12

Getting Ahead

Everything You Want to Know About Moving Up Professionally While Parenting—but May Be Hesitant to Ask

Of course you’ve always wanted to move up. What a no-brainer! But now, with children, professional matters have become more complex, and more personal, and your career goals may have shifted, and it may feel riskier to put your cards down on the table and talk about things honestly—with anyone. As a result, the critical career-next-steps conversations you need to have may not be happening, or happening only inside your own head, or not leading to answers or action.

Of course, you can choose to stay on that path—or we can take a different one together, and have the professional-advancement dialogue you need safely and confidentially, right here and now. As soon as we confront your workparent career questions head-on, and get the worries, fears, and assumptions that may be coloring your thinking out in the open, we can work through them all in a thoughtful, calm way.

Let’s start with the most fundamental question—and continue our conversation from there.

Do I even want to move up? Shouldn’t my priorities be more centered at home now, and on the kids?

The hidden worries, common fears, and ingrained assumptions that may be shaping your thinking:

  • If I’m spending so much time and mental energy on my career, it’s evidence that I’m not devoted enough to my children.
  • I can have a big career or be a good parent, but I can’t do both; nobody can.
  • The people around me will judge, reject, or laugh at me if I try to “have it all.”

Let’s start by unpacking that dangerous concept of should. In chapter 1, we reviewed your Workparent Template: the aggregate experiences, impressions, and bits of advice that have shaped your view of working parenthood, and of what a working parent is and does. Now—and every time you catch the word should wending its sneaky way back into your thinking about being a working parent—pull your template notes back out and take a good look at them.

It’s very possible that you genuinely don’t want to pursue that big new job opportunity. Maybe you’re enjoying the phase the kids are in now, or maybe—to your surprise—becoming a parent tamped down your professional ambitions a little. You might love your particular role, or this time in your career, and find that career happiness makes you a better parent. On the other hand, maybe you’re just as ambitious as ever, but you’ve gotten the impression that you “should” be focusing more on the kids or making certain career-restraining decisions because that’s what your own parents did, or your colleagues do, or because of how you’ve seen parenthood portrayed on TV. As you think the “do I or don’t I want this” question through, try to be as conscious as you can about what you actually want, versus what outside influences have led you to think you’re supposed to want. This is your own life, not anyone else’s, and if you’re managing toward shoulds you’re giving up way too much control.

Different parents, different feelings about ambition

‘‘I didn’t realize how well suited I was to this job until we had kids. I used to have more of a ‘gig’ mindset, but when I upped my game and started working the way I do now, it was a revelation. I’m more productive when I’m busy. I love having a full bucket, meeting people, being the face of each property. It’s not that I write down specific goals or targets each year: I just have a visual, and I put my head down and work until I get there. It’s a big, busy life, and it’s so nice to know that when I turn the key in the door at the end of the day, I’ll see the kids, and have that reset.”

—Brian, real estate agent, father of two

‘‘I leave the house at 7:00 a.m., and I’m not back till 9:30 p.m. I do the store’s merchandising, HR, the employee training, whatever needs to be done. Most of the time, I’m standing. It’s a long, hard day, but I do it for my kids. They, and their education, come first. Since preschool, we’ve been talking to them about college. Whatever it takes to make the kids successful—that’s my mission.”

—Jennifer, retail store manager, mother of three

‘‘Before kids, I had it in my head to move up. But being in the senior executive service means late nights, unexpected travel. I have to be able to pick my kids up from daycare—and I want to be able to go on vacation without my laptop. I’m still ambitious. You don’t ever fully quiet that voice. It’s deferred, not gone.”

—Anne Marie, government contracting officer, mother of two

‘‘You’ll still have good ambition, but it may not be the exact same kind of burning ambition. It might not be as much about that next rung on the ladder anymore. Roll with it.”

—João, management consultant, father of two

If you genuinely want to advance professionally but are nursing apprehensions about what will happen if you do, try making a list of all the positives and advantages that would come with the move. That bigger job might bring a bigger paycheck, or a team to help you get all the work done, or much more leeway in determining your schedule. How does the decision look with those upsides in mind, as well as any potential risks?

Next, get out and talk to other people in your field who have walked this same path and are a few steps farther ahead. How have they combined children and career? Did advancement turn their lives into disaster zones—did their families fall apart, did their careers derail, or did they find themselves heaped with societal scorn for accepting promotions while parenting? Maybe they did have difficult experiences you could learn from. More likely, though, their stories will help soothe your anxieties and help provide some solid, practical direction on how to go about taking on more.

But the kids are so little (or just starting school, or getting bigger and need me in additional ways). Is now the right time to put my foot on the accelerator?

Hidden worries, common fears, ingrained assumptions:

  • This is a critical time in my kids’ lives, and if I’m not really there for them, they may suffer from it/perform poorly at school/have social or developmental issues/feel unloved/end up on a psychiatrist’s couch.
  • There are fundamentally right and wrong times for focusing on my career.
  • If I’m thinking about wanting more right now, it shows that I am a selfish person.

Let’s put a different spin on the question: When will it be the right time for you to think about taking on more? While your kids are little, they need huge amounts of physical and emotional caretaking. Then they start school and need you to help guide them as they begin to make their own way in the world, both academically and socially. Then they’re teenagers, and it’s critical for you to be “on them” in terms of safety and helping figure out their own passage toward adulthood. In other words, your kids need you at every phase, and all the time. Before they become fully self-sufficient adults there’s not likely to be a point at which you can heave a huge sigh of relief and refocus single-mindedly on your career. If you do wait for that moment to come, you could be waiting for a very long time. It may be helpful to think about timing in terms of opportunities, preferences, and supports (Do I want this? Would I be foolish to overlook this terrific opportunity? Do I have the right kind of care in place to make this happen?) rather than in terms of hitting some objectively “correct” window.

‘‘I hustled to get this business going. I started blogging, took small jobs, invested my own money to get my website up. I wanted to do TV, and after getting a lot of doors slammed in my face, started getting spots on national shows. Some days, I’d be up and working at 4:30 a.m. My career was taking off like a rocket ship. When we moved across the country, I made a choice not to work like that—for now. I changed my business model so I could make a good living, still focus on the creative, and be a hands-on parent.

Life isn’t linear, and neither is career. This is a chapter: one in which I’m prioritizing both family and work. Not everybody would agree with that, but if you’re going to live the life you want to, you can’t care what other people think.”

—Lorri, interior designer, mother of two

As you consider what the right timing is, though, do yourself a favor and think as holistically and practically as possible. For example, if your child is grappling with significant problems at school, or if in addition to workparenting you’re also shouldering the burden of eldercare, perhaps your best move isn’t to take the huge promotion or to relocate for that new job right now. If you’re very nervous about your new childcare arrangement, maybe it does make sense to wait a few months and ensure that things are on a good track before taking on that stretch assignment. Be ambitious, but realistic: take your challenges a few at a time. You can always revisit your decision six months from now and decide on a different approach. You’re smart, and committed to your work, and you’ll find plenty of good opportunities.

As for any feelings of guilt or supposed selfishness: try displacing those by focusing on your sense of responsibility instead. You’re working to support your family, and it’s your job to do the very best you can in order to fulfill that goal. You’re not thinking about moving up despite the kids, but for them.

Let’s say I do want a promotion, a bigger role, or a better job elsewhere. As a busy workparent, how do I position myself and advocate for it?

Hidden worries, common fears, ingrained assumptions:

  • Workparenting has already stretched me paper-thin, emotionally. What if I raise my hand but this doesn’t work out? Disappointment is the last thing I need.
  • Since becoming a working parent, I just haven’t been working or performing the way I used to. It would be ridiculous to think of myself as a candidate for advancement.
  • Time is precious, and if I need to spend massive amounts of it on extra work, politics, networking, etc., for the sole purpose of getting ahead, that isn’t going to be feasible.
  • I don’t want to look desperate, or like an idiot, when I ask for more.
  • If I’m meant to get ahead, it will happen. I don’t need to take an active role.

When you became a working mother or father, chances are you also became so preoccupied, busy, and tired that your attention to career hygiene fell by the wayside. Career hygiene consists of all those things you do to keep your overall professional reputation and future in good form. It includes critical activities like networking, honing your technical skills, staying current on industry news and events, remaining visible to the powers that be, appropriate self-promotion, and raising your hand for unique assignments that can get you further into the career spotlight. It also includes smaller, more tactical items: keeping your LinkedIn profile fresh, having your “key wins and accomplishments” speech ready for when you bump into your boss’s boss in the elevator, and so forth. Technically, none of those things has anything whatsoever to do with being a parent—but if you’re not doing them because you’re a parent, you’re creating some real career headwinds for yourself and may be inadvertently stepping out of contention for that next big gig. If and when you decide to “go for it” careerwise, you’ll want to move back into the front seat, so to speak, on all of these activities. Do an honest assessment, just for yourself: Hand on heart, how much opportunistic networking have you done since the baby was born? When’s the last time you spoke to a professional recruiter? What about the monthly departmental after-work drinks events—have you been going to those? Have you given your career, and not just your work, adequate care and feeding? If not, you’ll want to ease back into doing so.

If you’re in a more acute career-management moment, like interviewing for a new role or pushing your boss for that big promotion, there’s something else you’ll want to do, which is to create a Third-Person Sell—essentially, a concise pitch about who you are as a professional, why the organization can’t live without you, and why you deserve to be in a more senior seat. The Third-Person Sell is a means of pulling together the most compelling aspects of your skills and performance and “packaging” them in a way that feels comfortable and genuine to you, that will resonate with the relevant decision-maker, and that—most important—is easily repeatable. When the CEO of your organization turns to your boss and says, “tell me about [him or her],” your Sell is the two next sentences you want to come out of your boss’s mouth. It’s the senior-leader-resonant version of your professional story.

If you don’t have your Sell ready (and few people do), let’s go ahead and create it. To start, ask yourself, How do I want to be known, professionally? Get into character a little: imagine you’re the head honcho making the hire-or-promote decision (in this case, on yourself). What’s really important to the organization’s success, and why is this person—you—the man or woman particularly equipped to accomplish it? You’re a flinty senior leader, and you’ve got many other candidates to consider. Why is this candidate uniquely qualified? If this person is hired, or advanced, what will he or she likely achieve? General personal qualities like loyalty or hard work are nice-to-haves, but not as impressive as three or four specific sales points that tie straight to the organization’s goals. Can this person (you!) generate revenue, offer technical expertise, apply a rare skill, find new efficiencies, lead complex projects, forge new relationships, build a team?

‘‘This job is intense, and part of it involves being connected and visible, out in the field. But I can get all that networking done during the workday. I’ll do calls from the office, spend fifteen minutes on LinkedIn, get down to London and back in one day—and still make it to pickup.”

—Kayla, academic program director, mother of one

If you need some step-by-step structure for creating your Sell, try using the worksheet in table 12-1. In the first two lines of the worksheet, you’ll find sample “sales points” as a model for your own. The first is for a consumer-products executive shooting for promotion. The second is for a restaurant employee who’s interested in moving into a manager role.

When you’re done with your line-by-line work, try blending together the various points you’ve come up with in a sentence or two. Maybe you’re uniquely positioned to help this company grow in new markets, given your successful sales record, or maybe you combine the ability to deliver unique, creative designs while building team morale. It’s who you are succeeding.

‘‘I wanted to do interesting, meaningful work and show up to chaperone my kids’ school field trips. Since the kids were born I’ve taken a series of jobs that let me do that. That’s meant a lot of conversations, and I’ve seen what really works.

I don’t talk about my résumé, past titles, grades. I talk about what it is I actually do, and do well. I tell prospective employers: ‘I start things that are new, I grow things that are small, and I fix things that are broken.’ If they need those skills, they hire me.”

—Ilana, nonprofit and political consultant, mother of two

TABLE 12-1

Developing Your Third-Person Sell

What drives this organization’s success?

How you’ve contributed to it

Your “special sauce” for doing so

What you can achieve in the coming year

Impact to the organization

1.

Product innovation—bringing new items to market

Launched new brand offshoot last year

Unusually good at getting complex projects together; an effective bridge between R&D and marketing teams

Could find new ways to capitalize on existing/ core products

Would allow us to reach new customer demographics; sales increase; make us look more relevant in changing market

2.

Filling seats in the restaurant; making sure we have a reliable, happy clientele

Four years of service here; routinely deal with extremely demanding/difficult customers

•  Anticipating diners’ needs; making them feel taken care of

•  Good relationships with other staff members

•  Train new staff

•  Get more current customers to use our special events and catering services

•  Continue serving customers during busiest times

Differentiate ourselves from competing restaurants in the area; be known for an experience that goes beyond the food

3.

This “branding” process may be a little cringe-inducing. It’s awkward if not downright weird to imagine yourself being discussed by other professionals, and it’s usually none too easy to toot your own horn in such a direct, sales-y way. On the other side of that discomfort, though, lies efficient, effective self-advocacy and a wonderfully increased sense of confidence. If you can speak about your career and achievements like this, your Sell is much more likely to resonate with the people it needs to. As you look over your completed table and refine your Sell statement, it will be a powerful reminder of why you do deserve the big job, and why—whether right now, or very soon—you’ll be able to get it.

What if because I’m a working parent people don’t see me as a candidate for bigger and better things? How do I handle that kind of pushback, and cope with skeptics and naysayers?

Hidden worries, common fears, ingrained assumptions:

  • This industry/profession/organization/management team isn’t too family-friendly; there won’t be tons of support for the idea of a working parent in a big-dog seat.
  • The powers that be may ask me to make compromises I don’t want to—like giving up flexibility—in exchange for an expanded role.
  • Getting tough questions or pushback from the higher-ups is a sign that this promotion isn’t going to happen.
  • That one negative comment represents the views and attitudes of everyone in this organization/industry.

The world is what the world is, and as a working parent, you may well face two distinct and very real types of professional bias.

The first is flat-out, straight-up bias: the company deliberately doesn’t hire a lot of working parents, or you were told you were passed over for promotion because you just had a baby. That kind of nastiness and discrimination is plain wrong, but it does exist, and if you encounter it, you have two potential paths ahead. You can either challenge it—by lodging a complaint, taking legal action, going public about your experiences, and so on—or you can choose to move on, and find a role in an organization with more-supportive leaders and colleagues.

The more common, and more insidious, form of bias is what we’ll call benign bias. It comes from well-intentioned managers, colleagues, and members of your professional network who assume that, because you are now a parent, you need special accommodation or treatment—that you may be a great professional but need to be handled with kid gloves. Your manager may just assume that you don’t want to be put on that plum, career-making project because it will require extra hours, for example, or that you’re not up for overtime anymore. Or other members of your team may make small talk with you only about parenting or baby issues instead of about organizational moves or interesting breakthroughs over in R&D. These colleagues likely all mean well. They’re trying to be sensitive, relieve pressure, signal support, or meet you where you live. If you’re gunning for advancement, however, their efforts may hold you back, and you will likely have to gently and preemptively redirect them.

In table 12-2, you’ll find examples of benign bias, how they might affect you, and what you might say to address them.

In each case, as totally annoying as the comments and the sentiments behind them might be, they are—in a backdoor, roundabout way—intended in a positive spirit, and railing at them doesn’t help. What does help is to correct the other person’s misperceptions directly, but in a gentle, pleasant way that acknowledges the speaker’s good intent. After a few similar nudges, he or she should get the picture.

Bottom line: whenever you sense a lack of support for working parents, don’t get flustered. Just think very carefully about what you want to do about it.

TABLE 12-2

Overcoming Benign Bias

Situation

Your potential, natural reaction

What to say

Upon announcing you’re expecting your second child, your manager immediately assures you that you would be eligible for flex time upon your return from leave.

Flex time? Are you for real? Last week we were talking about promotion, and now you’re shoving me onto the Parent Track?

“I’m so grateful you’re attuned to what I might be going through as a parent. That said, please know that it’s my intention to continue working just as I always have. If I do need flexibility, I’ll definitely come back to you. Otherwise, assume that I’m focused on delivering great work, and on all the same goals and outcomes we’ve discussed in the past.”

One of your mentors advises you against taking on a new, high-visibility project right now because it may be “too much.”

Aren’t you supposed to be in my corner here? And why does everyone assume that parenthood changed my capabilities somehow? My whole career has been about handling “too much.”

“It is a lot, but I’m excited to take it on. Here are my thoughts on how we can get started

A senior manager begins each monthly departmental meeting by asking you “how the baby is.”

Why don’t they just make me wear a big scarlet P on my chest, for Parent?

“The baby’s great! Regarding the progress we’ve made out at the construction site

Your boss’s boss asks if you’re interested in promotion, given the twins’ arrival.

I had children—not a personality transplant! Of course I’m still interested in promotion, otherwise why would I still be dealing with people like you, and totally crushing it every day at work?

“I trust you to be the judge of my talent and capabilities. Please trust me to be the judge of my ambition and desire to take on more. Just so we’re both clear: I’m still interested in moving ahead.”

What if I want more, but I’m already at full capacity?

Hidden worries, common fears, ingrained assumptions:

  • More? Are you kidding? I’m already on the brink. There’s no way I can put more onto my plate right now without completely losing it.
  • Taking on more increases the risk that I fail, or underperform.
  • Bigger job = more work = longer hours.

Good question—and here’s the simple, truthful answer: if you want to take on more, then you’re going to have to give something up.

If you tested positive for Do-It-Myselfism, per the assessment at the beginning of chapter 9, the idea of giving anything up might rub you the wrong way or feel completely impossible. Remember, though, that you’re only one person, that there are only twenty-four hours in a day. No matter how committed and hardworking you are, there’s a limit to how much you can take on, at home, at work, and certainly in combination. You can’t keep cramming more bulky sweaters into a suitcase that’s already full—either you won’t be able to close it, or you’ll break the zipper trying. The only way forward is to make some careful choices about what to take out: to decide what and how to unpack. Think about the successful, senior people you know in your profession, or organization. There are certain tasks and projects those people just don’t do, or get too close to, whether that’s writing their own marketing reports or getting to the grocery store. They’ve smartly realized that getting ahead is less about buckling down on an endlessly expanding to-do list and more about letting go of responsibilities. As you take this next critical step up, what do you plan to let go of, or at least loosen your grip on?

Try using table 12-3 as an organizational means of nudging yourself to come up with good, specific answers. Think through the various tasks and responsibilities you’re on the hook for, both in your professional and personal life, and about how you handle each one: whether that’s 1) taking total, top-to-bottom responsibility for the task yourself, 2) delegating it to someone else but keeping tabs on it, or 3) completely passing it off. Go broad. Think about specific work projects, the mentoring of junior colleagues, the housework, the kids’ school assignments—all the various things you’ve got on your docket. Try making a list of four or five items that fit each category.

TABLE 12-3

What Will I Hold On To—and What Should I Let Go Of?

1.

2.

3.

Own it Do it all myself

Delegate it but keep tabs

Hand it off and don’t look back

• _________________________

• _________________________

• _________________________

• _________________________

• _________________________

• _________________________

• _________________________

• _________________________

• _________________________

• _________________________

• _________________________

• _________________________

Now, with your sample lists down on paper, stress-test them a little: Which one or two items from column 1 could reasonably be shifted over to column 2, and then which things in column 2 could be transferred to column 3? Now that you’re getting ready to take on a bigger role, maybe instead of fully owning certain household or childcare tasks you could get (or even pay) a few Villagers to help, or someone else could draft and send that weekly update email you write to your department heads. Sure, there will be things you don’t want to delegate, or get rid of, but your overall goal here is to shift things right—on a one-off basis and transactionally for now, and then on a repeat basis and as a habit over time. As you do so, you create capacity. The less you own and have to oversee, the more new and important work you can take on.

What if this goes in the wrong direction? What if I do get the bigger role, but it pulls me away from the kids, or makes it impossible to be the mom or dad I want to be and I find myself miserable and stuck?

Hidden worries, common fears, ingrained assumptions:

  • Moving up means ceding additional control over my choices, priorities, and time.
  • If I do make a commitment, there’s no backing out. I won’t be able to change my mind or adjust things later.

Catastrophize here for a minute. Yes, you read that right: go ahead and play through the many and profound ways the new role or opportunity you’re considering could go completely, terribly awry. Watch the career-horror movie! Nudge the plot along using a new technique: If/Then. Play things out to the final frame—and you’ll find that it’s not as scary as you thought.

Here’s an example. Say you’re thinking about signing up for a job at a new, high-growth firm. The job comes with a significant increase in salary—but you’re apprehensive about what might be longer hours, and about your new boss, who doesn’t have kids and may be unsympathetic to your family needs. Using If/Then, you’d work the scenario through as follows:

  • If I take this offer, then I might have to work longer hours, and
  • If I work longer hours, then that means all of my salary will be spent on sitters anyway and I’ll still miss evenings with the kids, and
  • If that happens, then I’ll be in the same place financially as in my old job, but also miserable, and a neglectful parent, and feel horrible and wrong, and
  • If that happens, and my new boss turns out to be a total jerk who doesn’t allow me any flexibility, then

You get the idea. Keep playing the drama out and pushing your fears to their very edges. And then, most important, keep right on going:

and if I’m totally miserable and my kids are failing in school because they never see me and my boss is a terrible person who refuses my request for flexibility, then I’ll decide to get a new job, and if I do decide to make a switch, then at least I’ll already have a higher salary to use in my negotiations, and if I do get a great new offer, then I’ll be sure my new boss agrees on my hours before taking it and so on.

By imagining your absolute worst-case scenario, you strip away much of its power over you. You also get to see the much more realistic final ending: that yes, there may be real risk in the new role, but that if things become completely untenable you’ll chalk it all up to experience and find something different, and better. Staying trapped forever in the horrible-job dungeon is possible, but unlikely. As we’ve seen throughout the book, working parenthood is about constant recalibration. Beyond actually having a child, very few workparent decisions are ever permanent, or final. And anyway: in this drama, you’re actor, writer, and director. If you need to change the plot and start shooting new scenes, you will.

‘‘When I came back from my first leave I took my first manager position. It was a big step, and I wanted to prove myself. So I worked, a lot—staying late every day, not taking vacation for a year, responding to emails at 3:00 a.m. I got to a point of burnout, and where I wasn’t bringing the best of myself home to my husband and baby.

I realized I had to get strict about my work hours, and booking time off. I sent a message to the team explaining—and it was very well received. After you take the big job, you can recalibrate a little, if you need to.”

—Tracy, nurse manager, mother of two

Honestly, I don’t really want “more”—I’m happy hanging out at this level, or even cutting back my work responsibilities a little. Is that even possible?

Hidden worries, common fears, ingrained assumptions:

  • Being a professional is like being a shark: you have to swim forward or die. If I’m not on a constant upward trajectory, I can kiss my career goodbye.
  • There’s no way to ask for less. Nobody around me has any real flexibility.

There are certain professions, and organizations, with clear and explicit up-or-out policies and practices. You may be given x number of years to get to the next title level, or to build out your own business or client base. And for you as a working mother or father, that’s scary: just as you’re looking to pump the professional brakes a bit, time keeps whizzing by and the pressure keeps ratcheting up. All that said, you’ve got options.

Even in very rigid up-or-out organizations, you can often find a “career detour” of some kind. Maybe you could move into a staff role temporarily or get assigned to a special project for a defined amount of time. You may also be able to strike a specific deal with your employer: negotiating for extra time on the career clock in exchange for different responsibilities or reduced pay. Most up-or-out organizations suffer from high attrition among working parents (and increasingly, the negative brand image that goes along with that attrition) and thus may be willing to get creative with you to find a solution. If not—and as much as you might not want to hear this—you may need to seek work in an organization that offers different career paths, or change your type of employment, for example, by becoming a contractor or consultant instead of a full-time employee. Agreed, there may be drawbacks to any of those alternatives, but if you really and truly are staring anxiously down the barrel of an up-or-out career, it’s important to know that there are other routes.

‘‘You have more control and ability than you think you do to flatten out your career progression. After my kids were born, and my son was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, I spent five years not working, or working on a reduced schedule, before coming back full-time.

If you’re thinking about stepping back temporarily but feeling conflicted, ask yourself: Do I have a hero narrative going on? Try to figure out how much of that is internal and external to you.”

—Lisa, executive search firm partner, mother of two

If you do want to pump the brakes in a high-octane field, and don’t know a lot of other people who have, you may be feeling a little lonely. It’s never easy to sense that you’re somehow outside the professional mainstream or the “only” person not interested in being put up for VP this year. If that’s the case, it’s time to do some research. Start making some discreet inquiries with the other working parents you know in your field about mothers and fathers who have taken an at-my-own-pace approach to their careers. Also try pulling up the career profiles or bios of prominent people in your sector. Most careers, even blockbuster ones, involve some zigzagging through both the fast lane and the slow lane, and it can be reassuring to see that even the stars in your field have done such zigging and zagging.

‘‘My son changed the trajectory of my life and my career. Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of ‘what are you going to do with your career?’ conversations. When I found out I was going to be a parent I was still in school and waiting tables. All of a sudden, I was thinking about my professional life: not just how I was going to earn, but leave a legacy. That mindset helped me go out on my own and start this firm, and grow it, despite the crazy fourteen-hour days. It will be eight years ago, this May.”

—TJ, marketing and branding firm founder, mother of one

If what you’re seeking is not just more of your career status quo but an actual reduction in your hours or responsibilities, or a way to work differently and get more time with the kids, keep on reading to chapter 15, which will explain exactly how to get that flexibility you’re looking for.

Then and Now

A lot can change when you become a parent: your levels of ambition, your overall feelings about your work, the kinds of sacrifices you’re willing to make to get ahead in your career, how you make the decision to stay or go in any particular job. What doesn’t change—ever—are the fundamentals of a good career. As a parent, you’re still trying to earn a good living, you still want to do your highest and best work, and you still want to have a job you enjoy, day to day. And you still need to use all the same career-management tools to get there. It’s important to know yourself, to take your current family circumstances into account—but never sell yourself short, or neglect to give your career the care and feeding it deserves.

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