The Importance of Proactive Career Choices

(Last Updated On: February 4, 2016)

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e137b90629f51c3e81584d04ee44408be273e7d61cb5104597f3_640_woman-workingAfter my child was born, I knew I wanted to start working again, but going back to freelance writing was tricky. How could I pay for childcare if I didn’t know what my income would be every month?

 

The fear of not having enough money to pay for childcare changed my attitude towards my career. Instead of finding a job that was meaningful and fit my lifestyle, as freelancing does now, I jumped when a job opportunity fell into my lap. A good friend from my freelance network was working full time as an independent contractor for an ed tech company. They were hiring, I was thinking about going back to work, and she knew I would be a great fit.

 

I sent in my resume, interviewed over Skype, and was hired almost immediately. I started work one week later.

This is what I wish my home office looked like, not what it actually looks like.

 

Was I a good fit for the job? Absolutely. Was the job a good fit for me? Not quite. My husband was traveling a lot for work, so it was tough for me to work full time and solo parent full time. Even though I could work remotely, our team had set meeting times, and once we moved overseas it was hard to attend and lead these meetings because they were now scheduled during my toddler’s dinner and bedtime. Most importantly, I took the job even though I knew I was not being paid enough. I tried negotiating my salary when I was offered the job, but I was rebuffed. I took the job anyway.

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Lesson Learned

The huge lesson I learned from this experience is how important it is to be proactive with career choices. At this career crossroads, I was reactive. I acted in response to the situation that was offered to me instead of creating or controlling my career. To my credit, I did try to negotiate for a higher pay rate, but when the client could not meet my rate, I probably should have walked away. At the very least, I should have paused to think about my decision instead of immediately accepting a job that undervalued my work.

 

Why Was I Reactive Instead Of Proactive?

Two main factors contributed to my reactive career decision.

  • Lack of confidence

After spending several months in my tiny apartment with a newborn, I had lost all sense of myself. I felt lost, incapable, and incredibly vulnerable. I knew I wanted to work again, but I wasn’t sure if I could do it, or how I would manage it.

  • Money fears

Having a child drastically changes a family’s financial situation. At the very least, having two working parents means that a family must pay for childcare, and childcare is expensive. I was afraid that my inconsistent freelance income would make high-quality childcare unaffordable. Instead of doing more research, or finding a creative solution, I reacted to the offer of a steady paycheck by accepting a job that I otherwise would not have taken.

 

The great irony is that now that I am proactively managing my career I can pay for childcare AND I can do work that fits my lifestyle and my goals. Letting go of my fears enabled me to think more clearly about what I what I want from my career and how I can get there.

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  • I so appreciated your comments about feeling ‘incapable and vulnerable’ after stopping work when your child was born. Those feelings are real and can happen after someone is away from work for any reason–child rearing, an illness, caring for aging parents, or retired folks who would like to contribute again.

    • Great point– the vulnerability comes from taking time away from work, for whatever reason. I’ve been talking to my husband about how many people retire young and then want to go back to work. Freelancing and consulting would be a perfect match for their skills and experience, and perhaps for their lifestyle, if they want to have a lot of flexibility.