Don’t Leave Before You Leave

I was really impressed with one of my coworkers last week. She knew she had to move and put in her two weeks, and worked right up until the very last day she had to leave. Even on her last day she stayed focused and got stuff done. Put in her situation, I feel like it would be hard to avoid “checking out” mentally after I knew I was leaving.

She reminded me of a great video I saw in my organizational behavior class. Sheryl Sandberg gives a wonderful talk about why we have too few women leaders. She sends three main messages:

1. Sit at the table – Data shows that women systematically underestimate their own abilities. No one gets to the corner office by sitting on the side, not at the table, and no one gets the promotion if they don’t think they deserve their success, or they don’t even understand their own success.

2. Make your partner a real partner – If a woman and a man work full-time and have a child, the woman does twice the amount of housework the man does, and the woman does three times the amount of childcare the man does. So she’s got three jobs or two jobs, and he’s got one. Who do you think drops out when someone needs to be home more? The causes of this are really complicated, but as a society, we put more pressure on our boys to succeed than we do on our girls. Studies show that households with equal earning and equal responsibility also have half the divorce rate.

3. Don’t leave before you leave – A woman’s busy. From the moment she starts thinking about having a child, she starts thinking about making room for that child. “How am I going to fit this into everything else I’m doing?” And literally from that moment, she doesn’t raise her hand anymore, she doesn’t look for a promotion, she doesn’t take on the new project, she doesn’t say, “Me. I want to do that.” She starts leaning back. The problem is that, let’s say she got pregnant that day, nine months of pregnancy, three months of maternity leave, six months to catch your breath — fast-forward two years! And some women start thinking about this way earlier, when they get engaged, when they get married, when they start thinking about trying to have a child, which can take a long time.

Your job better be really good to go back, because it’s hard to leave that kid at home, your job needs to be challenging. It needs to be rewarding. You need to feel like you’re making a difference. And if two years ago you didn’t take a promotion, and some guy next to you did. If three years ago you stopped looking for new opportunities, you’re going to be bored because you should have kept your foot on the gas pedal. Don’t leave before you leave. Stay in. Keep your foot on the gas pedal, until the very day you need to leave to take a break for a child, then make your decisions. Don’t make decisions too far in advance, particularly ones you’re not even conscious you’re making.

I just really love everything she says in this talk, I wish I could share the whole thing! But you can watch her whole presentation here.


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