September always feels like the official end to the craziness of the summer months. This time of year evokes memories of sensible black polished shoes, bright white shirts, and the inevitable start of the new school year.
It’s been many years since my time at school but September still elicits the idea of a new start. It’s a great time to assess, reassess and reset your life and career goals.
When you became a mum, everything changed. Your body (bits may wobble now that never used to), your mind (you probably find it hard to just think of one thing at a time when there is so much to do) and your lifestyle (rushing to get to bed early so that you can get a decent stretch of sleep before the baby wakes in the night).
And your career…that changes too. Your aspirations may have changed now that you have a different perspective or you may be more committed to achieving great things in your career. Either way, it is important to get intentional about your career goals and direction.
There are three key questions to ask yourself when sitting down to do some career planning:
1. What is career success?
Prior to the birth of my son, my definition of success was making partner at a law firm. I completed my law degree, took a year out to live abroad, studied the LPC, completed my training contract and became a corporate associate. I had followed the conventional route to becoming a lawyer and felt that I was on track to achieve my goal of becoming a partner.
Little did I know that the little bundle of joy who stole my heart would have me questioning my initial career plan.
I realised that my definition of success had shifted. It took me a while to be okay with that but once I started being honest with myself about where I wanted to be in the future, I gained so much clarity.
What about you? Have you thought about what you really want as opposed what you think you should want or what others consider to be career success?
2. What do I want my life to look like?
Your career forms part of your life but it is not the only thing that is important right? What else gives your life richness and meaning?
In an interview I did with a successful mum entrepreneur for The More Tan A Lawyer Podcast, she mentioned something that is so powerful, something I now share with clients.
She said that when you’re a mother, you need to give yourself a little bit more time to achieve some of your career goals because you have an additional dimension to your life. You are raising a little human and sometimes that work will need to be prioritised over your job. And, that is ok.
You may not reach your ultimate career goal as quickly, but you also get to enjoy all the smiles, joy and laugh out loud moments that motherhood brings.
So don’t be so hard on yourself when you look around and you see colleagues appear to be moving ahead of you. If they are not wearing the mummy hat as you are, they’re able to invest all of their time and energy in their career.
It’s really hard not to compare yourself with your peers but if you find yourself doing just that, make sure you’re comparing “apples with apples” and not “apples with pears”.
3. What do I want my journey to look like?
When planning out your journey, the destination is key to determining the type of journey you have. Look at what your role will look like from day to day but equally look at where you want to be in 6 months, 12 months or 24 months.
These incremental goals will help you to assess if the initial long-term goals are still relevant for you and provide you with markers to keep you on track. It will also help you be more selective and take on opportunities that suit your end goal / desired lifestyle.
If being home for bath time most evenings is important to you, you can commit to finding a role or structuring your current role in a way that allows you to be there. Time is so precious, even more so when you are a mum, so having your long-term goals in mind you can help you avoid pursuing opportunities that will leave you dissatisfied.
Detours are ok, they often help answer niggling questions and get clear on what doesn’t work for you. So don’t be afraid to get out there and try new ways of working or new ways of developing professionally and personally. All experiences add to the journey in one way or another.
Start with the end in mind and get started with mapping out your journey. In 12 months, 24 months or 36 months time when you have achieved milestones and hit career goals, you will be so glad you made a plan.
If you could do with some support with setting career goals, join us on The Smooth Return Course on 29 October 2017. It’s a 4-week interactive course designed to support professional women have a calm and confident return to work after maternity leave.