Thursday, September 16, 2010

Be The Boss of Your Career

Ambition often gets a bad rap. It's associated with a great goal that is achieved after much sacrifice and many trade-offs. For working moms in particular, ambition can be a loaded concept.

We can all think of examples of so-called ambitious people who reached the top of their field but gave up something to get there. Perhaps they had no children; maybe they experienced a divorce or lost their good health on the way to their goal.

But ambition doesn't have to be a negative. In fact, if managed consciously, ambition can be a working mother's greatest asset. When you are proactive in your professional and personal development, you become the boss of your own career (and life) - and that's a position with a lot of perks.

Here are five strategies to help you advance your career in a way that is satisfying and meaningful without losing your mind, your family or your health.

1. Define ambition

Write your own definition of ambition. What does it mean specifically to you? Explore your fears around reaching for what you "really" want. Are you afraid you'll lose your family to your work? Alternatively, if you want to work less to be with your family more, do you worry that you'll miss out on a great promotion? Can your ambition ebb and flow with the changing tides of your family life? Finish this statement: Ambition for me means ...

2. Align your goals

Establish goals and strategies that will allow you to live the life you want. Get clear on what is important to you and align your professional goals with your strengths, your interests, and the age/stage(s) of your children. For instance, to advance your career, you may need to further your education. Consider what will be the best time to incorporate studies into family life, keeping in mind that online learning offers great flexibility. By being strategic about your goals and dreams, you can help to make them your reality.

3. Consider personal priorities when making important decisions

Each of us has our own beliefs on what really matters in life. And what matters most can shift with passing time. Whether it is you, your family or your career advancement, there isn't a right or a wrong answer. There is just what makes the most sense in that moment. If you want your career and life going in the right direction, always take your personal priorities into consideration when you have a decision to make. Ask yourself, "Will this enhance what is important in my life right now?"

4. Leverage your skills and become an expert

Know your unique talents and skills (what you naturally excel at and what people tell you you are good at), then create a plan that leverages your talents. Discover and focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses, so your skills become specialized and valued in the marketplace. If you're a great organizer, go organize. Whether you're a strategic thinker, a creative wiz or a patient teacher, do what comes easily and naturally. Position yourself accordingly and you will become the go-to person in your field.

5. Be confident

Marrying your ambition with your family life can mean you choose to turn your career volume up and down. Believing in you through this process is crucial. If you don't, no one else will. Self-confidence is key to getting what you want. Pay attention to any doubts or doubters and stay away from thoughts or people who weaken your confidence. Choose to surround yourself with ideas and people that support and encourage you to reach your dream.

Who said "ambition" had to be a dirty word? How you feel about ambition will change over time. So it's important to keep checking in and making adjustments, as your family situation changes. And remember, you are the boss of you. Enjoy being in charge of your life and career.

© Copyright 2007. Lisa Martin. All rights reserved.

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