The Value of Hard Work: An Interview with Sherry Zander

Writing“I thought I would never be more than a waitress.” An inspirational life story unravels from those very words.

Sherry is a professional writer who has beaten the odds with persistence and hard work. After reaching a more-than-comfortable level of prosperity, she was laid off, only to let life reveal a real passion. Visit her blog, Writing 4 Effect, for tips on freelance writing or to get in touch with her.

Fighting Through a Childhood of Poverty

“I came from a very poor family and my dad didn’t even have a high school diploma, let alone a college degree,” recounts Sherry. It was “a challenging childhood” that over 40 million Americans currently share based on poverty statistics from the latest American Community Survey Briefs. “I was determined to be better than a product of my environment, to become something I was told I would never be.”

Sherry ZanderLiving in a small, blue-collar town where many toiled away in manual labor and tiring low-level service jobs, Sherry moved to a bigger city to take a comfortable clerical job, working her way up from a data entry post to a secretarial position.

It seemed like she had made it big.

So-Called Success

After a hiatus raising her children to grade-school age, Sherry began job hunting again, but this time with a different approach: “I made a decision. If I’m going to work, I’m going to make a lot of money. I wanted my family to be thoroughly blessed.” Over a span of eight years, she climbed the corporate ladder at Sprint, daringly skipping several levels at each promotion.

Despite achieving more than she ever dreamed possible, Sherry realized that she wasn’t happy. The stress of her responsibilities took its toll as she managed national teams in a highly competitive corporate environment. Work had become her life. With an expression of sadness and slight regret, she reflects, “I was really grateful for the things I achieved, but I felt like I had missed out on some of life and robbed my kids of their mom.”

A Turning Point

The year is 2002. “Honestly, I have to tell you. When I got laid off, I was relieved,” Sherry remarks. Sprint had let her go amidst the recession, her husband was very ill and his construction business was waning due to his illness. Over the next four years, she would finish her Bachelor’s degree, significantly grow the family business and returned to Sprint as a contractor; it wasn’t until 2006 that her life would drastically change course.

Serendipitously, Sherry came upon job ads for writers. They had her reminiscing on the top grades she received in English classes and the teachers who loved her writing. She had always wanted to write and thought, “It might be a natural transition because I did so much technical and non-technical writing in all those years I worked at Sprint.”

Persistently scouring the Internet every day, she eventually got her break into freelance writing with a client who offered her $35 per article. In a new community of writers, there were no longer cutthroat displays of competitiveness; instead, she discovered “a camaraderie” with people willing to collaborate and support each other.

Tidbits of Wisdom

Sherry’s story demonstrates the value of hard work, yet her underlying message is this: “To find success in life, find out what you enjoy doing and pursue that.” This doesn’t mean that you have to know what you enjoy doing right away. “If you have to wander for a while, that’s okay too, especially if you’re young. You’ve got the time to do that,” she advises, admitting that she was a “wanderer” in her youth.

She also attributes her success in life to the building blocks of language. “Words have power whether they’re spoken or written,” Sherry states and tells of how she wrote down the job positions she wanted in life before she even became a secretary. Writing down your goals makes them more concrete and motivates you to work toward them.

There’s also the matter of optimism. It’s simple: Sherry and her family work hard to avoid negativity. “We all encounter struggles,” she expresses humbly, but what has carried them through the difficult and seemingly hopeless situations is faith and good friends — without either, she admits she would not have survived the hard times. “You have to believe that with persistence and hard work there is always hope for a good outcome.”

How have persistence and hard work played a role in your life? Tell us in the comments below!

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  1. Abe
    Posted July 7, 2011 at 2:06 am | Permalink

    I was taught from an early age that an enduring work ethic and honesty would serve as a key for lifes happiness. I’m not saying that every moment has been rosie. But I will say that even in the most trying times of my life I knew what would lift my spirits to a point I managed to succeed. “Vision + Planning + Focused Work = Success”. This formula not only has served a valuable purpose in building my carreer but has become a way of life for me.

    • Posted July 14, 2011 at 12:28 am | Permalink

      Abe, when I think “hard work,” you’re definitely one of the first people that come to mind! =) I really respect your values and I absolutely love your recipe for success. =) Thanks so much for sharing that!

  2. Posted July 15, 2011 at 4:20 am | Permalink

    To find success in life, find out what you enjoy doing and pursue that.”

    I knew when I was 19 that I wasn’t destined for a desk job. To be honest even when I had a 9-5 my friend would call me a hustler as I always had an exciting extra curriculum activity which made me a little bit of extra cash or intuition in what I loved. I never allow people to tell me NO! If they say No! I say why not? And I usually find a way to prove myself it’s possible and prove them wrong.

    Love this article Samantha.

    • Posted July 26, 2011 at 6:55 am | Permalink

      Wow! You inspire me with the way you “hustle” and stood strong against those No’s! What a great tidbit to add to Sherry’s story!

      Thanks so much for the comment and for sharing a bit of your experiences, Mathy! =)

  3. Posted July 31, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    I’m just going over old correspondence and I came across this interview that I read a while back, but it was the week when I was at a writers’ retreat, with limited Internet access, and so I couldn’t comment then. I knew some of Sherry’s story though not the part where she literally pulled herself up from a poverty-ridden, blue-collar background to become a force in the corporate world. I can relate somewhat to being impoverished though my background was the opposite of hers. However, determination, persistence and hard work have definitely been major role players in my life and led to a 30-year career as an international advertising executive. More recently, I am using those same – what should I call them? – abilities to persevere in my efforts to get my four, already written, books published.

    • Posted August 10, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

      No worries, Pennie! Please don’t feel obligated to comment on any post. =) I just thought you’d might like to read a bit more about Sherry! I sure learned a lot more about her through this interview. =) How funny to think that you can relate to her but that your story runs opposite to hers.

      I am so sure that you’ll get those four books published soon, Pennie!! You continue to inspire me with your perseverance and dedication. =) Hugs!

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