I recently attended an event for professional women, tailored specifically for mothers in the workforce. The discussion was led by a female executive who wanted to share her personal experiences as a working mother, encouraging those of us who are also working mothers by including both her successes and her own challenges. During the Q&A portion of the event, one attendee asked a question that has been floating around in my head ever since: “What are the benefits for children who have mothers who work outside of the home?” I felt that it was a very thoughtful question, so I began to make a mental list of the lessons that have been engrained in me during my career that can benefit my daughter. I came up with four key lessons:
1. Enjoy your “work”
I am blessed to have a job that I enjoy and that puts my natural gifts and learned skills to good use. However, work need not be defined strictly as something that takes place in an office. Work includes all activities that require the use of your talents and individual gifts, including studying for an upcoming test, planning a birthday party for a friend, training for an athletic event, or completing tasks at your job. When our talents are put to their full use, great joy can result.
In the movie Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddell’s character wrestles with his decision to postpone missionary work in China for a chance to compete in the Olympics. He ultimately decides that both opportunities are good because both use his gifts. In Eric’s words: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” (Credits: IMDB, YouTube clip). Be confident and put your gifts to use where they can flourish. Run fast and enjoy the running.
2. Strive for excellence
In my husband’s family, they learned the saying: “Once a job is first begun, never leave it ‘till it’s done. Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all.” This mantra is destined to be repeated in our household, but I prefer the way this concept is expressed in Ecclesiastes, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…”(Ecclesiastes 9:10). The idea of doing all things with excellence has been reinforced throughout my experiences in the professional world.
During college I had a summer internship where I expected to gain experience in my field of study but instead I was asked to organize files. I was disappointed, but I made sure that I organized the files as well as I possibly could. At the end of the summer, my employer offered me a full-time job in my field of study. That experience taught me that the way I handle the little things is an indicator to others of how I am likely to handle the big things. And if I can train myself to do my best at the small tasks, then I will be prepared for the larger ones. I try to do my best at everything in my path, knowing that it prepares me, and shows others that I am prepared, for increasing levels of responsibility.
3. Learn from failure and do not fear it
I have heard it said, “If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.” It is important to cultivate the talents that come naturally to you, but also be disciplined to learn new things. There have been times during my career when I have failed while attempting something new. I have committed to deadlines that I didn’t meet because I didn’t delegate tasks properly. I have been too stubborn to ask for help when I needed it, and my work product suffered as a result. Each time I have failed, I have learned to not repeat the same mistake. By discovering what not to do, I learn how to do it right. I gain a better understanding of how long it takes to complete certain types of tasks. I learn who the experts are in specific areas so I can get their input and expertise when I am attempting something for the first time. Learning from these mistakes means that I am careful not to repeat them, and I am much better equipped to be successful the next time around.
It is very uncomfortable to fail, but growth resulting from a mistake can be even more impactful than growth resulting from a success. Take on challenges that are out of your comfort zone, and look for opportunities to learn new things along the way. You are not expected to never make mistakes, but you are expected to learn from them.
4. Lean into conflict
Conflict comes whether we want it to or not, with little need for effort on our part to seek it out. The ability to resolve conflict well, however, is a great skill, and a learned one. Early in my career, I was working with an executive who was having a stressful day. He lost his temper and yelled at me for something out of my control. I was so new at the time that I wasn’t quite sure how to respond, and I might have let it slide if another colleague had not been quick to stand up for me. Instead, we discussed the situation, he apologized, and we were able to continue working together without having that incident cloud our opinions of each other. Several months later, that executive called me up simply to encourage me in my career and express how much he enjoyed working with me.
Do not be afraid to lean into conflict when it arises, and do not shy away from difficult conversations. When you are engaged in a conflict, address the issue with discernment and discretion. Be honest, even when you could get away with less than the truth. The ability to manage conflict well is highly respected.
The lessons I continue to learn in the workforce are molding my own character and provide teachable moments that will be transferred to my daughter as she grows up. These are invaluable lessons that I will be better equipped to teach her because of the experiences I have had in consulting and while at Credera.
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