Keep Yourself Relevant Even While On Leave
I have recently read an article about a soon to be mom who fixed her schedule so that she could be away from work for 10 weeks on maternity leave. And guess what her job is? A blogger.
A blogger needs to go on leave?
Who would have thought that a blogger, who works from home or anywhere that they want to, just logging in to a computer (most likely a laptop), connecting on the internet and publishing blogs would need to take time off (10 weeks!) from her kind of work? Well she decided that she does. And isn’t she right?
She will be a first time mom and she had heard a lot of stories from other moms (and dads) about the disruption it can be to your schedule when you have your newborn. So many sleepless nights that could last from 6 to 8 weeks, which is why she opted for a 10 week leave. Anticipating what is to come, she realized she may not be able to adjust right away, and her blogging skills may be affected. She said she needed a clear mind when doing her work.
She also wants to be a “good mom”. She wants to be hands-on with her mommy duties. So she specifically had a plan to still keep herself relevant in her blog and not lose the 50+ audience that she has by being away for 10 weeks.
The Blogger’s Plan
She is a full time blogger in the workplace clothing niche. She is also an affiliate marketer, and is posting around 15 articles a week. What a busy blogger! It would really take careful planning for her blog to still draw an audience and build a community, even if she is away for the whole 10 weeks. So what did she do?
- She picked a handful of other bloggers that she looks forward to reading, and asked them if they want to guest post on her blog. She gave them a deadline ahead of her leave, if they expressed interest.
- She edited their articles and scheduled them for publishing, which is easily done using wordpress.
- She emailed them the schedule of when their blogs would be published, so that they would be aware to monitor and respond to any comments.
- Her twitter account would automatically tweet when a blog went live.
- She thanked everybody for all the help that they were giving her.
So if a blogger, who worked for herself, would have to go through this much ahead of time to make sure that her blog is up and running even while she is on leave, how about the women who were working in companies and with employers? Depending on the level of interaction with others, as well as the dynamics of the workplace, the level of planning would be challenging.
BUT - What did the blogger do that you can also do, no matter what professional situation you are in? Ask for help.
The blogger did ask help from other bloggers, right? As a working woman, you shouldn’t be ashamed to ask help from your colleagues. In a leadership development course I took, one of the main things I remember learning is that the mark of a good leader is someone whose organization can function well in their absence. Though it takes time to develop that level of operational excellence in a team, I keep it in the back of mind as something to strive for when building and working with teams.
Some specific ways to go about doing this include:
- Always share with others the work that you are doing. Often, women want to make the outcome look effortless, but this can backfire when people don’t realize the credit you deserve, or the process that’s needed to get things done.
- If you have subordinates or assistants, be in a mode of giving them continual training on tasks that they can do to help you
- You should welcome the thought of becoming a mentor to others, so that you can informally spread your knowledge and expertise.
- Specifically asking others on your team to fill in while you are away
- And when you return from leave, be sure to acknowledge and give credit to those who provided help.
Taking a leave does not only occur when female employees go on maternity leave. Men (especially in California) are now taking several weeks for paternity leave, or there may be other reasons to take some time away from work.
But What if Your Leave Will be More than a Few Months?
Most of what I’ve suggested are things that will work for an absence of a few months, with the expectation that you will be returning. In that case, it probably isn’t necessary to do much outside of the workplace during the time away. But what if you don’t know when you’ll be returning, or you don’t have a specific position waiting for you? How much does online coursework, conferences, and industry article reading really do to keep someone relevant? I’d love to hear thoughts and ideas beyond these typical suggestions.
Tamra Johnson has over 10 years of experience in information technology, engineering program management and systems engineering, including system integration, subcontractor management, and processes and operations restructure. She loves the intersection of technology, strategy and people, and thrives on helping others improve their projects and organization. Tamra has a MBA from UCLA Anderson, a MS in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford, and a BS in Aeronautics/Astronautics from MIT. She has served as the Young Alumni director on the MIT Alumni Association Board of Directors. For more on Tamra, please visit www.TamraJohnson.com.