The Power Of The Pivot: How One Professional-Turned-Mother Kept Her Career Momentum
Often, we women get caught so deep in the trenches of keeping up with our lives that we don’t realize we’re capable of changing our circumstances to better manage our lives. We fear that changing the way we do something may be interpreted as admitting defeat, or that we’re not tough enough. Worse yet, perhaps we don’t even realize we’re suffering until we get sucked into an energy “black hole”, after which we may become convinced our situation is hopeless and will remain so forever.
I’ve felt this way at times, which is why I was blown away by the accomplishments of a particular colleague and high-powered career woman with a track record of success. This woman wanted to share her story with DRIVEN, but wishes to remain anonymous. Thus, I will refer to her simply as Erica.
In the years leading up to parenthood, Erica was a world traveler, was rising quickly in her career as a consultant, became a VP at age 28 and managed a team of 100 employees. She has pivoted twice in her career, the first out of necessity and the second from power. Incredibly, both decisions were made with clarity and self-compassion. My hope is that her story will inspire women to avoid ‘hitting bottom’ and instead be proactive in making life manageable for themselves before they suffer physically and emotionally.
A Chaotic Crossroad
After Erica had her first child, her world was turned upside down. She found herself in love with her baby boy far beyond what she thought she was capable of, and her emotional capacity became maxed out. During that first year of motherhood, Erica lost direction, unable to balance the responsibilities of career, her relationship with her husband, and caring for this tiny new person. In hindsight, she wishes that the colleagues closest to her had been more honest about the potential hardships of transitioning to motherhood before she made the move. It may have given her the guidance to avoid the stumbling and staggering that ensued. Instead, she was discovering it all on the fly.
It was this desperate emotional state that brought Erica to her first pivot point. She has always been someone who needed clarity and liked to appreciate her life. But after a year without that clarity, she decided to make some changes. In reflecting on what she had learned during the year, she assessed that she needed to once again feel good about herself, her career and her family. She would impose a new standard of, “What’s going to make peace within me?”.
Sensibly and attentively, Erica set boundaries for herself. She incorporated two ground rules: First, she would no longer travel for client work, which was unheard of in a consulting practice which used to require her to travel 60-70% of the time. Second, she would commit to being home for dinner each night with her family. These two rules would lay the groundwork needed to live mindfully and with perspective. She could now actively find gratification with each dimension of her family life and her job. It was time to become conscious of the sweet things in her life.
Erica’s perspective took the form of a weekly check-in with herself. She’d literally look in the mirror and review the week’s accomplishments. There would be weeks when work got the bulk of her energy, and some when her kids and husband would benefit more. She’d also extrapolate about the week ahead and strategize to best balance what those days would bring. This weekly habit, by design, would be a mindful and non-judgmental act.
The lessons learned from Erica’s ground rules and deliberate mindset proved profoundly liberating. Her decision not to travel was feasible because she’s located in NYC. Realistically, if she met her goals and kept her team well-oiled, this huge shift in lifestyle wouldn’t affect her output. Her commitment to be home for dinner each evening even inspired her team to do better work and take their personal lives more seriously. Erica’s attitude of office-time not equaling face-time, plus her commitment to following up with her team THE SAME DAY left her team feeling treated like unbounded adults, prompting them to be more creative and more productive.
So, a fine family life and a productive team. Erica is now contented in her role and lives happily ever after? Nope!
A New Chapter
Erica’s second pivot was instigated when she realized, “I’m not going to be here forever. I need to think about how I want to spend my time. What do I value in myself that others value? What is my purpose? Why am I here in this world?” So she dug deep and began to explore the possibilities of the next phase of her career. Just as any good career coach would suggest, Erica listed her strengths and the things that moved her. Since nothing was “wrong” at work, Erica had to accept that this work was no longer fulfilling to her, justifying her move to change something that wasn’t necessarily “broken”. Thus began the scary and exciting transition to her new career, and a future that was hers to create. What could be more inspiring and brave?
Fast-forward two years to the present, and Erica has an active new career, loves what she does, and is building relationships with clients who keep giving her more business. Her wisdom resonates so deeply: “You need to reinvent. You don’t stay relevant if you don’t take the opportunity to continually reinvent yourself.”
Erica’s pivots were not easy for her, and at times they were downright painful. But as a seeker and a student of life, she made the magic happen and pulled through. In particular, the experience of becoming a mother granted her the wisdom that when you have to pivot again in life, you’ll have the tools necessary to get you to the other side.