How to slow down on the fast track

Marissa Mayer, the new CEO of Yahoo. (AP/Evan Agostini)

Thirty-seven-year-old Marissa Mayer, six months pregnant, was appointed chief executive of Yahoo two weeks ago after a stellar career at Google.

Meanwhile, she recently became a director of the world’s largest company, Wal-Mart.

This unusual status for a Fortune 500 CEO got armchair philosophers going. How will she manage in the months ahead? Not only will she juggle a ponderous workload, her maternity leave will put a stutter step in her steady corporate strides.

To some degree, her challenge is faced by many professional women. The time they take to raise children coincides with the time they’re moving up in the work world.

Young fathers face similar family pulls on their time and priorities. Many up-and-coming professionals, men and women, are bypassing promotions and scaling back their workloads.

The trouble is, many of them don’t want to lose their work identities. They’ve worked hard. They don’t want reduced standing in their firms. They don’t want to forgo the chance for eventual promotion.

The reality is that it’s hard to downscale for a few years and still be on the fast track. But it can be done.

If that’s your goal, here are four tactics that may help you through a downshifting so you eventually can return to Mayer-like stardom:

Develop strong working relationships with one or more bosses who take mentorship interest in you. Keep in touch. Keep them aware of your goals about returning to full time.

Work out a job-sharing deal with a co-worker of equivalent caliber who also wants to go part time. You’ll both get valuable office face time and perhaps maintain your current levels of responsibility.

Find out whether you can provide your same service to your employer as an independent contractor instead of an employee. You’ll have more control over the time you perform your work and still maintain contacts in your organization.

You should keep attending professional organization meetings for your occupation and industry to keep your identity alive outside your company.