- Dig deep and identify those values most close to you so they are kept close at hand
- Find a sounding board (aka mentor—someone who knows you and knows the playing field)
- Look for a place that most closely approximates what you want to do—academics, industry, community based practice, etc.
- Find out what are their needs
- Identify, communicate and negotiate what are your needs
Finding your way to your dream job, to your success, is a journey. And you get to create a good deal of the path, if you choose. It takes time, patience, and flexibility.
Today, let’s start with the first fundamental. Dig deep and identify those values most close to you so they are kept close at hand.
Of all the tasks at hand this is the most difficult in my opinion. Your values, what you hold important in life, cross over all the boundaries of work, self, home, and life. If you care about doing a good job, it is likely you want to do a good job as a partner, a spouse, a daughter, a mother and a doctor.
Conflicts among roles are normal, everyday occurrences. And often you have to choose between two very difficult situations. Sometimes it is not easy to be a good daughter (or son) and a good spouse at the same time. (Any great mother-in-law stories will be accepted in the comments section.) So sometimes you have to choose.
Most importantly, keep your inner peace. First recognize that you are not the super e-woman (in the days before electronic communication an e-woman meant a woman who was everything to everyone, every time, everywhere, in every sense). Look for ways that you can create relationships and situations that allow you to put your energies to best use in whatever area of your life that you are in, at that moment. Be in the moment, always.
Everyone needs help to live well in today’s complex world. Decide where that help will come from no matter which area you are in. If you have family with whom you want to be close, then geographic location might be a main driver. If that is not possible or desirable, start to build strong friendship relationships so that you can help each other.
Values are guiding principles. They don’t have to be either/or, all or none situations. You can value both raising your children and being a great doc. (I picked this one because it is the most often cited conflicts by women physicians.)
What do you really want your children to learn from you? Here’s but one example.
Remember, you spent a large part of your life gaining the experience to have the privilege to care for people who need your help. Communicating this awesome responsibility to your children is one of the most valuable “values” that you can teach by example. What better way to teach responsibility to humanity than through the work you do every day.
And that doesn’t just go just for physicians. Anyone who takes their work seriously is helping someone, some cause, some business succeed. Caring about and doing a good job will teach them more than you could ever accomplish just being at their side every moment of their growth and development. (My kids’ first words were the words I heard first from their mouths. Did it lessen my joy any at hearing their first communication? Not at all.)
Your values need not be in conflict. They can be reconciled given creativity, time and thought.
Next post: Why sounding boards and mentors make the job so much easier.
Ask Linda is a forum in which you can pose questions of interest about women in today’s world. Though I am first and foremost an “expert” on the gender gap for women in medicine (physicians and patients alike), I am prepared to answer other relevant questions about medicine, the challenges women face in life and parenting. If I do not know the answer, I will try to find someone who can. Ask Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org.