Career Corner: January-February 2007

After ten years in business, I've acquired a reputation as a highly competent, workaholic leader. But now that I'm about to have my first child, I see the world differently. I want to take three years off before coming back in a role that better balances work and family. I have an open offer to return to my company. Should I accept?

Returning to your current employer is certainly the easy answer, but it may not be the wisest. However much your current boss wants you to come back, it will probably be difficult for him to accept the "new" you. You will have three years to make the transition. But he will not see your evolution and will likely remember you as you were—and have the same expectations. The good news is that unless they're actually holding a position open for you, you can take your time in deciding whether this is the best option.

As an overachiever, you probably want to get everything settled immediately. But children have a way of thwarting organizational plans. Give yourself up to a year to get into a routine, and then put your mind to the question, "What next?"

Your new world view will require you to make compromises. Expected work hours, pay, flexibility, daycare issues, work stress, and travel time are all potentially limiting factors. Since it's advisable not to dwell on such issues before you get a job offer, you'll have to do a lot of stealth research—both online and in person.

This is the time to mine Duke's alumni directory or DukeConnect, a database of more than 2,500 alumni who have volunteered to offer advice to students and alumni seeking career information. Set aside one lunchtime a week, just for you and a person you find interesting. Transformation can only happen with information. Know yourself, know your options, and, if you truly want a different life, don't slide back into old routines.


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