Janet Hanson provides insight on how to balance work and love.
In 1987, I resigned from a blockbuster 11-year career at the premier investment banking firm of Goldman Sachs. I had gotten married in 1980 to a wonderful guy I worked with. We sat directly across from each other on the trading floor. We had been secretly dating for three years and so our engagement announcement was a tremendous shock to our colleagues. Unfortunately, we got divorced four years later when we figured out that while we loved being business colleagues, we were not in love. We continued to sit across from each other on the sales desk as we truly enjoyed working with each other. We even had "joint custody" of our teddy bear, Joe.
But then an interesting thing happened. My ex-husband immediately started dating lots of nice gals and I had no dates. But this allowed me to work longer hours. A year later, I became the comanager of the Money Market Sales Group in New York, which was the first time in Goldman’s history that a woman had been promoted to sales management. I was ecstatic. And since I didn’t have a social life, I started working on the weekends as well. My ex thought I was crazy to take on more responsibility on top of a full client load, and he thought it was amusing that I was now his boss.
For the next year while he dated, I worked. About six months after we split up, we decided to go out to dinner for old time's sake. I looked at my ex and said, "Gee, we seem to be having so much fun, do you think we'll ever get back together?" I might as well have hit him in the face with a bucket of ice water; he looked at me and said, "No way!" Although hurt, I had the courage to ask him why; he looked at me and said, "Because you're too old." At the time, I was 32 and he was 36. No one I've ever told this story to has understood why at that moment I thanked him. I thanked him because even though the message was brutal, it was the absolute truth. At that moment I knew there was a very low probability that I would ever get remarried as long as I worked all day and entertained clients most nights.
In the three years that followed my divorce I had exactly two blind dates. They were guys that weren't "in the business," which meant that we had nothing in common. I was a Wall Street "big hitter" and wanted to date someone who was fun and sophisticated. I soon discovered that most of the cool guys wanted to date women who were beautiful and sexy, which was not an easy look to accomplish if you worked like a dog and looked like you had.
So in January of 1987, when I was sailing in the Caribbean with my parents and siblings, I made the decision to resign from the firm. I was overweight, I drank too much, and I felt tired and old. I'd had an outrageous career at Goldman Sachs, worked with some of the best and smartest people on Wall Street, but I had no personal life. And worse than that, I had absolutely no prospects.
On April 15, the tax date, I left the firm. I left my apartment in New York City and moved to Princeton to live with my sister. I was so depressed that there were days when I couldn't even get out of bed. It took me almost two months to get on my bike and start the process of putting myself back together physically and mentally. And it took another three months before I started to feel like a human being.
One day during the summer I got a call from an internal consultant at Goldman Sachs. He wanted to know if I would like to work with him a few days a week on various projects, and I thought, what the heck, I can always quit if it doesn't work out.
Not long after I returned to Goldman, I reconnected with Jeff Hanson, a really nice young guy who had tried to interview me a few times as one of the firm's "culture carriers." He had a brilliant analytical mind and was great fun to talk to. He was also a little full of himself but not to the point of being obnoxious. After one date, we decided we were truly meant for each other. Three weeks later, we got engaged.
Janet Hanson is an entrepreneur who founded 85 Broads, a global networking community for professional women. This essay is adapted from More Than 85 Broads (McGraw-Hill). For more excerpts from other powerful women, visit morethan85broads.com.