It’s the age-old question: How can I be a successful working parent without suffering professionally and personally?
In my experience, company policies with family-friendly flexibility are at the heart of “having it all”. In addition, I find balance in several ways.
Climbing the ranks and building my family
By the time I was 30, I climbed the Accenture ranks from analyst to consultant. My technology projects ranged from digitally transforming a travel agency chain, to guiding a leading supermarket into the world of e-commerce and modernizing an oil and gas giant’s retail operations across Germany, Australia and New Zealand.
During one fateful company Christmas party, I met my future husband, Marcus. Within a year, we married and, little more than a year after that, along came my first child, Henry.
As my maternity leave neared its end in 2009, I had choices to make about my career. Fortunately, I had an influential mentor, who found an ideal role for my return. It was then that I requested a flexible four-day work week, and my Accenture leaders made it happen.
Achieving the right balance
Accenture was very proactive in making sure I didn’t get left behind in my career. Since then, I’ve worked with a string of high-street heavyweights, and I continued to grow my career and my family, adding two more children to the mix, Zac and Daisy.
These days, I wake bright and early four days a week to catch a 50-minute train from Colchester to London, leaving before the children wake and returning after homework has been done and bedtime stories have been read.
My four weekdays are packed with meetings sandwiched by productive train time—but Wednesdays are family days.
Just as my mentor looked out for me, I now mentor a half-dozen colleagues. Innovation means a future where men and women alike can confidently tailor work schedules to their family commitments.
Here are four strategies that work well for me:
Be part of a team.
Isolation at work is rarely a good situation. Avoid solo roles; ask to be a team member. Having good colleagues around you makes your job not just more rewarding, but more entertaining too.
Colleagues will help get you through tough days and lift your spirits—and maybe even bring you chicken soup when you need it. There should always be time in the day for some fun, because life’s too short not to enjoy it, including your work life.
Schedule mental space to focus and recharge.
You cannot achieve maximum focus, or creativity, if your mind is cluttered with competing demands for attention. So, don’t be shy about talking to a manager or a mentor about ways of productively shaking up your work hours.
My “Wednesday weekends” are invaluable, but it’s important to find your own path to mental restfulness. Get a dialogue going with superiors and company confidantes who can empower you to create a new personal calendar.
Don’t be limited by your academic achievements.
I studied history at university and thought I might become a lawyer. Developing a specialty as a technology consultant was hardly on my mind when I was 20. Don’t ever think that your choice of subject or academic background means you can’t understand technological concepts or disciplines.
The most empowering thought you can embrace is that nothing we do at Accenture is impossible. You just need to work through the task at hand. Don’t be intimidated by technology. While some of it’s complicated, mostly we’re just thinking through problems logically to get to the right answer.
Put work frustrations into perspective.
Earlier in my career, I would sometimes let my emotions get to me. While I always found the work rewarding, at times it could get hectic.
I learned to step back from some of those emotions; having children really helped shape that perspective. You can see more easily the bigger picture of what really matters in life—and it’s not some temporary work setback. I’ve learned the importance of taking a deep breath and working through things, always being calm.
Stay fearless and adventurous in your career journey. Make mistakes and learn from them. Crave creativity and show the world that you’re hungry for more—and remember to treat every opportunity like it may be the last.
Ready to do work that makes a difference with a company that supports your needs? Find your fit with the Accenture team.
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