As the CHRO for CapTech, I’m often asked by college students and young women for career advice. Specifically, they want to know how to choose a career that allows them to have work/life balance and to find fulfillment at work. These are some of my own personal “lessons learned” that come quickly to mind.
The Right Employer + Passion = Career Fulfillment
I think the term work/life balance is often misconstrued with not having to work hard, when it really involves working flexibly, and diligently. First, it’s important to find a company that supports flexible schedules and understands, and even expects, that employees have many dimensions to their lives. My CapTech coworkers have so many varied interests, including hobbies, sports, volunteer activities… this is what makes them so fun and interesting to work with.
When I interviewed with CapTech, I made it a point to share that I have three children and that being able to participate in their lives and activities was as important to me as working well to serve my company. So, what does this mean for me in my day-to-day work? It means if I have to leave early for a school or sporting event, I have complete freedom to do so without judgement, and then I can find the time later to complete my work.
For some this might sound like a chore, but I’m very passionate about what I do so I don’t see it as such. This is the other critical piece I tell my mentees: When you pursue what you’re passionate about, it enables work to feel less like a four-letter word, simply because it’s another enjoyable part of your life. Several my friends have told me at one point or another that they felt they needed to choose between a career or motherhood. For me it was never an “or” ‒ it was always an “and.” I attribute this to finding a career that I truly love.
How to Find Your Passion
Growing up, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I’m very comfortable interacting with people and love helping others solve problems. Going into a career where I council others on their career path made perfect sense for me based on my interests and strengths.
If you still don’t know what you like and what your greatest skills are, talk to people who know you, do your research, and take classes that open you up to new experiences. Many Millennials and the newest members of the workforce, Generation Z, are already doing a great job at identifying what’s important to them and trying to find their value at work. But the path to self-discovery and growth is a continuous journey. If you focus on consistently trying to learn and improve yourself, you’ll find your way.
I tend to disagree with educators working with students who say, “You are weak in (insert specific area), so why don’t you spend a lot of effort improving that area?” I think it would be more effective for students if we told them to continue to refine and build skills in the areas they are already strong. Play to your individual strengths instead of compensating for weaknesses. As a woman with a non-technical background working in a technology firm, I tend to see things differently. At first, I thought this was a problem. But after several years in my role, I’ve come to realize that being different can be seen as a positive because I bring a unique perspective to the table. It serves me better at my job when I don’t try to pretend that I’m something I’m not.
Measure Your Success Against Your Own Standards, Not Others
Be authentic to who you are. It’s easy to look to at your friends and peers and compare yourself to them in terms of success, but this is detrimental. Your own personal success needs to be based on your own goals. Figure out what your goals are, what tasks you want to accomplish, and work towards making them happen. You’ll be much happier and ultimately more successful if you do.