Eager for guidance and information about re-entering the workforce, 50 women filled Fairfield Library's Rotary Room to hear Erika Steffen, Ph.D., and Rosemary Williams discuss the importance of finding your "life work" and how to get paid for it.

Steffens, founder of New Visions, a career consulting company based in Westport and Fairfield, spoke last year at the library's Back to Work series about the need for men and women to re-invent themselves during the recession. As a former banker and financial planner, and author of The Woman's Book of Money & Spiritual Vision: Putting Your Spiritual Values into Financial Practice, Williams educates women in workshops and retreats in cities throughout the United States, as well as internationally, about their relationship with money.

Emphasizing the need for women to understand this relationship as they step towards the job market, Steffen and Williams engaged audience members in a few self-assessment exercises. Steffen also helped them to recognize their skills. She began by instructing the participants to write down some positive experiences they had which may or may not be related to a career.

"Think about a situation where you did something well and it was something you truly enjoyed doing," Steffen advised.

Once this was completed, the women were asked to write in detail about one of these experiences. From this narrative, they then compiled a list of the skills they used.

Volunteering to share her experience with the group, Deborah Valentin, of Fairfield, described heading up a Celebrity Teddy Bear fundraising event to support an anti-child abuse initiative in New York several years ago.

With the help of her fellow participants, Valentin learned that she drew upon several talents and skills to make the project successful.

"Women often don't give themselves credit for their innate abilities," said Steffen a Fairfield resident. "These are the things, though, that will help them make the transition back into the work force."

A majority of the women present at the workshop expressed a desire to use skills to become entrepreneurs. Applauding their resolve, Steffen noted, "When I am doing something that is right for me, it's like a magnet. I draw the right people and the right situations to me. Always listen to your insides and follow your passion."

Williams agreed.

When Williams, who is also a Fairfiel resident, asked the group whether they were looking to re-invent themselves for personal reasons or because they needed the money, the audience loudly responded: "Both!"

Steffen emphasized a need for women to be knowledgeable about their skills and abilities and have confidence in their presentation before negotiating a salary.

Williams added that there is also a need for women to understand their finances and noted that there is a "wide spectrum" of thoughts and feelings among women about money. Founder and former executive director of Women's Perspective, Williams is a leading voice on the topic of women, finance and spirituality.

"We need to understand what our spending patterns are, what our life patterns are and what our general philosophy around money is," Williams said.

Only then, she added, are women able to ask for the salary that they deserve, doing the kind of work that they enjoy.

"There is money at the end of the road," Williams assured those gathered at Fairfield Library last Thursday night.

Although some women are presently unemployed because of recent downsizing, some of the workshop's participants had been at-home mothers for some time and were now interested in pursuing a career that is more in line with their interests and lifetime dreams.

"The goal is to find work doing something that is meaningful, challenging and enjoyable," Steffen said. "Only you can figure out what your real life work is and you will know it because it will literally jump off of the page at you. There is no employer out there who can tell you what you should be doing."

Moreover, Williams asserted that there is a way to receive financial rewards while also "weaving something out of your passions."

"It's my belief that we all have a calling and that there is work that we are meant to do that benefits ourselves and humanity," Williams said.

Through self-assessment and working with a friend or career counselor, the presenters said, women are able to determine the kind of work that will bring both financial and spiritual rewards.

Sue Lackey, a holistic coach from Fairfield, found the skills analysis exercise to be helpful. "It got me going in the right direction for identifying my skills," she said. "I left feeling like I wanted to build upon them."

Lackey recently founded a business in which the goal is to teach local families how to easily cook healthy meals.

"I feel like I gained confidence in my own talents and abilities tonight," Lackey said.

Valentin left the career workshop excited about her professional future.

"My dream is to be a marketing and public relations diva in fashion and entertainment," she said. "I've been home raising children for so long, but I'm ready to get back into the work place."

Steffen and Williams will be presenting "Women Returning to the Workforce: A Career Skills Analysis & Money Management" program on Friday, June 4, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the First Church Congregational, 148 Beach Road, Fairfield.

For more information about the upcoming program, contact Steffen at 203-259-9997 or erikasteffen4@gmail.com; or Williams at 203-255-3961 or e-mail rosemarycwilliams@gmail.com. For more information about the library's Jobs 2010: Back to Work job series, visit www.fairfield publiclibrary.org