You’re a working mom managing all the things. As if meeting deadlines and managing life, in general, wasn’t enough, now many of us are also managing distance learning for our kids or trying to entertain younger kids. And, with so many summer camps closes, who knows what that will look like this summer.
So many of us are in the same boat of focusing on the day-by-day. Trying to get through each day can be enough.
The conversations about working motherhood are starting to include more of what it takes. More people are talking about sharing the load with a significant other. What happens, though, when you’re doing all the things solo? How can you continue to manage what’s needed today and lay the foundation for opportunities for tomorrow?
You might be thinking, “Who has time to try to create opportunities for tomorrow with everything I have on my plate right now?” But what if your network could help you to create those opportunities?
As working moms, we feel the need to work smarter to manage all the things. Let’s consider the other people who can help make things happen today and tomorrow.
Sure, this larger tribe includes people to help you at home. Perhaps you’re fortunate enough to co-parent with someone supportive at home and work. Maybe you have family nearby. For some working moms, these aren’t a reality, though.
So consider your bigger tribe. These include other moms who can share the carpooling duty. Maybe you have a housekeeper or a nanny to help with younger kids or a mother’s helper for after school. People in your tribe can include a daycare team or the after-school care team at your child’s school.
What about the key people in your tribe at work? Let’s look at who can be in your corner to get you closer to your professional goals.
The first group you might be thinking about is mentors. Yes, they can be integral in helping you make the most of your time at work, home, and the balance between. Mentors get a lot of attention, especially as it relates to women and working mothers. You might have a mentor or even your board of directors. The two groups that don’t get enough attention, though, are allies and sponsors. Bianca Mikahn, a musician and an activist, shares, “I’ve benefitted greatly from having a village of folks both professional and personal! I had the good fortune of being selected for the Transformative Leadership for Change fellowship when my daughter was one year old. This increased my ally and friend count wonderfully. Also, I have allies like my co-parent, my daughter’s grandparents, and community members who ask to show up in various ways, from childcare to work support, including sending work to me. I know I could survive without these supports, but they make thriving more sustainable!”
So, what about work, allies? How do they fit into your tribe? Ultimately work allies are those long-term strategic relationships in your network that can vouch for you in the workplace. They actively recommend you for opportunities on their teams or in other departments. They are the ones that, if someone from human resources called about you as a reference, would say, “Yes, I’d like to work with her again!”
Work allies aren’t necessarily in the same department or even at the same company. They are likely people in other departments who you deal with every day. They know you, your work style, and your work ethic. This only stresses the importance of getting to know your colleagues.
When the time comes for you to look at other opportunities, they are an essential part of your network that you must nurture over time. Reach out when you do start looking for a new opportunity because they will recommend you without hesitation. And those allies who might be laid off at your employer right now? Stay connected with them and help them on their journey. You never know where they might land and how your paths might cross again over the long-term.
How about sponsors? How do they fit into everything? Let’s define the role of a sponsor. While a mentor is someone who can guide you through your journey, a sponsor is more action-oriented. They open doors for you and actively help you get to your next step.
Right now, you might be working hard to get to that next step, even with all the challenges of working from home and managing distance learning solo. That hard work is essential but getting to the next level isn’t only about hard work. You must advocate for yourself. Having others advocate for you and connect you to decision-makers can help make opening those doors happen faster and set you up for success in a way that might not happen without help.
Christi Hester, founder, and publisher of Stout Magazine explains, “At a catch-up lunch, a former colleague created a position for me (that would complement my startup) and got it approved as her CEO was exiting. She believed in me that much! She knew that as a single mom with a startup that I would need more stability and also knew how valuable I would be to her team. It feels amazing to know someone will stick their neck out for you like that.”
You know these roles help you at work. What most working moms don’t consider is how key roles like sponsors and allies help with mental health. Consider it this way. If someone else is helping open those doors and helping you make those connections, you aren’t having to spend the energy making these things happen on your own. And that energy and time can be spent on the next step instead of getting to the next level. Or you could spend that valuable time with your family or maybe even spend some time on you.
Then the question becomes how you find a sponsor:
- Analyze your current network to see if you have connections who are currently mentors and are at a senior level. See how you might transition these roles to more of a sponsor.
- Look at more senior people who you’ve had many touchpoints, and they seem genuinely impressed with your work. Maybe someone who was previously a manager or even a manager’s manager. Look at those no longer at your employer.
- Consider previous high-profile projects that you worked on. Reach out to a senior leader who seemed impressed with your work. He or she has already seen you in action and understands what you’re capable of.
Intentionally build your network to have all types of roles and create a higher chance of success down the road for you, while still meeting your family’s needs today.