Why you should work on your career even if you don’t want a “career”


We talk a lot about career advice and how to move your career forward. But not every woman wants to have a typical “career”. I met many smart and talented women whose priority was to have an interesting and stable job to which they could return after they had their kids. So they decide against having a “career”. 


This is a valid choice of course but the issue is that they often stay in jobs which are actually not really fulfilling them and enabling them to live up to their full potential. Why? Because they are afraid that the next step of the ladder might not be compatible with a family life. 


Having a career ≠ being a CEO


I understand the reasoning behind. Not having kids myself, I’d also imagine it to be a challenge if I was in top management or travelling a lot. There are however usually many levels between the operational, rather entry level jobs in which many women stay and the top management jobs which require 24/7 availability. In many cases the next step on the ladder wouldn’t really be completely incompatible with a family life. 


Especially in big corporations, there are usually many levels between the entry level and the CEO. There is usually also a multitude of senior job profiles which don’t necessarily require leading a team or travelling a lot. Sometimes it just takes a bit of looking around and you will notice how many opportunities are out there. You don’t need to stay in a job which is comfortable but, well, kind of boring. You can have a fulfilling career which is compatible with family life if you look a bit around. 


Your job satisfaction might be outside your comfort zone


You also need to think about your own job satisfaction. Many of the women I met who stayed in jobs which didn’t fulfill them were really unhappy with their job and their responsibilities. They showed their dissatisfaction by always complaining how things used to be better, how their qualification and their knowledge wasn’t being appreciated by the company. 


The truth was: they had massively outgrown the jobs they were in. There was no more challenge and no more possibility to grow in these roles. So they got frustrated while waiting to get pregnant and started spreading negative vibes around the department. That lead to them not being seen in a positive light (great performance but what a mindset…). Consequently the were not being considered for new roles anymore. 


If your career/life plan is along these lines, take a moment to think: imagine you don’t get pregnant as fast as you wished or intended. You might be stuck in a job that doesn’t really fit you anymore for a very long time. So why not try and get a job that actually challenges you a little and is more interesting than the same job which you have done for years? Why not be brave and try to move out of the comfort zone? You never know what happens. What if you never get pregnant? Will you stay stuck in the same job forever? 


Let’s talk about money


There is also another aspect you should consider. Once you started working part time, your chances of stepping up the ladder and getting a more interesting as well as better paying job are not very good. It should therefore be in the interest of your family planning to get the highest paying job possible before you go on maternity leave. In many countries, the working law doesn’t allow the company to put you into a lower and worse paid position once you return part time. Stepping just one step up the ladder can therefore make a big difference to your lifestyle and the budget you have available once you have kids. 


Setting a precedent


Apart from you having a more fulfilled professional life and more money, there’s also a benefit for all the women who come after you. You will even the path for other women. The more women we have at higher levels in organizations, e.g. senior positions and middle management, the easier it will get for the ones coming after us to step up to the same level or even higher and have kids. The more women we are in interesting, challenging and well paying jobs with kids, the less hesitation and doubt will be amongst the ones coming after us. 


Again, you don’t need to become a CEO. Maybe you just move from an assistant to a manager role, from an operational to a more strategic role or from a junior to a senior role. If you don’t know which kind of role would be a suitable next step, try to talk to HR or your boss about it. They often have a better overview about opportunities in your organization. Just let them know your requirements, e.g. not too much travel or normal working hours. You don’t need to tell them why these are your requirements or that you want to have kids at some point. That’s none of their business. But keep looking for growth opportunities. Make sure that you don’t stop growing before you’ve reached your full potential. Start now and apply for the next step of your career.