For Career Options Later- Work Hard Early

April 24, 2013

……………..The Millennial generation’s trademark concern with work/life balance demonstrates a change in priorities from previous generations. According to a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Millennials say that finding the right balance between their work life and personal life is the number one thing they look for in a job. Yet recently, Barnard 2011 Commencement speaker, Sheryl Sandberg, in her new book Lean In, notes that too much focus on future lifestyle concerns can interrupt a promising career. Sandberg writes that “framing the issue as ‘work-life balance’ — as if the two were diametrically opposed — practically ensures work will lose out. Who would ever choose work over life?” Ms. Sandberg warns that too many professional women concerned about creating this amorphous and unattainable balance end up in a situation where they “leave before they leave.” They act like semi-employees, even before they decide to cut back hours or depart their work altogether. These women crater any chance they might have to advance significantly in their careers, an outcome which could have had a bearing on their decision to stay home or not.

As a once full-time, now part-time professional, I can add another dimension to bolster Ms. Sandberg’s argument. Like many young professional women, I didn’t know how I would feel about work when I had children. But by time my first two were born, I was almost thankful my husband had just started his own company. I didn’t have to decide whether or not to work; I had no option. So, lucky for me, my mind continued to stay in the work game which helped me succeed in an intensely male environment at Merrill Lynch in the 90’s. I left Merrill as a managing director when I was pregnant with my third child to join a client’s new company. Turns out, the job was not as I had imagined and I left there soon after my baby was born. I’ve been home ever since, working on various ventures.

Often these days my life is filled with kid-related activities, not professional ones. But I consider myself fortunate that I had the work experience I did for three reasons. First, I’m able to continue offering financial advisory consulting services, on my schedule, because of the training I received and credibility I attained. Second, I know my past achievements will allow me to return to the work force full time, perhaps not in an identical capacity, but in a challenging one. And third, on those days when the car mechanic thinks I’m an idiot and my children wouldn’t disagree, I can remember a time when a sizable number of bankers and industrialists valued my opinion.

I may not have followed a career pattern like Sheryl Sandberg’s but our mantra is the same. Jump into your career whole heartedly and achieve as much as you can during that time. You will benefit years later; regardless of where you find yourself.