I always strive to maintain a healthy balance between my career and my personal life. This can be accomplished in many ways, but to my mind, it involves three central components: First, it’s critical that you enjoy and have a passion for your work. If you don’t, it will be very difficult to successfully weave your career tasks into your life.
Next, plan and schedule your downtime—whether this involves a hobby or your family activities—as diligently as you would an assignment for work or for a client. This may mean you attend a dance recital or kindergarten graduation in the middle of the workday, knowing you’ll have to finish a project later that evening. Many women choose an alternative work schedule after they have children, but this concept can be adopted for other personal reasons as well. Before having children, I once worked part time for a four-month period, so I could devote myself to training and showing my horse.
Finally, don’t let a busy schedule deter you from evaluating and accepting exciting opportunities in either your professional or personal life. Priorities can be shifted; committees and activities can be changed. When I was seven months pregnant with my first child, I was asked by the governor to sit on the State Board of Accountancy. I was hesitant; I had a demanding full-time career, sat on two civic boards in addition to various related activities, and had a new baby on the way! I made a pivotal (and in hindsight) excellent decision. I joined the State Board of Accountancy and, subsequently, declined to renew my terms on the civic boards. Taking that path led me to the leadership positions I held with the State Board of Accountancy for many years and to my current role as a board member on the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy.
It’s a constant challenge to find the delicate balance between being overwhelmed and overcommitted, and making a leap to follow your passion. You have to be open to new opportunities and realize that tough choices about how to best spend your time will need to be made as each new opportunity arises.
Laurie’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
I’ve read many leadership books and sat in lecture halls listening to words of wisdom from many different business leaders over the years. They exhort us to “take charge,” “be active,” “be assertive,” “own your own career,” and so on. This is wonderful advice, and I find I learn something helpful and relevant from each of these lectures and books. But my advice is much simpler.
When you find yourself involved in something—whether it’s a work-related committee, a civic board, or a professional activity—just show up. That is half the battle. If you regularly attend the meetings of the organization or activity you’ve committed yourself to, you’re going to absorb the material, and over time, you’ll gain two things—the technical savvy to become a subject matter expert and the potential to become a leader in that field. If you don’t regularly show up, you can’t even begin to participate or put into action all the words of wisdom touted in those business leadership books.
I’ve served on nominating committees for both professional boards and firm-related roles. Many, many times we have identified a woman who would make great candidate for a leadership or board position only to realize that she has not met the minimum participation goals, or whose spotty attendance raises questions regarding her professionalism or dedication. So, to those of you just beginning your career or joining your first civic or professional activity, please… just show up!