Recently, I’ve had several conversations with close friends about the trajectory of our careers. Where is this thing going? Have we taken a backseat or are we at the helm, gearing up for greater successes and career advancement?
Here’s my story (and I’d venture to say, that of many other women)…
Since having my second child, things have taken a turn, maybe even a slump. I’ll be honest, kids change things. Especially for women. This revelation is nothing new, of course. A search for “working moms” on the Internet yields more than 46.5 million results.
There’s even a online magazine dedicated to the issue; it’s appropriately titled Working Mother, with topics ranging from flexible work to “Most Powerful Moms.”
It’s been well documented by a range of professionals and experts that women simply can’t “have it all,” as much as some people would like you to believe.
Ladies, don’t be deceived. As I’ve come to slowly realize, it’s simply impossible to be both fulfilled in your work and home life– and I mean truly fulfilled with the high-powered position doing something you love, plus salary worthy of envy, as well as spend quality time with your kids (at least during a regular work-week), all while keeping your house spotless and maintaining Michelle Obama-esque arms.
In my opinion, something’s going to eventually have to give (dare I say, suffer) if you decide to pursue one or the other full throttle.
Therein lies the problem and the impetus, for many working professionals, to begin the search for “work-life balance.” It’s something all of us are seeking these days, in whole or in part, because trying to keep pace becomes overwhelming. But it’s a notion that’s all too fleeting for many working professionals of all stripes.
Yet, this post isn’t really about that, so I’ll table that topic for later.
What this article is concerning are those moments in your career when you suddenly find yourself in a lull — you’ve lost your mojo and wonder where it’s gone. You’re not as aggressive anymore. You’ve stopped reaching for the stars. Hmph, at this point, you’ll settle for co-workers that don’t get on your last nerves.
You may daydream about the days when you were younger, or the days when you were child-free or marriage-free, or whatever. And you ask yourself if you’ve still got what it takes to reach the top of your career field or to reach your “full potential.”
You start to question what your purpose is in life, begin asking yourself whether you’ve plateaued in your career.
Is any of this starting to sound familiar?
That’s exactly what I’ve been discussing with friends lately. To go back to my earlier point, I think the perceived lull is a result of having children. Career isn’t as much of a priority anymore. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still very important, but there are now competing interests. OR, you’ve gotten comfortable. And comfortable feels goooooood…
But is having kids the real reason some professionals hold back, or is that simply an excuse for settling?
Maybe you’ve been struggling with this, too.
Whatever the case may be, I have come to realize that there are some culprits as to why some professionals hit a wall in their careers.
Here’s what I speculate:
1. You’re lazy. OR You don’t want it bad enough.
There, I said it. And I got it out of the way as my number one reason.
Here’s the thing: you could do more, but you’re simply not. And you’ve chosen a more relaxed lifestyle instead of pushing yourself to the max.
To be fair, I do realize that we all go through seasons in life. You might be struggling with a chronic illness or deeply entangled family issues. And in those moments in life, it’s important to take some time for yourself, which means having your career take more of a backseat. I’ve been there and I would never want to make someone feel bad for making decisions that will benefit your overall health and well-being, even at the sake of stalling major career decisions. That’s wise.
But other times in life, you just don’t want to move. And watching an entire season of the Housewives back-to-back becomes more appealing than kicking it up a notch at the workplace, thereby resulting in the kind of inertia that is oftentimes paralyzing.
If you decide this is something you really want. What’s the solution? Get moving. Take baby steps. I know that piece of advice is over-prescribed, but it’s tried and true.
For example, I admit that I’ve been pretty despondent about getting back in shape. But I started going for 20-minute jogs everyday, trying to get into the habit of enjoying the feeling of moving my body. I’m taking it one day at a time. Something is, indeed, better than nothing. Plus, I know that eventually I’ll get the stamina to do more. For now, though, baby steps.
Same goes for your career. What can you do immediately that can get your career back in motion?
I have some ideas: Update your Linked In profile, ask to connect with colleagues in your field. All it takes is the click of a key.
Or, do one extra thing at work this week. Make it something you’ve been avoiding, like a difficult talk with your co-worker. Or do something fun! Bring in donuts for your team one morning, which could build goodwill.
2. Life’s taken a detour and you had to make a choice.
My story is a prime example. You get married, you have kids, you buy a house, and so on and so on. Extra responsibilities require extra attention and mo’ money.
As a result, your career becomes less important or more important, depending on which side of the fence you’re on.
For some, making sure you pick up your child from day care before it closes at 6 p.m. is your top priority. Sorry report, you’re going to have to wait. Sorry prospective client, I’ll have to deliver this proposal to you by COB tomorrow.
Priorities, priorities. We all have them. But what you choose dictates what you value most in that moment.
Again, something’s going to have to give. If you choose work over your kids, your child won’t get to see you until they’re all snug in bed. And if you choose your child, work begins to pile up and you may fall behind.
With every choice, there’s also a benefit and possible repercussions. Similarly, what you choose will dictate which benefits you reap in the long run. If raising your kids is a bigger priority, then you’re likely to choose the career with the flexible schedule but with less pay. You want a highfalutin career? Then you choose the position with a posh title but crazy, long hours, leaving you with little to no social life.
It’s that simple. You make the choice, and live with it.
But make sure you choose wisely. When you look back on your life 50, 60, 70 years from now, which choice will make you most proud? Which choice will bring you most pleasure in your Golden Years?
3. You’re letting other people determine your success.
What I mean by this could fall into two buckets:
a.) You’re comparing yourself to other people, and when you see them getting ahead at what appears to be lightening-speed you start doubting your own path and your own abilities and you begin to lose heart; or
b) You’re only as aggressive in your career as your peers. In simple terms, this means you’re inching along just enough to keep in line with those around you, but you’ve yet to break away from the pack. In this regard, you’ve essentially settled for other people’s best, not your own.
Here’s my advice regarding the first part: Do not be envious or jealous of what other people have. For one, you never know what they had to go through to get there. Plus, they could just as easily be envious of your life for whatever reason. Count your blessings.
Regarding the second part: Stop settling for second-rate. Big risks, reaps big rewards. Remember that the next time you’re wondering why you’re floundering in your career field. Update your skills. Start a movement. Do something worthy that commands attention — if that’s what you really want.
4. You’re uninspired.
I recently had a conversation with a friend about this. There’s nothing worse than being uninspired in your work. But there’s a simple fix for this. When the work you do becomes uninspiring, let the peripheral benefits drive you.
Maybe you make a lot of money in your current position, allowing you to take care of people close to you financially or go on family trips. That’s a great thing, and lends itself to better work-life balance and having greater purpose. Revel in that.
Or, perhaps, you’re uninspired career is a stepping stone to launching your own business eventually. Allow that to motivate you. Hopefully, you’ll find enough inspiration in those peripheral benefits that gets you back in the game in no time.
I’ve learned a lot since launching this blog five years ago.
I’ve come to the conclusion that a job — your career, your 9-to-5 — can never satisfy you 100 percent.
Normal folks need quality relationships in which we can confide in and relate to; a network of people, a community, with which to commune; and a feeling of purpose in life. To put it simply, we need love.
For without these things, work and all of its trappings are meaningless.
With that, I’ll leave you with the sage, practical advice from King Solomon, regarded as one of the wisest people to ever live. It’s a little morbid, but real talk nonetheless. He says in the book of Ecclesiastes:
Seize life! Eat bread with gusto,
Drink wine with a robust heart.
Oh yes—God takes pleasure in your pleasure!
Dress festively every morning.
Don’t skimp on colors and scarves.
Relish life with the spouse you love
Each and every day of your precarious life.
Each day is God’s gift. It’s all you get in exchange for the hard work of staying alive.
Make the most of each one!
Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily!
This is your last and only chance at it,
For there’s neither work to do nor thoughts to think in the company of the dead, where you’re most certainly headed. (emphasis added)
Time to Sound Off! Post Your Comments
What do you think? How do you kick your career into high gear? Have you, like so many others, feel like you’ve hit a plateau in your career? Share your comments below!