It’s no revelation to say that time is at a premium these days. And when you are a parent, this is even more the case. Whether we are shuttling our kids to soccer practice (or, in my case, water polo) or dropping them off at school before racing to the office, you’d be lucky to find a minute to think, let alone to ponder any kind of long-term career development. But, as Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, has opined, “The days are long and the years are short.” It’s easy to look up one day and realize that you haven’t been giving appropriate focus to your professional passions and your career development.
As a mom who works outside of the home, I feel the pressure to be fully present for my family and for myself, and it’s candidly been a struggle to find the psychological and physical bandwidth to invest in my career. But it’s essential – not only am I responsible to the people I love for financial support, but I’m also responsible to myself for creating a meaningful and sustaining professional path. This is something that I work hard to keep top of mind, and I encourage other professionals, especially working moms, to do the same. There’s a tendency to reach a career point and go into “hover” mode, just trying to maintain and sustain. Ultimately, though, that means that more ambitious or focused people will pass you by. You owe it to yourself to stay focused on upward mobility and professional growth.
Different things work for different people – here’s what works for me:
1) Be clear about your objective. My goal is to continue to develop as a senior HR professional in a creative field. I enjoy leading and mentoring junior talent, and being a relevant and knowledgeable resource for the agency leaders with whom I work is my top priority. I value compassion, candor, and strategic development, and want my name to be associated with those ideals. Having those objectives firmly in mind helps me determine how to leverage my energies in the most efficient way. Be deliberate in articulating what you want.
2) Get busy networking. This has become a dreaded word for many of us – especially the ones who have time constraints. Remember that networking is not one size fits all, and make it meaningful for you. I will do the occasional industry meet-and-greet, but I’m not at my best in that environment (I’m too much of an introvert for a cocktail mixer!). For me, networking means inviting other HR leaders and creative minds to lunch, or connecting with people at a training event. I love sharing tools and tricks, and asking others for their guidance and advice. I’m fortunate enough to have built a community of like-minded people who will help me navigate tricky issues and who offer sage wisdom. Figure out how you connect best, and move accordingly.
3) Stay relevant. This is a top priority for me, and I am constantly looking for books, articles, webinars, and events that will help me grow my skillset and expose me to new ideas. As one of my colleagues says, read books by authors that you disagree with – stretch yourself and get out of your comfort zone by exploring things you didn’t think you wanted to know. And make social media a priority, as well – I follow Adam Grant, Simon Sinek, and some other great thinkers and smart people on Twitter, and hearing their perspective broadens mine on a daily basis.
Sometimes getting through the day feels like an accomplishment – there are mornings when I joke with my team that they’re lucky I’m showered and wearing clean clothes! Maintaining and growing your career requires discipline and being stubbornly on your own side. Do what it takes to keep your development top of mind – whether that’s getting on a plane to attend a great training, or just waking up a half-hour early to read some thought-provoking articles. The time will pass either way, and you’ll regret not having continued to evolve your thinking and your objectives for your growth.