Mary Beth Moynihan, Senior Vice President, Market Access and Chief Marketing Officer, Boston Scientific
As work-life integration stays at the forefront of our new normal, I worry that we’ve inadvertently dropped the ball on another critical conversation: career strategies.
Work-life integration took on a new face over the past few years, as knowledge workers’ hidden caregiving responsibilities were forced into the spotlight (or the Zoom video screen). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two out of every three caregivers in the United States are women—providing regular or daily support for children or adults, including those with chronic illnesses or disabilities.
One management lesson learned from the pandemic is that leaders and their employees can thrive when we are more transparent about our varied responsibilities at home and at work. On my team, I’ve seen some relationships deepen when we share more openly about the pressures that could take our focus away from work. Some degree of vulnerability does not diminish our productivity and may actually enable richer conversations about prioritization—and when organizations support employees in managing those non-work pressures, I’ve seen a meaningful payoff in productivity and loyalty.
But focusing on immediate needs and long-term growth is not an either/or–it must be a both/and. From the bottom up, we all must take responsibility for our own career plans and seek to engage mentors and sponsors who can help us execute. At the same time, it’s incumbent on leaders to create space for those conversations to happen, and be receptive when they arise.
How do you get started? My approach has three steps.
- Own it: No one cares more about your career than you do.
Start by outlining a long-term vision—perhaps to lead a particular function, or become a general manager. Then work backwards to identify the experiences and accomplishments necessary to achieve that vision. This outline will help guide the creation of your plan as you ask yourself, “where do I want to play? What am I good at? What skills will I need (and how will I pay to develop them)? And where do I want to end up?”
Proactively seek opportunities to share your vision with leaders who can help you refine it and bring it to life, but try to be specific in your questions. Even the most engaged leader can’t craft your vision for you—it must be yours.
- Define it: Be clear about what success means to you.
It’s important to figure out what success means for you personally and professionally. And as you think about this, consider what you are passionate about as well as what you are good at: the sweet spot for long-term success and personal satisfaction is often at that intersection.
We all have that voice in our head that critiques us or encourages us to copy what others seem to be doing or value—ignore it. You may want to refine your vision and definition of success over time, but don’t abandon it based on inner or outer critics.
- Invest in it: A growth mindset can require some short-term sacrifice.
Investing in your success can take many forms. If you don’t have the right training or education, maybe you’ll have to enroll part time to pay for it. Maybe there are gaps in your experiences that require a lateral move. Don’t rule out a short-term “detour” if it helps you build the long-term skillset you need.
Remember, any extra time or money you spend in pursuit of your goals is an investment with the ultimate payoff: a long-term career that fits your vision and serves your life goals.
It’s possible to stumble into some measures of success, but a meaningful career only happens with a plan. Make it your own and pursue it in organizations where you find support. You’re worth it.