What Have I Learned about Managing My Career?

6 years ago

I never mind making mistakes as long as I learn from them.

My most recent mistake was staying in my old role about six months too long. Why?

I had it in my woman head that because I have a large family, and because I really need some flexibility to make it work smoothly, I must be somehow less valuable to my company and should be willing to accept less in exchange for this flexibility, OR if I insist on "more", I have to give up my flexibility.

Not so.

Here is the truth: I produce and have consistently produced more than many of my team members (when I was in non-management roles AND when I assumed managment roles). Not my ego talking, I have hard numbers that show - yes, I'm a busy gal and I get things done. Quickly.

I had a manager whose own career has since suffered as a result of his dinosaur thinking tell me if he allowed me any flexibility, everyone would ask for it and the company wouldn't be able to handle it. The company in question employs over 20,000 globally and loves its place on the Working Mother Top 100 (which isn't deserved, actually).

Er, no.

When the "everyone" in question can produce as much as I can, then they can also produce the numbers showing my output, my results and my ability to fix things and then sure, they can ask for flexibility. When they can demonstrate like I can that getting my job done doesn't take anywhere near 8 hours a day, and doesn't require constant supervision - then by all means, they should have flexibilty if they need it and if their output doesn't suffer from it. Mine never did.

Flexibility isn't for poor moms who would lose their minds otherwise, it is for women who are high achievers who can get the job done without a boss two offices away. It is for those with so much initiative that they will do what is technically "my job" in the four or five hours it takes and ask for more.

This is me.

I'm also a busy mother of four with a killer commute who appreciates the flexibility so that I can continue to produce at the levels I need to, in order to get things done, while still having time to sleep because you can bet in the kids-work-sleep order of things, sleep is always going to be the one that suffers, not my kids and not my work.

Managers who wish to retain top quality female talent also need to understand, requests for shifted hours, working at home, or whatever the request may be do not reflect an attempt to avoid hard work. In fact, it is probably a request to facilitate HARDER work which will, if granted, produce more output, not less. Managers have to ask themselves: are we high school teachers, or are we managers? Do we want high quality, on-time results or do we want bots on seats?

A bot-on-seat manager has no place in the wired workplace I inhabit. And there are plenty of successful, very smart, very motivated and driven women who inhabit the same space and can do all the same things.

Well, I LEARNED. I don't have to be in this job or any other if it doesn't make my life work, period. I have a lot to offer, and I am done allowing an employer to make me think flexibility is unreasonable, unworkable or not "fair". Who said the workplace was supposed to be fair? (that's kindergarten, people). Bill Gates told us our employers don't care about our self-esteem (and that is probably true); it's also true that negotiating for what you need to do your job isn't demanding or unreasonable, it's what you do. Period. Whether it's money or benefits or scheduling, once you commit to the job you also commit to your terms so it's better to get that out there at the start. Then deliver.

If other colleagues have something to say about leaving at 4 (even though you might get in at 7), or working remotely one day a week or whatever you do - you only have to smile and say, this is the deal I have negotiated based on my performance. You can do the same when you have the same performance, can't you, darling. This is what I require in order to produce the results my manager expects and appreciates. Done.

I don't know how the memo that told women we are less valuable because we frequently  juggle more got around. It's a big fat lie and it's time we all realized what this is really about:  the traditional male-dominated, nine to five cubicle farm workplace is no longer the reality and we all get to evolve. Next time you go into a new role, or negotiate your deal, DO NOT discount yourself or your talents because you will require tailored working arrangements to produce. I hate that advice - offer to forego benefits in order to get remote working arrangements. Offer to forego a promotion because you will have slightly different hours in the summer. Who came up with that?

This is what happens - you work twice as hard because you now feel insecure and you end up producing spectacular results, and because you put yourself on the bargain rack, it simply won't have the same recognition. So don't do it. No discounts. Just what you require, and that's all.

This time, I negotiated, and everyone wins.




Jennifer Z.

Blogging on juggling rural New York home life with Manhattan worklife here at http://www.blogher.com/member/jenniferz 

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