Our Mamapreneur in the Making series is back this month with another insightful column from The Neon Life Society Founder, Siobhan Barnes. See her tips below on the Top 5 Career Mistakes to Avoid as you make your way to the top, mama!
Now that I’m on the other side of a corporate job and working for myself, I have the benefit of hindsight to understand where I went wrong when I was climbing my way up the corporate ladder at Goldman Sachs.
As a mum, it’s imperative to master the following five areas so that you don’t burn out. It’s hard enough managing a full-time job in a fast paced city like Hong Kong where early morning and late night conference calls are all too common. Throw in a family on top of that and you’ve got a lot more to deal with.
Here are 5 key areas to be aware of and practical tips to help set you up for success in your career:
1. Set the right expectations for what want out of your career
Before I had kids, my career was my life and I didn’t do much else outside of work. Late nights and working on the weekend were all too common. Now that I’m a mum to two young children, I know that my old habits won’t fly. I value my time with my family. In order to be good at your job, be a present mum and have time for rejuvenating activities like exercise and time with the people you care about, it’s important to get clear on what you’re looking to achieve in all areas of your life.
Action Step: Take some time out to ask yourself what you want out of your career. What hours are you willing to set aside for your job so that you can manage everything else you have going on? What career milestones are important to you? What boundaries do you need to establish to achieve those milestones? How can you get the structures and support in place to set yourself up for mistake? Make a worksheet and jot these all down.
2. Put an end to self-doubt, fear and feeling like a fraud.
When working with my clients, I am constantly amazed at how such smart, intelligent women and mothers feel like they’re not good enough. From juniors to high-level leaders, self-doubt remains strong throughout all rungs of the corporate ladder. We’re always learning and being put into situations we’ve not experienced before. It’s time to embrace that and trust that you have enough smarts, past experience and integrity to be able to face whatever comes your way.
Action Step: Make a list of all of your achievements in your career. Keep this list handy when you feel like you’re not good enough at your job.
3. Believe in your own worth
Women tend to underestimate their own abilities and therefore what value they bring to an organisation. When it comes to negotiating salaries, benefits, promotions etc. we can self-sabotage. Don’t rely on others to tell you what you’re worth. Be proactive and get clear on how you contribute and add value to your team and company.
Action Step: Keep a running list of all of your work achievements. From referring business to another department to winning a contract, take note of everything. This will come in handy when it comes time to sit down with your boss for a performance/salary review.
4. Rely on yourself, not others, for validation that you are doing a good job
Too often we rely on our boss or colleagues to tell us we’ve done a good job in order to feel it. You need to create your own list of achievements and be proud of your own work without needing someone else’s approval. We also believe that our boss and senior leaders will see the good work that we are doing and recognise it on their own. Whilst some excellent bosses will, you can’t rely on them. You’ve got to do your own work and take the reigns to tell them.
Action Step: Create your own personal satisfaction checklist. When you hit a certain milestone that you are proud of, go out and celebrate it. You deserve it! Make sure you keep a note of these milestones and share this with your boss at the appropriate time. Share the credit with your team (no doubt it was a group effort) and be sure to explain how this milestone helps your boss. Remember he/she is vested in your success too.
5. Be honest with yourself when you are struggling and get support
You’re a capable woman and used to doing it all yourself. Whilst that’s true, you don’t have to suffer in silence. If something isn’t going well and you’re facing a challenge, make sure you speak up and get appropriate support. Whether it’s your boss, a colleague, a friend or a coach, speak to someone and deal the issue head on. Shine a light on the problem and get support to come up with a solution.
Action Step: Start building your own personal support network. Write a list of people at work and in your personal life that you want to foster a better relationship with. Be there for them and they in turn will be there for you. If you have a problem right now, ask yourself who you can speak to to get some support resolving the issue.
You’ve got this!
You can have a successful career, be a mum and wear all the other hats that you wear. You don’t have to do it alone so make sure you get the support you need to make it happen.