Don't Let Motherhood Get Your Career Off-Track

In my mid-30s, in the midst of a thriving consulting career, I had to make a choice between continuing on the corporate path to partner or starting my own firm. I was healthy throughout my first pregnancy. But my second pregnancy led to serious complications, and my twin daughters were born eight weeks early, weighing just over three pounds each. Their premature birth was a watershed personal and professional moment. I loved my work and I always envisioned a long consulting career. But I knew that the demands of working in a firm, which included long hours and travel, would not be sustainable with three young children. My own firm offered flexibility to be a hands-on mom but it was risky because I would no longer have the security of a paycheck. I feared striking out on my own, as I had never thought of myself as an entrepreneur.

My children being my number one priority, gave me the motivation I needed to start my own human resources consulting firm. That was almost 10 years ago. Since then, I have grown my business from two clients to delivering services to over 80 organizations. As a human resource consultant, I offer individuals career advice and I help companies design human resource systems. I began to observe the moms who seemed to strike the balance between work and family and those who didn't. What I learned is that there are some very clear do's and don'ts of being a successful working mom. 3 fatal flaws that can get a mom's career off-track are:

Fatal Flaw #1: Lack of Excellence

Lack of excellence is accepting mediocrity in your position because you are too sleep deprived, too tired, or too overwhelmed. Never let motherhood be an excuse. Set a high bar for yourself - higher than your manager or your organization - and hold yourself accountable. Nip any perception that your performance has declined now that you are a mom by out-performing standard expectations. Excellence is the sure-fire way to keep your career on-track.

Fatal Flaw #2: Lack of Initiative

Lack of Initiative is the failure to "take action." If you want to keep your career on-track, it will be up to you to be proactive and take control. One of the most important areas to be proactive around is compensation. If your manager doesn't initiate a conversation about your pay at least once a year, it will be up to you. Make sure you schedule a conversation at least annually to discuss how you can get ahead, how you can increase your pay, and how to get a promotion.

Fatal Flaw #3: Lack of Interpersonal Skills

Good interpersonal skills are a requirement if you want to see your career advance. And the reality is that getting ahead often has a lot to do with who you know. Cultivating relationships requires an investment but the returns are worth it. Invest the time in building relationships with mentors, colleagues, and leaders throughout the organization. The most successful people have advocates and mentors. You will be out of the office more once you are a mom. Find champions who will sing your praises in your absence.

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