Design the Life You Want, and Your Career Will Thank You

I recently spoke on a panel about designing the career you want. As we discussed the sacrifices people make to have the career they want, it struck me that we were missing half the conversation. After all, who wants success at work if it means you hate the rest of your life? 

We women have had to fight—hard—for our space in the professional world. Women have shouldered their way into political office, boardrooms, C-suites, operating rooms and other spaces. The #MeToo movement has called out rampant sexism and sexual violence in just about every industry, and trailblazers continue to fight for pay equity and inclusive hiring.

Yet a single-minded focus on shattering the glass ceiling sells us women short.

What's finally earning the respect of your male colleagues if it means losing the trust of your partner?

What's earning a new title if it robs you of another role you want—mother, friend, mentor, wife?

Why do we have to choose between work and life?

Crafting a dynamic, 3-D life

It's easy to blame business, and especially startup culture, for this either/or work/life choice (as well as contrived movies that always seem to include a female exec crying over her wasted childbearing years). 

But instead of resenting the women who claim they have it all (they don't!) while you struggle to maintain even the barest balance between work and life, you can make your little pocket of the world—including your job—a better place.

Because here's the thing: When you actually act on creating the life you want (instead of wishing for it on the late-night ride home), your coworkers won't resent you. They'll want a piece, too. And the more people who carve out time to volunteer, eat lunch in the park and take parental leave, the more the industry will change. 

So do everyone a favor and stop blaming the system. Help create a new one.

Here's how to become as smart about your personal life as you are about your career. 

Set boundaries

Some nights back when I worked full-time at an ad agency, my then-boyfriend and now-husband would cook us dinner—then reheat his own portion when, yet again, I had to work late. I realized time and time again that I was letting down one of the people I loved most and felt awful about it. I started to hate the person I was turning into and knew something had to change.

So make your personal priorities at least as important as your market research or creative brief. This is your life; the rest is just work. Protecting your time outside your job gives your partners, coworkers and employees permission to do the same. 

What will you make happen today?

Trust people

The cutthroat world of entrepreneurship doesn't naturally lend itself to trust, but we could use a lot more of it. Let your business partners or staff take on something—and then let them do it in their own way. At Red & Co., people have flexibility on how they work, so I don't always see them tethered to their desk. And you know what? They still deliver—and I've never been let down.

Building a culture of trust allows for flexible working arrangements like telecommuting—for the whole office.

Who will you count on today?

Be vulnerable

We have enough blowhards in the world already. Be yourself, be authentic. Share when you're going through some shit; you don't always have to be strong. Ask for help when you need it. Let others come through for you.

Where can you be more honest?

Be an advocate

Instead of—or better, in addition to—moaning about the lack of advancement opportunities for women in business, see how you can help a more junior woman climb. Be what you wish you'd see more of. 

So speak up. All of you. All of us. No one can ignore a thousand voices demanding transparent salary policies, inclusive hiring practices, reasonable maternity and paternity leaves, a damn nursing room.

What can you speak up for?

Get each other's back

The more I try to create the life I want—say, by scheduling meetings around my daughters' doctor's visits and planning family vacation time—the more people I find supporting me to do that. I, of course, champion them, too. Everyone wins. 

Who can you support?

It's not enough to build the career you want. Build the life you want. A better job will follow—for you and everyone else.

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Mira Kaddoura
Mira Kaddoura is founder and executive creative director of creative agency Red & Co. Born in Egypt, and raised between Canada and Lebanon, she credits her husband, family, yoga and conceptual art projects for keeping her sane in the crazy world of advertising.