We’ve all heard why working moms make great hires: They get things done, they can multitask and they are team players. But it isn’t just our natural and nurtured knack for multitasking and diplomacy required as mothers that help land the right job. Here are the most important characteristics I’ve identified as a mom and CEO that get working mothers hired. Channel these in the workplace and during your next interview, and you’ll not only get that job but also see big changes in your personal career growth.
1. Collaboration is the new competition.
Power-women have a reputation for being cutthroat—Sigourney Weaver’s “Working Girl” character comes to mind. But women know how to effectively tap into their networks and forge partnerships to propel their pursuits. For example, I was in China exploring opportunities to bring infant vitamin drops and other products into their market (many babies don't breastfeed in China and the quality of nourishment is lacking compared to many other markets). The U.S. Ambassador and his wife hosted a luncheon for me with 15 of the most powerful women in Beijing, including the “Oprah of China.” What humbled and excited me was that each woman in the room shared how they could help move my platform and plans forward. Highlighting that you have a community within an organization, that you are an active member of a professional association or that you excel at tapping into your personal circles is so important to success—all CEOs know that progress in the workplace comes from paying it forward and fostering collaboration within their work cultures. You’ll see that your village will take you forward too.
2. Scale is key.
Women live in a larger scope—we’re juggling on average three jobs, children and taking care of our parents too—all while keeping our own plates in the air. Our peripheral vision has to be extremely large, and yet our focus has to be laser sharp. CEOs get things done not just because we’re good at doing them but also because we know how to delegate quickly to those we trust. Mothers are master delegators and this should not be underestimated in your next interview.
3. Agility is your commodity.
Not all multitasking is created equal. The difference between burning the candle at every end (not always doing it well) and truly being a master multitasker is agility. Successful working mothers know that it takes more than just surviving, but actually thriving to get hired, stay hired and get ahead. CEOs look for their leaders to have keen flexibility to move from one conversation to another, one project to another, one client to another, while still being present, cognizant and hyper-focused on the tasks at hand. Even though it may look like I am multitasking day to day, the secret is my intense attention to whatever is on my desk and my ability to move onto the next thing quickly. As working mothers, we do it all the time. Our child needs their lunch packed, but the dog literally ate my daughter’s shoe while I was on the phone talking about my manuscript. In that moment, I had to jump out of my deep focus on my book, and then jump to take care of her and go back in. This is quite different than multitasking—and certainly not a working mother falling to pieces while trying to do it all. It’s about assessing situations and priorities, picking battles and being decisive—all keywords to drop in your next interview.
4. Sponsors matter more than mentors.
Mentors are incredibly important to being successful in the workplace, but I challenge women to go beyond the mentor—and seek out a sponsor. What do I mean? A mentor will likely give you guidance on a career, share with you how they achieved success and provide commentary about your career path—all incredibly helpful and good for anyone looking to get ahead. But a sponsor will actively (not passively) take a role in making introductions, assessing your numbers and connecting you to new opportunities and more. And working women cannot be afraid to ask someone they admire to be their sponsor—it changed everything for me.
5. Put on your own oxygen mask first.
What’s on the outside reflects what’s on the inside. Successful working mothers need to deliberately put their own health and wellness on their to-do list. We have to be responsible for so many relationships while looking and feeling our best because we constantly put ourselves out there. Prioritizing doctors’ appointments, meditation, fitness and beauty maintenance helps us look the part and maximize value and output in the workplace (while keeping it all together on the home front too). As a working mother CEO, I try to follow the rule of putting on my own oxygen mask first—which is a very controversial idea to a lot of women—because if I am at my maximum level of body and mind, I can do more. I try to instill this culture within my company, and when I am hiring others, I want women willing to take care of themselves. I know they will be at their best too.