Most millennial women–and twice as many millennial women as millennial men- see becoming a parent as an impediment to their careers. Among working women with children, more than half say that being a working parent has made it harder for them to advance in their careers; only 16% of men said the same. (source: pewsocialtrends.org)
Sobering stats. Every woman has to decide for herself what success looks like; at home and at work and a good place to start would be with a career plan. A timeline that says what you want to be doing 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years from now. So how do you do that?
- Start with the end in mind. Where do you want to retire? As CEO of your present company? CEO of another company? Yours, maybe? Or you want to retire to a semi-employed state where you engage in creative pursuits, something self-determined that doesn’t really feel like work? Decide what the “end” should look like. As a case study, let’s pick CEO of a fruit juice processing company as your end goal in 25 years’ time.
- Work your way back. What jobs or experiences do you need to have to be successful at your final job/role? If you struggle with answering this, ask your mentor or someone experienced in your field of interest. A mentor might point out that you need management experience to be a CEO, as well as some leadership skills, financial acumen and experience on a food-processing plant. If you plan to own the company, you might also need experience with pitching to investors. An MBA is a must-do, your mentor advises.
- Build those “jobs” or experiences into your timeline. Do you have operational experience in a food processing plant at the moment? If not, when are you going to get it? When are you going to go on your MBA? Where will you go? How much does it cost? How will you pay for it? Will you get a coach or mentor to help you develop leadership skills?
- Map your career to your child’s lifetime. If you plan to get an operational job at a plant, what will that mean for your family? Will you need to move to another state? How old will your child be? If he/she has to change school, what impact will that have? Will you be able to balance a full-time job and a part-time MBA when your child is 2? What about when he’s 6?
- Decide the resources you need at every milestone of your plan. If you plan to work remotely on a shift basis when your child is 3, then will you get a nanny? Can your husband handle him alone? Will your mother or mother-in-law move in? For your MBA, will you need to take a bank loan to pay the fees? If you plan to study part-time and will need to manage your time better, have you considered employing more domestic staff to take up more roles at home? What about getting a driver so you can read in Lagos traffic?
- Work the plan, knowing that it has to be flexible. Review often. Sometimes, things won’t work out as planned. Your employer insists you move to Ibadan in the middle of your kids’ secondary schooling. You were planning on getting into Lagos Business School, but you got a scholarship to INSEAD. These things happen. Stay open to change; it can only be a strength.
I know women who decided that their children would have to be in Lagos through out their secondary school tenure. They didn’t want their children in boarding school, and they had decided on desired secondary schools. They (and their husbands) planned their careers such that any assignments outside Lagos were taken before and after those crucial six years. Some mothers chose to work in remote locations on shift basis when their children were younger than 3, and wouldn’t really notice their absence. Other mothers insisted on being available for their children who were younger than three, only taking up full-time jobs after the kids turned three. Every family is different, with different goals and so it’s up to us to decide what works for us.
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