“Just when I think I have learned the way to live, life changes.”

~Hugh Prather

Today, I spoke with a woman about her next career move. She is a Harvard MBA working on Wall Street. She feels the opportunity for success in her current role is limited and therefore, would like to make a move. But there was more to her thinking than just moving to a role with more responsibility.

She asked about my experience as a former financial services executive and working mom. She does not have a family, but wants one in her future. Smartly, she was taking her future into consideration when looking at her next move. I told her that the greatest lesson I learned was to allow yourself the flexibility to change your mind. When life happens to you, you don’t know how it will change you. But I can promise you this…it will change you. Marriage, parenthood, work experiences, deaths, elder care, etc. There is no way to predict in what way these events will change your perspective on your life.

However, most people make career moves based on today’s circumstances. I address the issue of life events with every client I coach. Of course you can’t plan for all of life’s events, but you can give some thought in advance to those possibilities. Having children is an obvious one. Elder care is not so obvious. In my experience, more and more professionals are taking on care-giving and advocacy for their parents. And most had not given much thought about how that might affect their career. It requires flexibility at work and it can be quite emotionally draining. Your career situation is key to your ability to handle the needs of those you love (including yourself!).

This of course, is a lesson I learned the hard way. I thought I would always have a full-time corporate career even when I started a family. So my lifestyle was based on a dual-income household. Then life happened. In this instance, I wanted to care for my father who had lung cancer. My mother had passed 10 years earlier of cancer. I wanted to get him the best care so I moved him in with me and he was treated at Mass General. My children were 8 and 6. Needless to say, this was beyond difficult. My manager was wonderful, but I knew I couldn’t keep this up. More importantly, this experience confirmed that I wanted to be there for my family whenever they needed me – now and in the future.

My current situation was not set up for that. And so began my journey to find a career where I am challenged, able to control my own schedule and financially rewarded allowing me to be available for anyone I love at a moment’s notice. Including me. I never had a desire to own my own business. But after “life” happened, I am now an entrepreneur. And loving every minute of it because it works for all of my needs – personal, professional and financial.

My advice to this woman was to be open to her perspective on career to completely change once she begins her family…and encounters life.