The Juggling Act: How to Prepare your Sales Career for Motherhood

August 2, 2014


I want to share some secrets with you.  I want to let you know why sales is an incredible career for women to pursue and how motherhood can fit into that.  And my best secret: how to be a working mother who can be happy.  Every day.  Really.  I’m not exaggerating.  Hang with me for a few minutes and I’ll explain it to you.

Successful sales people are talkers.  One thing we love to talk about is that sales is such an extraordinary career path.  You are judged on what you do, not on office politics.  You have autonomy.  Your success is based on an ever-changing and stimulating combination of listening, understanding, persuading and advocating.  You get to be an expert.  Oh and you can make a ton of money.

Sales is a great career if you have certain traits.  Successful sales professionals…

  • are unstoppable
  • think on their feet
  • understand that practice makes progress
  • are problem solvers
  • are passionately curious
  • love to negotiate
  • have to win

If you’re missing one of these traits, develop it.  Sales success is measured by numbers, and being measured by the numbers means you can’t hide.  Successful sales people never hide.  In fact, great sales people relish the exposure of being measured.  Because they’re always winning.

So: you’re stoked.  You realize you should go into sales.  You find a job opportunity with a strong company that sells a product you believe in.  What next as you pave the path to a happy life as a working mother?  Simply put, be the best:

  • Be a top performer who is unstoppable and irreplaceable.
  • Show improvement, even when perched at the top of the sales rankings.
  • Never make any excuses.

What this all adds up to is you being an indispensable producer who doesn’t require a lot of internal resources to produce incredible results.  You are the sales person we know can kill it while we fully ignore you.  We love you.

So as you get to the time in your life when you want to have a baby, we want to accommodate what you need so you keep producing.  Work from home?  Sure.  Work flex time?  You’ve already shown you can exceed quota with complete autonomy.

When I became pregnant with my first child, I was in field sales carrying a multimillion dollar quota that I consistently exceeded by at least 20% each year.  I had the relationships and expertise that made me irreplaceable.  I easily arranged to work exclusively from home so I could nurse the baby and then hand her over to our nanny while I produced (and that is a topic worthy of its own article).  Even though I only worked 10 out of the 12 months of that year, I won Salesperson of the Year.

But it isn’t just about if you can be a success as a working mother.  What it is really about is if you can be happy.  Every day.  Really!

For the past few years, thanks to incredible women like Sheryl Sandberg, there has been healthy conversation about why inequality between women and men remains in the work place.  Throw in the factor of being a working mother, and the deck is stacked against you.  Recently, no one less than Indra Nooyi the President of Pepsi wrote a very compelling article admitting that working mothers can’t have it all.

What I take as Ms. Nooyi’s meaning is that you can only be happy in limited ways and that, measured by the standards of our society, working mothers come up short.

Now, I’m no famous executive like Sheryl Sandberg or an off-the-charts accomplished leader like Indra Nooyi.  But I’m not doing too bad at all.  In fact, I peg high for success in my career and personal, deep and abiding happiness.  So here’s the main thing that we all have to get into our heads:

NOBODY can have it all.

But with careful planning, a superior work ethic, a lot of talent, and a healthy dose of constant introspection, you can have YOUR all.

Maintaining a work life balance is worthless to pursue. Think about it: when you balance something, what happens? Balance is lost. Things topple over.

What I suggest instead is that you view life as a working mother as a juggling act.  Juggling is pretty amazing to watch.  Balancing is boring.  If you drop a ball, you can continue to juggle the other ones.  Plus it is easy to restart when all the balls drop.  Balance is too precarious, too sure-to-fail.

So here is how it works: there are many balls in life.  As a working mother, the balls tend to be: children, marriage, family, work, friends, health, hobbies, sleep, me time.  As a mother, of course the one ball that can never be dropped is your children since they are small people who depend on you for their general aliveness, happiness and nurturing.  They’re also just awesome little people who will love you like nobody else ever.

Most week days my juggling goes something like this: children, marriage, work, me time.  On the weekends some other balls get some play time: family, friends, exercise, hobbies, reading, napping.  Each day, you choose how many and what balls to juggle.  Each day those balls change their size and weight.  Your “all” changes every day and is solely defined by you.

And here is where the introspection piece comes in: there is huge power in knowing what you’re choosing and why.  That is all internally driven.  If you look at each day, choose the balls, choose their size and – go! – the end of each day ends up looking pretty darn successful.  And you feel happy.

The moment you look at other people’s juggling acts, you lose your focus, drop all your balls, and feel like a failure.  Because you are.  You dropped your balls.  You let the outside world invade your having YOUR all.  You started thinking you should have “it” all.

To sum it all up: figure out what you’re great at and be the best at it.  Sales is particularly awesome for working moms because it is measured clearly by metrics and you can show your worth, and that lets you call the shots.  Then figure out what is YOUR all.  And then juggle, juggle, juggle…