Building a career while managing the rest of life can be a challenge. Especially when you still want to be the incredible mom, wife, and everything else there is to be in the world. For some women, it is not a priority. For others of us….it is our calling. We are able to make a difference in the world through our profession and that is where we tend to pour a lot of energy. If you are like me, you want to always be reaching for the next bar on the ladder to success. (I hate saying this….but here it goes) This can be hard for women with priorities at home and strong moral values. Whoa, that is a controversial statement. If it doesn’t seem like it is, try saying it to someone that you don’t know that well. I bet there will be a discussion to be had. Please hear me when I say “hard” not “impossible”. But like they always say, choose your hard. I think it would be harder not to try to be the best possible mom and wife, while leading in the workplace.
Let me give some examples to this. At my workplace, I am the only female at my level and higher in my department (with exception of the co-owner of the company). It is common for my peers (Executives) and my boss (VP)-all of whom are men, to make comments like “I don’t even remember all my kid's names anymore I travel so much. It’s part of the job and what it takes to get ahead.” They are joking about the first part of what they said, but every joke has a sliver of truth. Just last week as I was preparing for vacation, they were joking about how much they work on vacation and how mad it makes their wives.
Let me just pause here. If you are a leader, supervisor, boss, or even just have a position of influence-Please Listen. You have to be really careful about comments like I mentioned above. They might be jokes but it sets the standard for people around you. Even if you say “This is what I do, but I don’t expect anyone else to do it.” that still sets the standard of what others have to do.
As a mom, when I am on vacation I want to be fully present with my kids. The same goes for mornings before I drop them off at school (when I am lucky enough to do so), evenings after work, and on the weekends. Because I value being the mom that I feel that they deserve to have, I have less hours to dedicate to my career. Working less hours does not mean less desire to do better and be better at my job. Over the years I have had to learn to get the most out of my time that I do have to keep an edge in my career. Here are my top 10 tips that have helped me over the years.
1. Preparation Is Key.
If you are prepared for anything, there is nothing that can slow you down.
2. Be Clear On How You Want To Be Perceived.
Build a personal professional brand. This is important. If you are clear with your boundaries, how you want others to interact with you, how you want others to feel after working with you, what you are known for. This should be reflected in everything from how you communicate to how you dress. This is key as we move into number 3
3. Relationships Are Everything.
You have heard it said that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. This is so very true. Relationships give you people that can be your mentors, people that will stand up and fight for you, and people to expand ideas with.
4. Understand What Is Expected And Raise The Bar.
Over delivering on what is expected is a sure fire way to build your reputation and get noticed. It is impossible to over deliver on everything, but if you understand the key areas that make a difference to move measurable metrics forward and exceed expectations there. You will be set up for success!
5. Always Look For Opportunities To "Wow".
It might be something small like a well-designed report, or remembering the names of a client's kids. Little details make all the difference.
6. Be Creative.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. I will say, it is easy to think outside the box but it can be hard to share those ideas with others. Come up with 2-3 creative ideas to present and don’t be attached to any one of them.
7. Build A Following.
This flows back to #2. You don’t want to build fans just for the company, but for you as a professional. This should be both internal and external.
8. Communication Is Your Secret Weapon.
Sounds simple, but this is the most underestimated skill on this earth. I truly believe that if more focus was put on communication, our world would be a better place. Tip: Communication is as much about listening as it is talking.
9. Know When To Stand Firm And When To Let Go.
This is the best advice that I got when I became a parent as well. Know your values, be clear on what matters most to you and stand up when they are threatened. You don’t need to go to battle just because you disagree with something. This is where EI (Emotional Intelligence) comes into play. If this is an area that you feel you need to grow it, I highly recommend that you read the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves.
10. Pray For God’s Protection And Guidance.
The workplace can be a place full of temptation for sin. From coveting what others have (clothes, office, opportunities) to participating in office gossip. It is key that you pray for protection and be mindful of pitfalls that you might fall into. In addition, look for God’s guidance as you look to go up the ladder. Let God’s will guide you and you will find success.