It wasn’t long ago when women were expected to stay home and take care of the children and household while men went to work to "bring home the bacon." In 1952, barely 30% of women held jobs. Now, they make up nearly half the U.S. labor force—an estimated 41 million wage earners. Even more, approximately 6.2 million women own their own companies, contributing nearly $2.4 trillion to the economy. So, women are not only bringing home the bacon, they’re frying it up as well.
Lynn Weiner, a dean at Chicago's Roosevelt University, wrote about the history of the female labor force in her study, From Working Girl to Working Mother. She notes that before World War II, working women were mainly single, fresh off the farm, and working in factories. Today, they're more likely to be harried mothers, madly juggling business meetings with kids' day-care schedules. Juggling multiple responsibilities of family and a career can overwhelm even the most ambitious woman if she’s not careful. So, how can we manage our career paths and advance in our careers if we’re overwhelmed in our current situations?
Here are five keys to managing all of that while building your career:
1) Identify and Maintain a Clear Path. Many of my female clients tell me, "I just want a job. Who can be picky in this economy?" While it’s true that balance and flexibility are required in these challenging times, totally abandoning your career goals for "just a job" is counterproductive. Set a goal and take definitive steps toward it. In the long run, employers will ask you why you took a job as a credit repair specialist when what you really wanted was to be a public health educator. Ultimately, it will take you even longer to reach your goal because you stepped off the path.
2) Take Small Steps Toward Your Goal. Looking down the road at owning your own business might be a bit intimidating. Since you have already mapped out your plan (right?), take tiny steps along the path you’ve already identified. Learn about and identify the best business structure; identify partners, officers, or board members; decide on a mission for the business, develop a marketing plan, etc. One step at a time!
3) Set Deadlines. Setting deadlines to complete the tasks you’ve mapped out helps you stay on top of each item that’s necessary to move you closer to your goal. Decide on a time frame and stick to it. Do you need to enroll in that business course by July to reserve your seat for the fall semester? Have you said you would file incorporation papers for your business by January 15? The sense of accomplishment you feel as you meet each deadline will keep you motivated to continue.
4) Join Forces. Find support by joining organizations of women who have similar ambitions. Three such groups are:
- Advancing Women provides career and business strategy, tools, and resources to support your career, business, and leadership goals.
- Women of Vision Empowerment Network provides mentoring from professional coaches through online resources.
- eWomenNetwork provides a comprehensive suite of services to help women market and promote themselves.
5) Don’t Forget Family. Sometimes, we get so busy reaching for our goals that we forget those we want to be standing with us when we get there. Don’t forget to schedule time with your children and spouse. Mini-dates, game nights, or even involving them in your activities is important. I have had my daughter serve as "intern for a day" in my office. She felt grown up, and we got to spend time together while I worked. Reaching your goals is much more fulfilling when you have someone to share them with.
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