Being a working mother is all about balancing priorities.
Sometimes home and work responsibilities have us running so hard that we forget to take a step back to think about the big picture, and specifically, to examine what we’re doing to move our career forward. Moreover, motherhood sometimes causes us to re-think our goals and desires.
So take a moment (or even a day off for yourself!) to take a pulse check.
If you realize you’re not learning anymore or engaged to your full potential, it’s usually a clear sign that you should push yourself to start seeking out the next level.
What is the next level? And how should you get to it?
No matter what the competing priorities, these are five steps you should make time to think about so your career continues to advance.
1. Identify your goal and dream big
Take the time to really hone in on your long-term career goal. Where would you like to be in 20 years? Don’t worry—you’re not etching it in stone. You may decide to change this goal the next time you do your career planning. But it’s important to have a clear idea of your destination so you can plot out your journey.
Whatever your career goal, make sure you answer the call of your highest ambitions in selecting it. As Richard Branson says, “if you’re dreams don’t scare you, they are too small.” Often, women can talk themselves out of their highest goals—suffering from what has been called a “confidence gap.”
Don’t fall victim. Be your own supporter, not a critic.
2. Create a roadmap for your career, and do your research
Once you have identified a clear and strong goal, map out a potential path that you could get you there. Again, this will most definitely change. But just like you would do for any business project, a plan-of-action is critical.
How can you get from Point A (where you stand today) to Point B i.e., your career goal? What skills or experiences will you need? What relationships will you need to build? To figure out the path that might get you where you want to go, take to the time to learn how others have succeeded. Use research tools—such as Levo or Fairygodboss—to be connected to successful women how have achieved in similar roles and fields so you can get a realistic picture of what traits are valued in your dream job.
3. Solicit honest feedback about your strengths and shortcomings
It can be difficult and humbling to ask for feedback and here about where you need to improve. However, everyone needs to improve at something. Collecting honest and direct feedback from your boss or someone else you respect will certainly help you strengthen your value proposition as a professional.
So don’t be shy. Think of it as working out at the gym. It can feel painful...but the only way to get stronger—or in this case better at your profession—is to figure out where the weakness lies and work to improve it.
4. Read a lot—get smart about your “specialty”
Find an emerging, topical area of your industry our business that interests you and get
super-smart about it. Become an expert. For example, if you work in marketing, carve out a specific vehicle or social platform and become fluent in it. That way, you can become known as the person who knows everything about x.These days, there are lots of great online resources that allow you to take digital courses in many areas. For example, check out General Assembly for courses on everything from web development to data science to digital marketing.
Be loud and proactive about what you’ve learned. Tweet about it. Blog about it. Schedule meetings with leaders you admire and present your findings to them about it. Figure out a way to use your speciality to help drive your company’s performance.
This will help heighten your reputation around the company and get you noticed when you otherwise might not have been.
5. Network a lot
Whoever said “getting ahead is all about who you know” was absolutely right. Build a network of advocates and supporters who have seen what you are capable of. Work hard to meet new people who can help advise you.
And when you’ve networked—don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Recently, the President of NYSE wrote a piece for Fortune Magazine called “I owe every job I’ve ever had to networking.” Men traditionally tend to be much more comfortable asking for help. You owe it to yourself to be aggressive and brazen in building out your network. Don’t get shy because someone has a big title.