Newsflash: the skills you have as a working mom—adaptability, problem solving, collaboration—are the same skills that will give you an edge in today’s workplace. In this new world of work, the impact of technology means new skills and new roles are emerging as fast as others become obsolete.
It hasn’t always been this way. As I entered high school, I followed a linear career path similar to generations before me. Pick a discipline, get a degree, commit to it, retire. Now in my fourth career, that’s not how it worked out and I’m glad.
Today, most of the jobs my three daughters will do don’t even exist yet. Your first job—or your current job—is not what you’re going to do forever, nor is your choice in career what you are going to be forever.
In my line of work, people often talk to me about the career advice I give my children (admittedly other people ask me more than they do). From a young age, I’ve asked my daughters “What have you learned today?” to help nurture their appetite for learning and feed their curious minds. And as a result, I get excited by their different visions of what they want to do or be when they “grow up” from Doctors Without Borders to an aeronautical engineer to a musician. My advice is that one person can feasibly do all three in one lifetime, if there is desire to learn.
And my advice to mothers? Don’t get committed to one thing or tie yourself too tightly to one discipline or function. Have this conversation with your kids and set the example. Commit to continuous learning and foster your natural agility and adaptability. Because success in the future won’t be defined by performance, but by potential and the ability to learn, apply and adapt.
As mothers, we have to have this conversation with our kids. And to set the example by living it too.
Here are three things to remind ourselves and our children:
1. Skills for life are the new job for life
A job for life is a thing of the past. We need to be ready for new jobs and new skills. And those you don’t have, you can build.
I’m asked how I climbed the career ladder as a working mom of three more than any other question. The question is as humbling as it is disheartening—some working women still don’t truly believe they can rise in work with the same confidence they have raising their children.
My answer is short—I never knew I couldn’t.
Growing up on a Texas farm, everyone worked. It didn’t matter what age I was. It definitely didn’t matter what gender. You learned, worked and grew.
This mindset of learnability—the desire and ability to continually learn—is even more relevant in the working world today than ever before. Shift your commitment to continuous learning versus a continuous job. You’ll find more opportunities are available to you. Now is the time to understand your strengths, seek opportunities to upgrade your skills and surround yourself with people who have skills you need.
2. No work is men’s work
While the participation of women in work and their representation in senior roles is on the rise—we still see more women than men in roles like communication, marketing and HR, or in back office and it is these roles that are most at risk of automation. You might have started your career in this way, but it’s never too late to learn new skills, push for P&L responsibility or explore STEM-related courses and jobs. We know that plenty of future employment opportunities will come from these areas and women are already underrepresented in fields such as computer science and tech.
Much more needs to be done to remove the barriers for girls and women to study and work in high-growth sectors. As moms, we need to show our daughters that math, science and tech is not men’s work. The future isn’t a man’s world; it’s a skilled world.
3. Blend is the new balance
Technology gives you the choice of how and where you want to work. I wanted a career. I also wanted to be a mom. It wasn’t an either-or option. You can be a great employee and a great mom. I reject the idea those are mutually exclusive and embrace the idea that they are mutually beneficial.
The ‘Monday-Friday 9-5 job for life’ has moved on. Individual choice and preference aren’t just personal anymore, they’re professional too. You don’t need to commit to being a full-time employee and organizations don’t always want you to. Instead you can choose where and how you want to work from full time to contract, part time or freelance. We call this NextGen Work and how and when you work will change throughout your life.
Whatever you choose, you can blend work and home. I often see men vocalizing their commitment to their kids—coaching baseball after a conference call—they share how they blend work and home. Early in my career, even before I became a mom, women were discreet, often leaving work to do the same in secret. I decided to live my life out loud. If I leave work early for a personal commitment, I vocalize it. We all have to do the same and light the path for those behind us.
In a world where we have choice and ability to achieve one life, we no longer have to try and balance. We can blend. And we can blend proudly.
Becky Frankiewicz has been the President of ManpowerGroup North America since July 2017, bringing passion and compassion coupled with strong P&L experience from her time at large and complex global businesses. Before joining ManpowerGroup, Becky led one of PepsiCo’s largest subsidiaries, Quaker Foods North America where she was responsible for the $2.6B business. Prior to her success leading Quaker Foods, Becky held a variety of senior leadership roles at PepsiCo across the portfolio of brands. Becky has an MBA in finance, and a BA in Marketing from the University of Texas.