“Now that I am a parent, my former position no longer feels right. This is causing me a great deal of anxiety and confusion because I’ve spent my entire life, up to this point, preparing for my career.I want to be more in control of my professional activities, but still have time to be with my child. I don’t think my previous work demands will fit into my new life. My values have shifted; yet I’m not prepared to completely abandon working.”
Does this scenario sound familiar? Since parenthood is one of life’s milestones it often makes us question our careers to find the appropriate balance between professional and personal needs.Is it really possible to pursue a professional life while beginning to raise a family?
Exploring your present value system, skills, and interests is an excellent way to begin the process of determining the most suitable blend of personal and professional options. Begin by asking yourself: “How can I make my work as well as my personal life more meaningful?”
One’s values may be difficult to define and can change over time.Determine which decisions will enable you to get through the day with the greatest ease and fulfillment. For example, what do you value most at this point in your life? The ability to stay home with your child and watch him or her through their daily routines? The security of knowing a steady stream of income will be coming into the home? The power of your old position? The professional status you achieved? The freedom to leave home every day?
Ideally you want to match the amount of time you spend on activities with your values and guide your life’s decision accordingly.You need to recognize changing priorities.Life circumstances change.If the importance of different roles change, re-balance your investment in them.For example, as children get older they require less caregiving. You can then spend more time for work, volunteer roles or nurturing relationships and/or developing interests.
The key is to remember as our values change we need to constantly adjust. One feels most fulfilled when their life is meaningful.This process begins by identifying what is presently most significant to us and then budgeting our time and choices accordingly. The best way to make sure this occurs is to constantly fine tune our lives by being honest with ourselves.
Secondly, in identifying one’s skills first recognize they may be vocationally or avocationally related.For example, you may have done one of the following: organized a fundraising event for your favorite charity; created a beautiful piece of art; worked on an unusual project at work. There is usually a common thread that runs between your achlevements. These skills generally are displayed in leadership, interpersonal, artistic, mechanical or organizational endeavors and are highly transferable to many different fields. Think of a few accomplishments in your life that have given you satisfaction. The key is to identify the skills that motivate you. They are the ones that you enjoy using and feel fairly competent at. Think about each skill in context of whether or not you consider yourself highly proficient, competent or have little skill with.Then,think about those same skills in context of whether you enjoy using them a lot, enjoy moderately,prefer not
to use or strongly dislike . Which ones were awarded the highest rating, (highly proficient and like using a lot? Which ones received the lowest rating (have little skill and strongly dislike). This simple exercise may help you understand the concept of using skills that you enjoy as well as
those you are proficient in.
Thirdly, how do you begin to identify your interests? During the course of the day,your interests will direct your behavior. For example, when you open your daily newspaper, what section do you choose first? A simple example like this may help you begin to identify where your primary interests lie. There are also many standardized, highly valid and reliable testing instruments (such as the Strong Interest Inventory) that enables one to measure these various components with greater sophistication. Through discussion and testing, I work with my clients to become highly sensitive to their environment and to understand what energizes, revitalizes and interests them. The best way to understand your interests is to stop, look and really ask yourself what is it that you enjoy, what makes you happy? In general, people that share interests with other people that work in similar occupations, tend to be more satisfied and more productive.
Many people assume that interests are something they can enjoy after work, and that interests cannot be turned into paid work. That is incorrect. For example, if you love pets what about starting a pet sitting or dog walking business? If you enjoy sports what about working in sports marketing? Are you computer savvy? You could become a consultant and work at home. These are just a few opportunities that you may have never thought of- and there are many more.
A professional assessment instrument that is commonly used in the career-coaching field is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator( MBTI). This inventory is utilized to measure your personality style and preferences. You are asked to answer a series of questions and your corresponding responses guide you through the procedure of realizing your personality traits and understanding who you are. The MBTI aids in comprehending how you generally look at the world and attempts to define what type of decisions you tend to make relating to your personality. Knowing your preferences and learning about other people’s preferences can help you become aware of your special strengths, work values, successes, and personal styles. You can also understand how people with different preferences can relate to each other and be valuable to society through the use of the MBTI. I am a big believer in matching your temperament to your position and the organizational climate as well. For instance, are you calm, excitable, sensitive, anxious energetic? These qualities need to be taken into consideration when you think about your career choices.
After some self-assessment, think about how you can draw on your strengths and interests professionally, while still finding time for family? You may not have all the answers immediately. The self-examination process takes time and requires thought; however, from a long-term career and life planning perspective, the rewards greatly outweigh the time and effort involved. Needing to re-balance career and family life is a question of both present-time and long-term happiness. What will make you feel most happy now? What will bring you the most contentment over the years?
It’s important to understand that this process takes time and you need to maintain your focus, perseverance and motivation. It’s helpful to establish a plan with simple action steps that will lead you through each step of the process. Fulfillment and awareness don’t happen overnight, so you will need patience. Sometimes it is hard to be patient. The good news is that fulfillment and awareness don’t vanish overnight, either. When you attain your goals, you’ll also be in a position to enjoy them for a long time. Every step along the way will matter; take one step at a time. Each step feeds upon and strengthens the next. Take action, get in motion and build momentum. Steadiness of effort counts for more than you think. Set realistic goals in a reasonable timeframe for your actions. As soon as you define a path that seems to hold possibilities for your future, begin exploring it by researching books and the Internet and talking to as many people as possible. Try out new experiences, join a professional organization or get involved as a volunteer in work related to this area of interest. Trust your gut and/or intuition, if you are feeling good keep going, if not, let it go. You haven’t wasted time; you’ve just narrowed your list and given yourself a more focused perspective. Allow the process to build upon itself. Take daily consistent action, however small, to fulfill goals.
When you’ve thought about parenthood/career issues in this kind of light for a while, you’ll begin to see that you really have several options and alternatives. The questions you have to ask yourself can be daunting, but they also pose opportunities to make very positive changes-if you’re willing to consider meaningful adjustments in your professional and personal lives. Breaking free