Women of my generation were told as children that we could do anything and could eventually have it all. As I’ve matured and faced the challenge of managing my career and family, the one thing I’ve learned is that no decision I make is set in stone. This mindset has led to an unconventional and fulfilling career.

During the first ten years of my career, my path was fairly traditional. However, since the arrival of my three children in the past eight years, my path has taken some twists and turns. I went from working at Staples full time to part time, owned my own consulting practice, taught at a university and worked full time from home. Now, I’m back at Staples, full time, in a position that challenges me and allows me to grow and develop as a leader.

My advice to you is: Don’t be afraid to deviate from a traditional path. With the right planning and perspective you can reap great rewards. Here are some tips if you want to tackle the untraditional.

Build and Maintain Relationships. Business, like anything, is based on relationships. Go out of your way to help others. Build up your bank of goodwill. The payback may not be immediate, but there will be one.
Become Indispensable. Before you attempt to carve an unorthodox path through the business world, you must prove your value. Seize every opportunity to establish yourself as an “A” player. “A” players get opportunities and flexibility that “B” players don’t get. At the end of every day ask yourself, “Did I add value today?”

Keep Your Head in the Game. When I left the workforce to be at home full time, I found ways to keep my hand in the game. I kept in touch with friends, mentors and former bosses. I stayed on top of company and industry news. I sent pertinent articles to former colleagues. All of these steps enabled me to land part time consulting work for Staples, which eventually led to my current position.

When making career decisions it’s easy to lose perspective. Every move appears to be wrought with weighty long-term implications. It’s important to remember that not every decision will affect your entire career. You can take chances. Life is long and there are lots of twists, turns and opportunities.

So what’s the payoff been for me? I’ve been able to achieve my goal of balancing family with a fulfilling career over the long term. That’s my definition of “having it all.”