Aug 21 2013

Understanding the career as a woman

Indian Working Women - Understanding the career as a woman

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When we were young in the industry, we did not give a thought about understanding the career as a woman. No one else talked about it too. Now I not only wonder but believe that if one has the slightest of awareness of trying to understand the career as a woman, it would bring about a huge change: change in how to approach it, how to handle the roadblocks and in general be far more effective in planning and having a proper career.

Women by nature are very resilient. Look at what we have achieved! There was a time we were not even allowed to come in the front room of our own houses. We broke all the barriers. We proved our worth, our skills. Today the differentiation we bring to the table is quite unique. Why then our careers are still not as smooth as we really like them to be?

It’s no more a question of worth. Aren’t we just plain stretched in our personal and professional priorities management? What if we don’t need a fight against anything anymore? May be what we need is a better understanding of ourselves and what our lives would be in the years to come; in effect understanding what our careers would be like.

Following are some questions one can try asking to self. There are no specific right answers when it comes to understanding the career as a woman. Best answers will be as unique as your fingerprint! 

What may be the main unavoidable breaks in my career?

Understanding one’s career as a woman, can bring about a huge change in how to approach it, how to handle the roadblocks and in general be far more effective in planning and having a proper career

For some reason, I avoided thinking about the possible breaks I may have to take in my work life. May be it was more of an awkward exercise to think ahead about marriage, childbirth at that time. Also I somewhere thought that I will pull along based on my will power alone! Well I did to some extent, yet I think I could have planned better.

Relocation/changes due to marriage, childbirth are the most common aspects which can result in short or long breaks in a woman’s career. These are important milestones in personal lives. They are not undesirable things happening to us. In India, most of us follow the same route.

Some such aspects must be thought well in advance. Preferably, at the start of one’s career.
Use the pre-marriage, pre-childbirth time. This is a good time to sweat it at work, understand your interests and build a solid foundation of concepts. You can even use this time to think and come up with your own plan for these future unavoidable breaks to better leverage them.

If you are already on one, learn how you can turn the break around to help boost your career.

Am I doing what I love?

Women being sincere are often good at doing the task given to them. Good is not enough though. Find what you are best at. Find what makes you lose the track of time. If you love it, you will always somehow manage to find time to do it. And that will happen irrespective of whether you are on a break or working 14 hours a day. This can mean no fear of losing touch with your core skills.

Do I really need time off now?

What if we don’t need a fight against anything anymore? May be what we need is a better understanding of ourselves and what our lives would be in the years to come; in effect sensing what our career twists would be.

Sometime people advice to take it easy when just married or when just out of college hunting for a job. Taking tension about job surely does not help yet taking it too easy may quickly convert a tiny time off into a sizeable break. One or two months are ok but if it is one year, you may have to do the explaining when you face the job interview. If childbirth follows after marriage, you may have 2 breaks in may be 3-4 years of experience. Would you pick up such a CV if you were interviewing?

Again what you value really matters here. You may feel both breaks described above totally justified. The important point here is to question the need of each break right from the initial years. How about saving it for the times when it is most stressful for you in your career?

Is this a phase to propel myself?

Recognize the months or years which are less demanding on you. Instead of playing low always, spot such phases and go out of your comfort zone. Schedule a training to attend, pick up one more module to deliver, learn new skill, and go for that promotion. Build it when it’s not a stormy situation in personal life. Sprint ahead, climb multiple steps, try to make up.

What is important right now?

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”  — Aristotle 

So often we see women eager to get back to work after a baby. So many women worry about their career with a child on their lap! The desperation sometimes is unstoppable. The feelings of fear of losing one’s career are powerful at that time. May be it is so because we all have seen many unable to return to work after childbirth. May be it is so because we have seen so many successfully return to their day jobs as well. Yet wonder if it is the right time to worry about the career!

A woman’s career is a roller coaster ride. Sometimes we gather the pieces, prepare and try to grab that promotion. Sometimes we are home caring for the sick. ‘What is important right now’ is a very effective question for all phases of your work life. Kids or career? Promotion or work-life balance? Drag myself each day or ask for a leave to de-stress? Ask yourself what matters to ‘you’ right now.

How comfortable am I with setting changing priorities if I want balance in my life?

After you answer what matters to you now, the next imperative stage is of aligning your priorities. Realize that when you opted for kids someone has opted for trying to work towards a promotion. No one is wrong. No one is off track. Be comfortable with the fact that as years go by what you value may change, so your priorities may change. It is not possible to get everything all the while in your life. Go one milestone at a time.

Why am I working?

“I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as ‘making a life’.”  — Maya Angelou

Determine and be well aware of the reasons as to why you are working. It can be because you love what you do and are able to sustain it or you want to support your family financially or something else. Thinking on it and being aware of it will also help you to understand how to spend your time and energy.

Trying this exercise of understanding the career as a woman will help you in understanding what you really want and what kind of a career you want to build. It can set the right direction than merely following those around us.

Let us know if you like this article. Share with us your own experiences to contemplate on your career. Were there more angles you thought on?

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