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Can we really have it all?

I recently made a very difficult career decision and it made me think about how we define success.  I was faced with two very different and compelling opportunities - a senior demanding role with significant money attached to it compared to a senior role in a totally different environment that could offer me greater flexibility.

A lot of things swirled around my head during the decision making process, including:
  • how could each role offer me career progression and interesting work.  I was very conscious of not taking any backward steps.  
  • what impact would each role have on me at home in terms of being available, the Mr's work and conflicts with his travel etc
  • the differences in pay and benefits (monetary and otherwise)
  • what potential impact would each role have on me personally - stress levels and my health etc
  • what opportunities could come with each role
I ended up choosing the role that meant less money but greater flexibility, primarily for family reasons.  After a lot of deliberation (which included pros & cons lists and a scoring system!) I decided that the other role didn't feel quite right for my current personal circumstances.  If the circumstances were different, I think I would have gone the other way.

However, there was a big big part of me that felt and questioned whether I was doing a disservice to me and to women of the world by not taking on the big job with the big title and the big money.  Could I be trying harder to 'have it all'?   Should I be saying 'no' before I even really tried it?  Was I giving up on being a 'successful career executive' by not taking on the bigger role?   As I have previously blogged, I am a big fan of Sheryl Sandberg and I did wonder whether I was 'leaning in' enough... 

At the end of the day, I thought about what I wanted to see if I looked back in 10 years' time.  I received both positive and negative feedback about my decision but ultimately it came down to what I think success looks like to me and that is such a subjective thing.  I think for those of us in corporate environments we often fall into the trap that success is defined as the big job with the big title and the big money.  Our idea of success is also influenced by what everyone else thinks our success should look like based on their own personal views and what they would do if faced with a similar choice.   

So I had to forget the noise and really think about what 'success' and 'having it all' means to me.  I want to be somebody who has a happy family and home life, have a career where I am seen as a leader, be paid equally and fairly for what I am doing, work with great people, be involved in interesting work, progress, develop and feel challenged.   Whether or not that is in the c-suite, who knows and maybe one day it will be...   


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