Are you a mom who works in a profession that requires you to be a rainmaker, expand your company’s network and influence, or develop a reputation as an industry leader? Better yet, are you an entrepreneur of some kind? If so, there is a powerful way to leverage your role as a parent in your career development: become a hub in your community, the centralized force with which others continually seek to connect.
You can do this by reaching out to others — not in a pushy way, but being observant of the opportunities around you to lend your unique knowledge and experience to people in need. As you start providing information and advice to people who approach you with questions, and connect them with the people and resources they need, you will develop a reputation as the go-to person in your industry, profession, or community, on or off line, in your area of expertise. This is equally true for prominent moms in the community, particularly those of us with a unique or relatively rare experience or perspective on parenting. In my case, my two homebirths made for some interesting conversation, and before you know it, people began seeking me out with questions about natural childbirth, midwifery care, choosing a doula, and even unassisted childbirth, which is not something I have done, but something that I have read up on and have some knowledge of.
If you’re lucky enough to work in a business or profession with a focus on children, like I do, you can leverage your parenting guru status even further by incorporating it into your relationships with your clients or coworkers. I practice special education law, and while advocating for children with disabilities doesn’t exactly relate to my homebirth experiences, I do share in common with my clients that I’m a fellow parent, and a working mom, to boot, which most of my clients are. We can bond over the shared experience of how tough it is to raise a child (although their experiences, having children with disabilities, are certainly more challenging than mine, so I’m careful to remember that when this subject comes up).
But even if your work doesn’t directly relate to your parenting experience, children, or family life, you can always find way to drop those ninja mom skills in a way that establishes yourself as an expert and helps you forge those important relationships with current and potential clients, colleagues, and mentors. If a client were to tell me that she totally gets my homebirth, because she has a farm and helps deliver baby cows, um, I’m going to roll with it! Not quite the same, but it doesn’t matter. Behind the glossy sheen of advertising, people want to see your ultra professional camouflage fall away to reveal a very real, very relatable, typical human being. Just don’t reveal too much of that reality — it’s easier for me to put on some mascara and concealer than to explain that my two-year-old still wakes up at night to nurse back to sleep in our bed. A fellow mom of young kids? Sure, I would be a bit more forthright with her. But cow lady? She doesn’t need to know the finer points explaining the bags under my eyes.
I absolutely love it when people — clients or not — ask me questions about giving birth at home with a midwife, or about how I used fertility awareness to track my cycles before trying to conceive, or about extended breastfeeding two toddlers. I also love connecting two people who have common interests and could benefit from each other’s knowledge — doing an email introduction between a doula looking for a lawyer to go over her business paperwork, and a lawyer in that practice area who is pregnant with her first child and interested in natural childbirth. Love it! None of this is directly related to my work, but who cares? It makes me social, builds my reputation as a trusted source of information on those issues, and best of all, allows me to provide value to my community. Gary Vaynerchuk says we need to jab, jab, jab first, by engaging with our community in a relevant and valuable way, and then right hook only when the time is right to ask for something in return — the huge sale, the subscribe-now, the unashamed sales pitch — because by that point, you’ll have given so much that others will surely want to buy what you’re selling. But beyond all this, it just feels good to do something nice for others, and it’s the right thing to do.
I need to call it quits for tonight, but over the past 24 hours, I have been summoned on Facebook twice to ask my opinion on two separate articles about choices in childbirth, which, admittedly, I still have yet to read. And that’s one risk of being community hub and information source, I suppose — the risk that, as people seek you out for these things, you’ll have less time and energy to devote to other projects and interests, and will find it increasingly difficult to take a break from social media. I feel bad, and sort of lame, telling people I’ll be happy to leave a comment, draft a blog post, or otherwise engage with them — later. There has got to be a balance between being that community hub and being present in whatever moment life finds you in, including sitting at home after everyone has gone to bed, and looking forward to hitting the hay yourself. I don’t have an answer for that one, but I bet I can find someone in my community who does.
[Image via Google]