When I first moved to Houston, I started a job in a leadership role that was less than ideal for my situation. I was in a new city, had a new job, and I was a newly minted single mom. It was all too much new, but it all seemed so glorious that I jumped into the lake headfirst. And I nearly drowned. I tried to be the ultimate leader, but I did not have a good example, and I failed miserably. I was too strict at work, too stressed at home, and too tired for myself.
Working moms know all about the push and pull of family, bills, and balance. Finding your voice at work and advocating for the flexibility you need can be exhausting. If you are like me and are starting a new job, or you are ready to redefine yourself in a current job, these 5 tips will help you find your voice.
Finding and Using Your Voice at Work
Find a Mentor
This should be the first action that you take when starting a new job. Your mentor can change over your time at the new organization but should be someone who knows more than you about a specific subject. This does not mean that the mentor is more experienced, older or even ‘smarter’ than you. The goal of a good mentor is that he/she leads you in the right direction. To do this the mentor just needs to have more knowledge of certain subjects.
Know Your Company’s Policies
This includes the written and the unwritten policies. Are you allowed to take a lunch break off campus? Is dress code strictly observed? Can you talk directly to your manager or do you need to schedule a meeting? The more formal observations can be made by perusing your company policy. However you might need to lean into your mentor to understand the nuances of the more hidden policies.
Be a Positive Influence for Your Co-Workers
Remember your co-workers birthdays and anniversaries, address them by name, support some of their out-of-work interests. All of these actions can help you understand the people you work with and know who to seek advice from if you are in a difficult situation later on down the line.
Make Long and Short Term Decisions
I once read that we make thousands of decisions before noon each day! This should not change once you start your new position. Long term decisions with a company can include networking and leading professional developments for your co-workers. Short term decisions can include attending happy hour with your co-workers or buying a co-worker lunch to say thank you for helping you with a project. All of these decisions lay important groundwork for making any potentially difficult decision easier to navigate in the future.
Some situations just can not be avoided. However, you can make sure you are keeping track of conversations and reporting issues by creating a folder in your email that contains emails that you drafted. You can also keep a journal and write down any concerns you have as you encounter them– don’t forget to write the date!
Ultimately, as a working mom, you need to remind yourself that you are an asset. Your family needs the best version of you, so start using your voice at work. Remember, we are in a time when people are leaving roles in all industries. Your company needs you– so ask for what you need.