Our goal is to provide information, ideas and support for working women who are also full-time mothers.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Measure of Success

As I get a little bit older and realize that I am bound to be solely responsible for the financial security of my children, I am becoming more of a career-minded person. I am furthering my education and have recently been through salary negotiations. I am probably more focused than I have ever been.

My company is undergoing significant changes – department realignments, facility moves, and really a change in philosophy. Never has the concept of embracing change been more at the forefront. It has amazed me how much motherhood has really prepared me for all the jockeying for position that is currently occurring.

The unanticipated changes that might have concerned me in my pre-kid days are much more easily put in perspective. After a few years of having my best laid plans interrupted by one of the many illnesses that passes through daycare, I always have a “contingency” kind of attitude.

The ability to change course and refocus my efforts on the things that are physically (and mentally) possible to accomplish with a sick child attached to your hip has proven to be invaluable. The many sick-kid issues I have encountered (my children do seem to be the type that will bring home each and every germ) have reinforced the importance of humility, integrity and accountability in the workplace. When my children decide to start screaming the instant I get on a business call from home, all I can do is apologize and do my best to respond effectively to the needs of the caller. It is an extremely humbling experience where accountability is truly unavoidable. Of course, I have also learned to return as many calls as possible during naps or after bedtime (contingencyplan).

As a working mom who has unavoidable “real-life” issues, I think it iscritical to establish a reputation for responsiveness, honesty, and customer service. Without that, I do not think customers or coworkers would be as likely to excuse – or, as I have found, empathize – with the delays or interruptions in my normal workflow.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of being a working mother is being afforded the opportunity to prioritize. Yesterday I had one such opportunity. I received notice of a restructuring that I believe could either be extremely positive or terribly negative. As I was distractedly mulling over the implications and trying to formulate a plan to ensure a more positive outcome, I received “the call” – from daycare. This time, my son (who had no other signs of an ear infection) appeared to have ruptured his eardrum. In an instant, my career path – important as it may be – was not nearly as critical as the well being of my child. With an about-face, I switched to mommy-mode and resigned myself to the fact that my workday had been sidelined.
Contingency plan – respond to the time sensitive issues as quickly as possible and play “catch-up” after bedtime. Take care of the little guy and still get the job done. I will always work hard and strive for excellence, but my dedication to my family comes first.The job by which I will ultimately measure my success is motherhood.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Career Advice?

I wouldn't call myself a great person to be giving career advice. I feel like my own career has sort of fallen into my lap. I don't think I'll ever make six figures. I don't want to have to wear a suit and pantyhose to work every day. I don't want my own secretary, lol. I don't need to be famous. Like many people, my goals in college were completely different. Things changed a lot as I matured, especially when I became a mom. On the other hand, I'm quite happy in my current job when I really think about it. My biggest pieces of advice are:
  1. Make yourself invaluable. If you are irreplaceable (or at least close to it), your company will be more likely to work with you on things that will benefit you--flex time, telecommuting, whatever you need. And don't be afraid to ask for these things. Have confidence in yourself and all that you provide for your company. You may need your job, but don't forget that they also NEED YOU.
  2. Make a pros and cons list. I think sometimes you have to work in a really crappy job to realize how good another job is, lol. I've seen a lot of co-workers/friends leave a pretty good gig thinking "the grass is greener," only to find that they HATE their new job and want to come back. So if you're thinking about leaving or your job is getting you down, make a pros and cons list. Sometimes it helps to remind yourself of all the good aspects of your job (short commute, great boss, annual bonus, whatever).
  3. Decide early-on what you're willing to sacrifice. I really think there are things that need to be non-negotiable or you will not feel in control of your own life. There are plenty of career-driven moms out there who are willing to sacrifice a lot for their work. But I think a lot of us are working for simpler reasons: to just pay the bills, to get insurance, save for our children's college education, even just because we like working. But I think it's good to have a clear idea of what you will and will not sacrifice. Maybe you will not do a long commute. Maybe you will not work more than X amount of hours a week. Maybe you will not work a job that requires you to travel or be on-call. Maybe you will not accept less than X amount of dollars in salary. Whatever those non-negotiables are, stick to them.
  4. Above all, you don't have to live to work. A lot of us just work to live. My job does not define me. My family defines me. My friends define me. My hobbies and interests define me. I'd rather have time with my family than a McMansion and brand-new car. But everybody's different. I think if you figure out that priority list before you ever go job hunting, you'll be happier.