Should I tell my boss I have no long-term plans for my career?

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Should I tell my boss I have no long-term plans for my career?

Dec 13, 2010 |Candice Watters
Question

I got married a couple of months ago. My job has graciously allowed me to telecommute from our new apartment located two hours away. It's a great situation and all my co-workers have helped me make the transition smoothly.

I've never liked the annual assessment cycle that we have to go through, but I have grinned and bore it a few times. Now my supervisor wants to have more pointed discussions with me about my career goals and future projects. Here's where things get sticky. My husband and I both agreed (now and when we were dating) that we would wait about a year before starting our family and that when we had kids I would stop working and become a stay-at-home mom. I was so excited that we were on the same page with this. It means, though, that I really have no long-term plans for my career.

How do I navigate this conversation without outright lying to my boss and telling her I want “this and that” for my career when, in reality, I don't? I don't really have many work-related ambitions other than to do an excellent job and produce a reliable, quality product for our clients for the next year or so. My boss is a working mom herself, so I don't want to imply anything negative or offend her by telling her I plan to become a stay-at-home mom. Help!

Answer

Congratulations on your new marriage! I suspect you won't be surprised to hear I'm encouraged by your intentionality to make home your base, both as wife, and eventually, as mommy. Your setup sounds ideal for this newlywed phase; it's no small gift to work for such an accommodating company. Still, I understand your concerns going forward.

It's essential to be honest in your dealings with everyone, including your boss. But being honest isn't the same as revealing every last detail and eventuality. In fact, Scripture says just the opposite when it comes to discussing the future. Consider James 4:13-15:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.”

The header for this portion of Scripture in my Bible is “Boasting About Tomorrow.” Clearly there are distinctions between preparing for the future (as we're encouraged to do in many places, including Proverbs 6:6-8 and Proverbs 31:25 ), and boasting about it. But how we prepare — and especially how we speak and think about what's yet to come — matters.

It's commendable (and countercultural) for you to already be talking with your husband about wanting to start your family soon. What's less advisable is getting into the details of how that will play out — especially with people other than him — before you're even pregnant. There are many variables, unknowns and circumstances beyond our control in such major life changes. When Steve and I decided to start trying to conceive (something we talk about in more detail in our book Start Your Family), we were surprised and discouraged when it didn't happen right away. We were young and healthy and so I assumed we'd be expecting within a month or two of deciding we were ready. But it ended up taking seven months before a pregnancy test was positive. Come to find out, that's not uncommon.

I could have, at the beginning of our journey, told my boss that I was planning to stay at home, which I was. Instead, Steve and I spent the seven months before conceiving, and the nine months of expecting, preparing our home; preparing our nursery and our finances; and preparing for a career change.

It wasn't until the final stretch — when I was eight months pregnant — that the details fell into place. My vice president offered me a setup similar to yours, doing my job from home. It was very workable with one baby. (Much less so when the second arrived, see “Kids Don't Retrofit” for more on that reality check.) Nevertheless, it was a different, and better, solution than what I would have suggested had I started trying to maneuver the pieces from day one.

Does this mean you must lie about the future? No. Does is mean you can't be intentional? Definitely not. But it does mean you should have an appropriate humility about what's not yet reality. You can't know how everything will play out. You don't even know if you'll still be with this company when you start your family.

What does all this uncertainty mean for your annual review? Rather than detailing “this and that” for your career (something the James passage addresses verbatim), and knowing it probably wouldn't fly to simply add an “if it is the Lord's will” disclaimer to your plans, you can have an “if it's the Lord's will” attitude going in to the conversation.

In your heart, you need to know with certainty that everything about your future is subject to God's supremacy in all things (e.g. Ephesians 1:11, Romans 11:36). Such confidence in His sovereignty will affect how you think about and discuss the future. It will alleviate fear about how things will work out, and foster hope that He has a good plan. It will also motivate you to be excellent in the present, knowing that your work — even in a secular environment — is unto Him. Colossians 3:23 says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters."

It's good that you want to “do an excellent job and produce a reliable, quality product for [y]our clients,” but it's unnecessary to put a time limit on it (“a year or so”). You could honestly tell your boss that you want to do all that for as long as you're with this company — for as long as you're in your current role.

You could also spend much of your review asking her questions. What does she see as the best way to connect your skills with the company's needs? What would she recommend you focus on? How might you better serve in your current role? You have a stewardship opportunity and obligation in this job. And getting good at serving and meeting the needs of your company (and eventually your family) will always be valuable.

If you don't have firm plans to leave — and until you're pregnant or considering another job offer you probably won't — there's no reason to imply that you do.

I hope you'll stay in touch about the annual review, and, in the future, with news of babies.

Blessings,
CANDICE WATTERS

Copyright 2010 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.

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