Career Advice to My Imaginary Daughter: Choose Your Lovers Well

Egon Zehnder, a global executive search firm, started a campaign last year – Leaders & Daughters –  to mark International Women’s Day. The campaign includes both male and female leaders from companies like Apple, Verifone, and Hyatt writing encouraging letters to their daughters to help “pave a better future for the next generation of professional women.” In reading the letters I can’t say I was particularly inspired but mostly I felt left out because a) I don’t have a daughter; and, b) I’m not a corporate leader.

But forget all that. I long ago imagined having a daughter while I was expecting. I wrote to her religiously in a pregnancy journal until an ultrasound confirmed that “Hailey” was actually “Jake”. Fine, so my maternal instincts were never the strongest but if Hailey had come to be, here is the letter I would write to her.

Dear Hailey,

 As a young woman, you drew the short straw on the career thing. It’s not because you are duller than your brothers, less ambitious or lack their considerable charm. But the hard truth, my dear, is that you will encounter more people than they will who are frightened by your drive, question your competence, or expect you to play by rules that bend you like a pretzel.

 You’ll need all the help you can get.

 But, we all do. It’s tough to be successful on our own steam and quite frankly not nearly as much fun. You will need people on your side: Those, like me and your dad, who cheer unconditionally from the sidelines; mentors who help you navigate your career path; and, solid relationships with friends, family and lovers.

 Let’s talk about lovers. Shall we?

 The decisions you make about your choice of partner will have as much of an impact on your career trajectory as the pricy education we gave you, the internships you completed or your growing list of accomplishments. So, choose well.

 Here’s the type of partner I want you to bring home for dinner.

  •  Someone who is your intellectual equal but isn’t threatened by your brains; who listens and supports your ideas while challenging you to think harder and more creatively.
  • Someone who doesn’t expect you to sacrifice your career with vague promises that it will be your turn “next”. Do you know how many women’s careers have gone down the toilet by putting it on hold?
  • Someone who enthusiastically picks up a dishrag, a vacuum and the kids from daycare; who doesn’t expect you to be the one to drop everything when a crisis erupts at home whether that’s a burst pipe or a sick child.
  • Someone who pays attention to what you are working on, asks intelligent questions to show they care, gives you hugs when you’ve had a bad day, and buys you flowers to celebrate your good days.
  • Someone who has their own ambition, intellectual curiosity and purpose because there is nothing sexier than an interesting partner.

 Hailey, trust me – you will thank me later.

 Hugs & Kisses,

Your Mom

Photo credit: Flickr/Roland Lakis-Daughter & Mother 

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