You Could Be Mentoring Someone Right Now Without Realizing It
Never unplug from the workforce.
That was one of the best career advice I ever got from a woman.
With all the unhealthy effects that we’re hearing now about being always ‘on’ or the need for digital minimalism, this may sound like bad advice.
But for a working mom like me, it was the best advice I’d ever got.
What this woman meant by never unplugging is not about never taking a break from work.
No, what she meant was not to opt out of work.
Especially as a woman if we want to be financially independent.
This woman never knew those 10 minutes she spent with me was a mentoring moment I’ve never forgotten.
Even now, 14 years after I sat in her office.
This woman was the CEO of an organization I used to work at.
This was a ‘step down’ job I took after giving birth to my firstborn son.
But what I lost in income, I gained in meeting this woman who would inspire me deeply to this day.
I scaled back my career because my previous boss, ironically a mother of four herself, had expectations of me that I felt I wasn’t ready to commit to.
She wanted to send work to my home during my maternity leave.
Meetings were to be organized after official work hours.
This was despite knowing full well I had a newborn at home I was still nursing.
She boasted about how she would bring her kids to her office and let them sit on the floor to play while she worked.
And the one line I felt I couldn’t stand up against was, ‘I’m a mother of four and I can do it, so why can’t you?’
I left for obvious reasons.
How I Met My 10-Minute Mentor
Shortly after I joined this new organization, my boss who hired me resigned.
That left all of the section heads in my department reporting directly to the CEO.
She was one of the most inspiring women I’d ever had the privilege of working for.
I heard she was recruited shortly before I joined to turn the flailing organization which was deep in the red around.
She got the organization in the black within a year. Some say there was a ruthlessness about her and how she dealt with that turnaround.
I guess effective leaders sometimes had to make tough and unpopular decisions.
Still, it was unlike the impression I got through my direct interaction with her.
Instead, she’d always reminded us that even when we had to let people go, we must not forget to be compassionate and recognize loyalty.
After my boss left and our department was left without a leader, this CEO called me to her office one day to discuss a project I was working on.
After we finished our discussion, we somehow got to talking about being a working mom.
How She Changed My Life
She said to me that no matter what, to never unplug myself from the workforce, especially as a mom.
Even if it meant I had to go part-time for a short while or scale back my career, just remain plugged into the workforce.
Although she didn’t elaborate on the whys’ behind everything she said, I realize now how important this lesson was to be financially independent as a woman.
Here’s what I learned from her:
Growing Income, Networks, Skills & Experience
Besides being in touch with our industry, profession and networks, remaining in the workforce means our income continues to grow.
Women already start off lower than our male counterparts with the gender pay gap.
When we opt out, our retirement nest egg takes a big hit.
And along with it, our financial freedom and peace of mind in our retirement years.
Prioritize Time Every Day With Your Family And Protect It Fiercely
Staying plugged in the workforce doesn’t mean we pursue our careers at the expense of our families.
Dinner time with her kids was something my CEO and her husband made a priority.
That was the one hour they sat down together as a family to catch up with each other.
After dinner, she and her husband would get back to their emails, working side by side.
She’d also always try to attend business trips with her husband whenever she could.
Be Ruthless With Your Time Management
Her tip for clearing the tons of emails she receives as a CEO was to schedule a fixed time to go through them.
As she’s going through those emails, she’d deal with each one as she read them.
As far as possible, she doesn’t them aside for later.
This would mean she’d need to spend time coming back to it again.
That was duplicated effort and time wasted.
Instead of getting distracted and responding to whatever falls into your inbox, set a time to focus and clear your emails.
Then go about the rest of your day’s priorities.
The Outcome of Implementing That Advice 14 Years Later
It’s been 14 years since I sat in her office.
But I’ve never forgotten her words.
There were times when I toyed with the idea of going part-time or fantasized about what it would be like to be a stay-at-home mom to my 2 kids.
Our financial situation never allowed it and in a way, I’m glad for that.
I’m also thankful that my parents were there for me to help us raise our kids since both my husband and I work.
And luckily for us, childcare in our country is affordable.
Here’s what happened through that 10-minute mentoring moment:
Gained Skills, Confidence & Sense of Self-Worth
Staying ‘plugged into’ my career was an investment in myself.
It enabled me to build a life with a great deal of fulfilment and meaning.
My career has been a journey that’s helped me discover my strengths, talents and developed a set of skills that I can now transfer across jobs and even in my personal life.
Knowing what I’m great at and love doing brings a deep sense of accomplishment, self-worth and confidence that helps me continue to do better.
It becomes a positive reinforcing cycle.
Found My Dream Job & Get To Do What I Love
Sure I had many stops, starts and detours in my career.
Without these, I may not be working in my dream job today as a trainer and talent manager.
I work with people from all walks of life, share ideas, exchange experiences, explore and work towards a better world and way of doing things every single day.
Not to mention I get to use my love for writing, teaching and communicating in my day-to-day work and earn a decent salary doing it.
Achieved Career Success Without Compromising Being There For My Kids
I too implemented the practice of prioritizing dinner time with my family even on days where I had to meet a deadline or take a conference call.
I’ve always made it a point to have dinner as a family before continuing with my work.
This also meant I’ve turned down jobs with higher salaries but which required a lot more travel or didn’t allow me flexibility.
I am brutal with my time management to ensure I’m an above average performer and can still leave work on time.
I’ve earned a reputation for producing high-quality work while achieving the elusive ‘work-life balance’.
It’s a hard-earned reputation, not without the discontent, jealousy and criticism from others about how come I get to go home on time and still be a top performer at some of my workplaces.
Sadly, such comments often came from fellow women and moms.
That’s alright with me.
There will always be people who judge without knowing the sacrifices you make for priorities important to you.
What they see are only the final outcome and outer veneer.
Become A Financially Independent Breadwinning Mom
I’d never been in a position to not have to work.
Although I used to fantasize about it or resent not being able to ‘enjoy’ the kind of lifestyle where I could opt-out of work.
I both credited and blamed my husband for pushing me to become the independent breadwinning mom that I am.
Sometimes I resent him for not providing me with the choice to be able to opt-out of work.
Most times, I’m thankful opting-out was never a viable choice. It forced me to get creative and resourceful.
The alternative of not being a financially independent breadwinning mom scares me now.
You Could Be Mentoring Someone Right Now
I don’t think my CEO ever thought what she said to me in those 10 minutes would have manifested into what it has in my life today.
It’s made me realize that perhaps I too was mentoring a younger female colleague or intern I interacted with at work.
And that’s why I tell myself to gossip less, show more gratitude and lift others up with me instead of tearing them down, especially people who annoy me.
It’s that cliched. And it’s that simple.
Be the change you want to see in the world.
You never know. You could just be the mentor who actually changes someone’s life without even realizing it.