands-on exercises to a group of Park Slope moms interested in exploring career changes.

Maggie’s tried and true three-step process, Soul search, Research, Job search, seems entirely obvious, but the reality is that most people who find themselves jobless usually go straight for the job search, without engaging in these other fundamental steps.  As part of the soul search phase, Maggie had each member of the group write their own mission statement with the help of an easy-to-use tool that incorporated a Mad Libs style format. Participants were prompted with verb choices which included teach, share, lead, communicate, illuminate, etc., ‘core values’ terms like creativity, beauty, abundance, etc., and general recommendations for the group, cause or field one would like to be associated with. Participants quickly defined their mission statements in very broad strokes, and a few even dared to share what it is they would really like to be doing.  This was followed by an exercise in writing one’s vision statement, a longer and less fill-in-the-blank exercise, which invited participants to articulate what their perfect work day would look like.  Not surprisingly, one after the other participant described creative, helping, nurturing occupations, where there was ample quality time with the kids, conflicts with scheduling were non-existent and office spaces resembled a combination of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and Architectural Digest . This part of the evening became quite emotional, as moms shared their hopes and dreams for themselves from deep within. Were the tears an indication of how far we feel from these lofty goals? Or is it simply really scary to verbalize the kind of work and world we would like to create for ourselves?

The action steps for the research and job search phases of the process, though perhaps less emotional, are no less essential.  Maggie recommends activities like conducting informational interviews with people you perceive as having your dream job, finding a mentor, reading about other successful career transformations for inspiration, and shadowing someone whose career you find intriguing. Along with the obvious resume revision and working your family and friends contacts lists, Maggie is a strong believer in volunteering to gain experience in your chosen field, for those who can afford the time.

A few moms questioned whether the flowering vision statements reflected reality, suggesting that financial and family pressures often stand in the way of ‘having it all.’ One woman mentioned the fact that most of her financially successful friends are not actually doing what they love to do. Maggie said she knows many people who are living the dream, and simply recommended the following: “expand your network.” I think what Maggie was implying is that it is important to surround yourself with people who are inspirational to you and who can serve as role models for lives well lived. Maggie maintains that when people are doing what they love, or actively moving in that direction, that they seem to find more time and have more energy to achieve their goals. She pointed to her personal experience growing up. In her late twenties, with small children at home, Maggie’s mother went to back medical school, having successfully created a family structure that worked to support everyone’s needs, including her own!  She maintains that when mothers carve a path for themselves that is truly fulfilling, children admire their effort and value their success.  We were left with a lot think about and a very concrete homework assignment: What steps can you take this month to get you closer to your ideal career?

The group took up the gauntlet and immediately started running with it. In the hours and days that followed the event, there has literally been a string of emails among the participants, with the word BUZZ in the subject line, referring to the energy and excitement that was generated in that one session.  There is a movement afoot to harness the motivation that was unearthed at the event and get a group together on a regular basis to continue to work through the process. The evening also spurred a very organic interest in sharing resources, contacts, and support- all seemingly obvious take-aways from networking events, though this program seems to have inspired a very authentic call to action.

In light of the buzz, and to further all of our member’s progress in achieving real joy and peace in their lives, Momasphere and Park Slope Career Networking are thrilled to be hosting another truly inspirational speaker and internationally recognized authority on leadership applying the new science of happiness. Cathy Greenberg, PhD., author of What Happy Working Mothers Know, among numerous other books on the subject, will be offering a live video event on April 18th at noon (EST). Pls. visit our event page to read more about it! After speaking with Cathy to plan the event, I can assure you that she will inspire anyone who tunes in to find a way to experience happiness each and every day. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THE EVENT!

As far as career change goes, for the select group of women who had the opportunity to hear this message delivered by Maggie directly, as well as for the rest of us who did not, one thing is certain: if you do nothing, nothing will change.


Ellen Bari, a freelance writer and creative consultant, is the co-founder of Momasphere, which creates innovative programs for moms in and out of the workplace.  Ms. Bari has developed award-winning multimedia, exhibits and programs for children and adults for clients including Sesame Workshop, US Holocaust Memorial Museum and American Express. Jumping Jenny, her upcoming picture book (Lerner Publishing) will be out next spring.

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