Women wear hats. A lot of hats. So many hats, in fact, that one could say that they wear more hats than any other group in society, including ball players and construction workers. Women’s hats include the mom hat, the wife hat, the friend hat, the daughter hat, the sister hat, and the employee hat.
With so many roles that women have to play, the role of career often becomes rushed, half-hearted, or interrupted. Women have so many demands on them that they cannot always live out their dreams in the workplace. Working can become a burden, instead of a way to fulfill ourselves.
So can a woman have a successful career, yet achieve balance, with all the different hats she must wear?
Getting Ahead in the Professional World
Advancing and succeeding in the professional world is difficult for both men and women, but it is becoming increasingly challenging for women who expect to take on other roles in their lives. Here are some tips and strategies for career women to get ahead in the professional world, without stretching themselves too thin:
1. Take Risks
If you don’t take risks, you might miss some golden career opportunities. Women sometimes become too comfortable in the roles they have at work, even if they don’t particularly like what the jobs entail. They view taking risks as embracing the unknown, and worry too much about potential pitfalls: Would I have to travel if I received a promotion? Would I have to work overtime if I transferred to another division? Would I need to learn new skills to make it to the next level?
Stretch beyond your comfort zone and take on a challenge that advances your career, even if the prospect of change scares you. Otherwise, you cannot advance your career and you may miss out on all the positive things that accompany accepting new challenges, including personal growth.
2. Don’t Discuss Your Family Goals
Companies know that paying for maternity leave can be costly. When a woman takes maternity leave, someone has to take over her job responsibilities, which means the company must train and employ someone to do her work while she is gone. Depending on the job, the replacement employee may need several months’ training before taking on the woman’s position.
When I was an engineer, I had to train a new employee to do all of my work while I was on maternity leave, and it took a considerable amount of time. Maternity leave costs employers money, and companies accept the fact that some women won’t return to work once maternity leave has ended, no matter what their original intentions were. You don’t want to be overlooked for a promotion because your superiors know you want children.
3. Do What You Love
When you have a demanding life, you only have enough energy to put the maximum amount of effort into what you love doing. If you love your family, you’ll give them your all. If you love your friends, you want to spend time with them, too. If you love your hobbies, you have plenty to occupy you during your free time. But if you don’t love your career, you won’t have any energy left to fully dedicate yourself to your work. By choosing something you love to do, you’ll have the necessary motivation, and energy, to succeed.
4. Learn New Technology
Not only does technology continue to advance, but it continues to advance the role it plays in the business arena. Even just a few years ago, technology in the workplace was rudimentary compared to the technology we have today.
If you don’t know how to use a smartphone, or conduct research on the Internet, learn how to do so. Learn as many computer applications as you can, and take advantage of free training classes or tuition reimbursement programs offered by your employer. You might also decide to study coding or programming to further your career. The more you know about technology, and the more easily you can adopt new ones, the further your knowledge will take you.
5. Learn New Skills and Obtain Certifications
Along with adapting to new technology, learn new skills to further your career. If you work in the financial industry, for example, consider getting a CFP, CFA, or MBA. If you work in manufacturing, consider an ISO certification or a Six Sigma belt. For any career field, consider getting some leadership training that can prepare you to take on a management role.
6. Seek Additional Responsibilities
If you learned some new skills or obtained a new certification, it’s the perfect time to seek additional responsibilities. Even if you haven’t learned anything new, by seeking additional responsibilities, you show your employer that you are a hard worker, and that you’re dedicated to your job.
More importantly, you broaden your skill set, adding challenges and excitement to your work life. Seeking new responsibilities helps women avoid boredom, and helps women achieve fulfillment through their work. You can also add these new responsibilities to your resume, which makes you more marketable when looking for career advancement.
7. Have Confidence
Confidence demonstrates that you know yourself, your abilities, and your self-worth. You still need to humble yourself at times as you continue to learn, but you must have the confidence to know that you will learn, to get to your next career goal.
8. Discuss Goals with Your Manager
Before you sign up for new classes, enroll in a training course, or seek additional responsibilities, have a straightforward discussion with your manager. Discuss your goals, including promotion, and ask your manager to help you set up a course of action to achieve them. Your end goal should be specific, and what you expect to accomplish with your efforts must be agreed upon before you begin working towards your goals.
Sadly, I have known women who received training and education to further their careers with their employers, only to find that the jobs they wanted were not available to them. Your manager can help identify the course of action that is best for you. Here are some important employee job performance review questions to ask.
9. Know Where Your Company Is Going
Having a clear understanding of where your employer is headed, and where the company might experience growth, can also help you choose an educational path or course of training. Start your research by searching online to review job postings from your employer. Your manager can help you identify potential growth opportunities within the company, that align with your skills and interests. If it seems clear that the job you want doesn’t exist at the company where you work, it might be time to look for another job elsewhere.
10. Consider Switching Jobs
If a promotion isn’t a possibility where you currently work and you’re confused about your career path, consider switching jobs. I have known many people who were desperately unhappy and unfulfilled at work, but they refused to apply for new jobs. If your manager or the company where you work won’t support your long-term career goals, it’s time to move on. Additionally, if your employer isn’t expanding or hiring for new positions, you can’t realistically expect jobs to suddenly become available just because you have new training, education, or on-the-job experience.
Achieving Work Life Balance
It is not enough to give your all at your place of employment; you also have to be your best when wearing your other hats. Work for balance in your life, and be reasonable about how much time and effort you can commit to your career in order to achieve a quality balance, both on the job and at home.
1. Be Strategic in the Career You Choose
Some careers lend to a better work-life balance than others, so choose carefully. Consider a job that allows you to work part-time during certain periods in your career, or that allows you to work flex-time. Perhaps you know that when you have young children, you would like to work only part-time, or just in the evenings. You might decide to work in a career that allows you to work by the hour, or in a resource position. If you need to leave the office early twice a week to volunteer at your children’s school, look for a career that offers this flexibility.
2. Divide Household Work
Find a way to divide the household work so that everyone takes part in completing chores. It doesn’t make sense for a woman to work all day, and then return home to clean the house. Consider using a house cleaning schedule to assign tasks to family members.
Hiring someone to help clean your house can cost about $15 to $20 an hour. For less than $150 a week, you may be able to find someone to come in for few hours twice a week to handle the big chores, like dusting and mopping, and to pop dinner in the oven. Your family may very well decide the expense is worth it in order to keep your house in order.
3. Get a Planner
Buying a planner was one of the best things I ever did to foster my work-life balance. At the beginning of the week, I update my planner to include everything that I need to accomplish for the week, at home and at work. Then I schedule in the fun things that I want to do, such as date nights, afternoons at the park, and even TV shows that I don’t want to miss.
If I write things down and schedule them, everything gets done, including the fun and the not-so-fun items on my list. If I don’t remember to update my planner, on the other hand, my work-life balance starts to skid out of control. Using the calendar on your notebook, tablet, or smartphone can also help you to schedule and plan for personal and professional events. Set alarms to occur a day or two before deadlines so you don’t forget about upcoming deadlines.
4. Know When to Say Yes and No
Sometimes in life you should say yes, and sometimes you should say no. Know when you can say yes to a request, and when you need to say no, for your own sanity. If your boss asks you to start traveling globally, saying yes might be great for your career. But if the other demands of your life make traveling impossible, say no.
5. Find Temporary and Permanent Solutions
Remember, what you decide to do today might change tomorrow, or next year. If your husband needs to go back to school to finish his degree, perhaps he needs to take on a stronger parenting role, while you become the family’s breadwinner. If you plan to leave work early this month to help out with the kids, perhaps next month your husband can take a turn in the carpool.
Remember, you have choices, and nothing has to stay the same forever. If your boss asks you to travel internationally, and you want to do it, learn more about the responsibilities involved. Discuss the opportunity with your family to see if it’s feasible for the next 12 months. After the year is up, everything could change at work or at home, so speculation about what might and might not happen later on may be irrelevant.
6. Keep Lines of Communication Open
Identify whatever you need to achieve a work-life balance, and discuss timelines for goals and events with family, and with your employer. Make sure everyone in your family is on the same page, and that everyone knows what you decide to do. At work, make sure your manager knows that you will work hard to achieve a work-life balance that works for everyone.
7. Be Realistic
Finding a dream job where you receive an over-inflated salary and you can leave work every time your family needs you, or expecting that your family will function perfectly all the time, probably isn’t going to happen. Sometimes you will get passed over for promotion, and sometimes you will be late for dinner. The work-life balance isn’t a perfectly harmonious state of being; it’s a see-saw. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do, learn from your mistakes, and acknowledge your successes.
To have a successful career, women need to advance their skills and seek challenges, particularly with new technology. They must demonstrate their willingness to sacrifice, but also know when to pull back and give time to their family and friends. Women must learn to balance work and home, or they won’t achieve personal and professional success.
What other career advice do you have for women?