We’re absolutely thrilled this week to have launched the Google pilot scheme of our Babyproof Your Career online course. It’s a been a long old labour of love and learning, and as it’s finally off the ground, I’m popping a cheeky champagne cork and will be delving into the detail of why and how it works over the next few weeks. Today we’re starting off by looking at the vital importance of preparation and practice in achieving future success at the marathon that is working motherhood.
Why working motherhood is like running a marathon.
“There are two reasons people fail at marathons” says my fitness trainer Holly Aldridge. “Either they haven’t done the physical training or they haven’t done the mental preparation.”
Obviously, it’s not hard to understand that you aren’t going to make it through 26.2 miles of arduous physical activity without having put in the hours of cardio-vascular and muscle training before the race. But the mental strength that enables you to rise above adversity and carry on when the going gets tough is equally as important for a successful end result.
Having completed a challenging half-marathon a few years ago, when every nerve and sinew in my body was screaming at me to stop a kilometre before the finish line, I am testament to the fact that thorough physical (and especially mental) preparation and practice pays off in such gruelling situations. As a career coach, it also got me thinking about the intriguing parallels with working motherhood.
The working motherhood marathon.
The marathon is as tough as it gets (unless you are crazy enough to try an iron-level challenge!), and no-one except the extremely fool-hardy would attempt one without making sure they were in optimum physical and mental condition at the start-line. Doing so would almost guarantee injury, exhaustion, burnout and most probably, failure. In my experience, steering a top-level career safely through your child-rearing years is a similarly emotionally and physically demanding feat of endurance. We have all seen dynamic career women crash and burn while attempting to juggle work and family commitments, but let’s apply the marathon analogy here. In both of these physically and mentally demanding undertakings, the keys to success are preparation, practice and resilience. In a marathon, and in working motherhood, if you haven’t prepared, the chances of you succeeding are significantly reduced. As with a marathon, you can avoid the pitfalls of exhaustion or burnout in working motherhood if you anticipate the challenges ahead of you, train, and prepare strategies for dealing with them BEFORE they arise.
To any marathon-running novice, a fitness coach might say, ‘Do your research, join a support network, seek professional advice, get the right equipment, allocate enough time, train hard, and stay positive.’ And that is also what I would say to say to any talented career woman planning on having a family. This philosophy forms the basis of the Babyproof Your Career online course and community. Together we can help you prepare to build strong foundations for a successful future career and family-life balance. Don’t doubt yourself! You may or may not want to run an actual marathon, but with a little guidance and support, you can definitely run (and win!) the marathon of working motherhood.
Preparing for the working motherhood marathon – my top tips of steps you can take right now:
Build your support network.
No-one can go it alone – we all need emotional and physical support from time to time, and even more so when we become working parents. Get those supportive relationships in place BEFORE you have a family.
- Create a professional network. Build your relationships at work, be positive and helpful to work with and cultivate connections with senior influencers and managers. Participate! Attend talks and workshops – and take advantage of any schemes and initiatives to advance your position and get yourself known. Don’t just focus on internal networks – build relationships outside your workplace and across your industry. Join groups, used Linkedin, attend events and get networking. (Have a look at my in-depth post on professional networking here)
- Get the support of your partner. A supportive and equal relationship is key for making the career and family balance work. Talk to your partner well before you decide to have children. Make sure you are on the same page in terms of parenting ideas and work-sharing strategies.
Build your career capital.
Invest in your future by striving for excellence and making yourself indispensable – right now.
- Raise your profile. Look the part and make yourself visible. Get your work noticed. Put yourself forward to contribute written pieces to internal communications, and offer to get involved in talks and workshops. Keep a record of your achievements and send regular summaries to the influencers in your workplace. Use Social Media platforms like Linkedin, Google + or Twitter to raise your profile and grow your personal brand. Build a reputation as a thought-leader in your space.
Build trust and credibility (credit in the bank).
- Contribute to your organisation in a way that is particularly valued (perhaps by forming strong relationships with important clients). This could prove invaluable at a later date when you need the support.
Climb the leadership ladder.
- Act like the leader you want to be. Show interest in your organisation and develop a broader understanding of how it works. Dress and behave like leadership material; learn to delegate, win over your clients – be direct and to the point in all your communications.
- What makes you special? How do you stand out from your peers? Identify your unique value and promote it. Make people remember you.
So – take ownership of your career and life now, and you will be much more resilient to the challenges of the working motherhood marathon when they eventually arise. Start by signing up to our Babyproof Your Career online course which combines resources, coaching, exercises, and group and tutor support. Get preparing and get practising! The first intake starts at the beginning of March and spaces are limited, so hurry and register your interest here.
Know any other potential working motherhood marathon runners? If so, please feel free to share this post!
Caroline Flanagan is a Keynote Speaker, Babyproof Coach and Author of Babyproof Your Career, The Secret to Balancing Work and Family so you can Enjoy It All. Caroline believes passionately in the dream of having it all, and founded Babyproof Your Life to train and prepare ambitious career women for the marathon of working parenthood so they can find their own way to #enjoyitall and #makeitwork. You can reach Caroline at firstname.lastname@example.org