Working moms are busy, very busy. Most have to-do lists and color coded schedules to know who needs to be where when. It’s a crazy life. It seems as though you are always on the edge between doable and overwhelmed. It’s a delicate balancing act. Often a working Mom is like a circus performer juggling clubs while riding a unicycle as fast as possible. The bigger issue is making sure you are headed in right the direction, that you aren’t so distracted by the acrobatics of your day-to-day life that your career is headed for the cliff.
When I was a new hire after college, a woman co-worker had clipped out a newspaper cartoon and taped it prominently to a wall in her office. Anyone entering her office couldn’t miss it. It read, “They told me this was a career, but it’s really just a job.” Even as a new hire, this cartoon made be stop and think. After all these years, I still remember and reflect upon that cartoon.
I’ve been both an employee and employer. I’ve been both a member of the staff and a manager. As an employer or manager, the goal is to get your direct reports to do the tangible work that needs to be done today. Annual performance reviews focus of whether you got the work done as requested. If you get a good performance review, you get paid more. However, a pay scale change isn’t a career path. Often employers disguise this fact by creating job titles. Employees go from junior engineer, to staff engineer, to senior engineer – more pay, same work. It gives the illusion of a career, just like the cartoon noted, but it’s really to keep employees motivated and focused on doing their best work. Now you are thinking about the annual career planning session with your manager. It’s a myth. Your manager doesn’t really care what you want to do 10 or 15 years from now, nor is he likely to help you get there. The time horizon is simply too far out and he needs to get detailed work completed tomorrow. Performance reviews and career planning have been around for many years and have become common practice in big companies. They have become like a meaningless cliché.
Your employer provides a job. A job is about today, a career is about next year or five years from now. Don’t believe your employer is going to provide you with a career. It’s really up to you.Let’s get back to being a working Mom. Before kids, working Moms had time. Time is needed to reflect on your dreams, where you want your career to go and to plan how you are going to get there. Soul searching doesn’t happen in five minutes. Careers are still more about who you know than what you know, and who you know is about building a wide professional network. You can’t do either of these while you are rushing to leave work and make it to soccer practice on time. The to-do list and color coded family schedule can be hazardous to your career; it can keep you so busy that like the circus performer you aren’t paying attention to where you are going and you end up crashing.