Don’t leave your career to fate: 3 questions for working mums to ask

‘I can’t believe that they have put her in charge of the team. I’ve been here 7 years, worked my socks off and they go and bring in someone from the outside!’ grumbled Susan, as she shifted agitatedly in her chair. ‘I wasn’t even consulted, or asked if I wanted the role’, she continued.

As Susan unravelled her story to me, it was clear that she was good at her job, had put her head down and got on with her role in a quiet unassuming way. Susan works for a large national organisation and it was unnerving to hear the company had little or no defined structure and support for developing its people.

Susan’s story is not untypical of many mothers who get caught up in the treadmill of work, family and life and don’t take time out to stand back, reflect, take stock and make actionable plans for the future. In today’s climate, where a job is not for life, it is crucial that you manage your own career.

 3 fundamental questions to get you started 

1. What does the bigger picture look like and where am I currently in it?

Spend some time exploring and identifying your career and life goals. Where do you see your career heading in 3 to 5 years time?

You can do this by creating a vision board or using imagery to construct a vivid and detailed picture of what this looks like. Try and generate a holistic picture which takes into account ALL aspects of your life. Your career does not exist in isolation. Having a clear and compelling vision of where you would like to be makes it easier to map out a plan of how to get there.

Explore what you are seeking from your career – is it financial security, making a difference, being successful…? Success, happiness and fulfilment are subjective and mean different things to people. What does this really means to YOU? How does your career direction align with your family life, commitments and priorities?

Working mothers often dream of ‘having it all’. Whilst this may be possible, it is rare that you can ‘have it all at the same time’. Children do grow up, become less dependent, leave home…So think about how you can manage your career alongside your family. Be clear on what you are willing to miss out on. I wasn’t present when my child took her first step or mumbled her first words. Now aged 16 years, I don’t think that this has had any effect on our relationship except perhaps being racked with guilt at the time!

2. What am I really doing here?

When you enjoy what you do, feel that you are valued and make a contribution, work becomes worthwhile and satisfying. When you are in such a position, it is easier to endure challenges and struggles and you will be less resentful about some of the sacrifices that you may have to make.

Are you in a role that you enjoy doing? If not, what is keeping you there? Many people get a job and drift along without thinking hard about whether the role is a good fit and maximise their strengths and talents. You may be competent to do a job but that does not necessarily mean that it is one that excites, motivates and stimulates you.

Spend some time getting to know yourself ‘inside out’. Identify your values, your needs and wants, your strengths and your purpose. What drives you, motivates you and gives you satisfaction? Are you getting this in your current role?

Are you thriving or just going through the motions? Are you able to use your talents and strengths to make a difference and to fulfil your purpose? If you are not flourishing in your current role what steps do you need to take to change this?

3. How am I able to progress within my organisation? 

When focusing on the bigger picture and your longer term aspirations, think about whether these can be fulfilled within your current organisation. Discuss your career plans with your manager and at appraisal meetings. Ask your manager where she sees you in 3 -5 year’s time.

Identify what structures or processes are in place for progression and advancement. Find out what opportunities exist within the organisation to take on stretch assignments to expand your knowledge, skills and learning.  Do such opportunities exist and is there a pathway for progression? Asking such questions will help you to determine whether you will need to move to progress your career.

Employment today is fickle; don’t leave your career to fate. Answers these questions, take control and begin to actively manage your career. In my next article, I will continue with Susan’s story and share the steps that she is taking to manage her career.

What questions would you add?  What tips can you share on managing your career?

 Image 1. Courtesy of ‘stockimages’ at FreeDigitalPhotos  Image 2. Courtesy of Googles images  Image 3. My own!  Image 4. Courtesy of ‘scottchan’ at FreeDigitalPhotos 

I work with women who are progressing their leadership and careers, women who have left  employment to build profitable businesses and develop teams and people within organisations through coaching, mentoring and leadership development programmes. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead and on LinkedIn


About verawoodhead

I'm an executive coach, leadership facilitator and learning & development consultant working with managers and leaders to develop the skills and behaviours to inspire performance and drive results; achieve promotion ; make successful career changes, be resilient and thrive at work. Within organisations, I help to facilitate better conversations, design learning interventions which deliver practical and lasting solutions aligned to business strategy and goals. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead
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2 Responses to Don’t leave your career to fate: 3 questions for working mums to ask

  1. Once again Vera – I think you’ve been inside my head. I had a lot of fun setting my goals and getting creative with my dream board for my business and personal aspirations just this last week. . Although I am now self employed, I became increasing frustrated progressing my career in the corporate world and simply by using and adapting the same processes that we use to build business and move them forward can have a massive effect on building a career. Great blog post once again.

  2. verawoodhead says:

    Thank you Carolyn. Vision boards are a wonderful visually way of expressing what’s in our thoughts but cannot always be translated in a word or a sentence.
    Good luck with making it happen…

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