I’ve been talking for years about workplace flexibility as an important strategic tool for employers as well as workers. I’ve long thought that in a time of uncertainty, whether it arrived in the form of a flu outbreak, hurricane, earthquake, or other emergency, it would be very helpful for companies to be able to carry on in some capacity when their employees had to stay at home. It feels like we’re in very unpredictable, uncontrollable times, and companies need to be as nimble as possible, with a plan A and solid plan B for backup.
Just this morning I was asking Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, what it would take to get employers to finally see flexibility as a valuable strategy for them, not just a favor for their workers. I interviewed her for The Mojo Mom Podcast and you can hear her response on Friday when the show airs.
But then this afternoon the public radio show The World ran an interesting segment about the erupting Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull (just had to put that awesomely unpronounceable name in there). With the massive air travel disruptions in Europe caused by the eruption, it sounds like businesses are truly rethinking their travel strategies. What travel is truly necessary versus optional? A few days in London sounds like fun until you encounter the hassle and expense of getting stranded there. How can virtual meetings fill in the gaps when air travel is not practical? How well can we develop relationships and get work done that way?
I don’t think we’ve seen the end of business travel, but I can’t help but hope that a boss’ backup plan may go hand-in-hand with employees’ legitimate desires for being evaluated on results rather than face time, and working whenever and whenever they have to in order to get their work done. And remember, if you ever have to propose an alternative work arrangement, don’t shrink into the corner as though you are asking for a special favor. Instead, put on your most confident face and present it as a win-win for you and your employer.
Balancing Professionals career experts Kella Hatcher and Maryanne Perrin lead you through this process in their chapter in “Courageous Parents, Confident Kids,” and in their resource “The On-Ramping Guide: Tips, Exercises and Important Job Search Steps for Returning to Work After Time Out Raising Kids.” Visit the Mojo Store for more details.
Earlier this week I was interviewed on Lifestyle Radio Cafe, and listening in to the first segment between host Dana Hilmer and financial guru Jean Chatsky got me thinking again about mothers’ lifelong career paths.
It is an issue I have thought about a lot with Mojo Mom and continue to explore in Courageous Parents, Confident Kids. The idea that keeps flashing in my mind like a neon sign is that we need to transform our thoughts about mothers’ employment from “if I am going to work” to “when and how am I going to work?”
I say this in a non-Mommy-Wars way! There is no “us” and “them” in this discussion–it’s ultimately all “us,” no matter how different our personal paths may look. Mothers are each unique individuals, but most of us will need to be employed throughout most of our lives. What I have learned in the past ten years as a mother is that the strong feelings I have about what work-life balance means to me at any moment really can evolve over time. When my daughter was six months old, my top priority was to be home with her, and I couldn’t imagine going back to work at that time. By the time she was a year old I was starting to explore my options for a part-time job. My initial plan to go back to work fell through when we decided to move from California to North Carolina, but by the time my daughter was two and a half, I was really eager to get her into a toddler program, and at age three she started full-day preschool. I ramped up my writing and teaching career back to a flexible but full-time schedule.
In the early years of motherhood a day can feel like an eternity. Coping with your new reality as a mother, just getting used to the “new normal” of the day to day demands can make it very difficult to imagine that life can change yet again. I went from being a “stay-at-home Mom” and embracing that as my identity, to a becoming a working parent and artist.
There are also mothers who continue their careers and couldn’t imagine it any other way…until life throws them a curveball and they, too, must adapt.
I respect a whole variety of life paths, but I have reached the point where I operate from a perspective that women should keep their lifelong career paths in mind and treat their employability as an important family priority. Whether you take off three weeks from paid employment, three years, or even longer, what steps can you take to stay positioned to reinvent yourself and return to work when you want to or need to? In this economy, the need to case is an important one to consider.
The working world is on the brink of change, with more people wanting flexible employment for a number of reasons: Boomers who want to continue working part-time instead of retiring; Milennials who can’t imagine having to show up in one place for 40 hours a week when they know they can get their work done from a cafe. But working parents are the true pioneers advocating for flexible employment and results-only work environments, in which it doesn’t matter when and where you work, as long as you get it done.
It’s not always easy to secure such an arrangement, and it’s not always comfortable to be on the leading edge, but it is worth fighting for a work world that works for us. Women’s lives don’t necessarily follow the “ladders” laid out by traditionally male-dominated professions–think tenure track in academia, or the rigorous path of medical school and residency. But it’s always inspiring to see women carving out a path that works for them, whether it’s a mother of two starting law school after her kids are in elementary school, or a woman going out on her own to launch her own business or consulting company.
Sometimes the hardest part is getting started–knowing when you are ready to embark on a new job search or career switch. It can be hard to find guidance on those initial steps getting prepared and setting priorities even before you draft a new resume. So I am very happy to have teamed up with the career experts at Balancing Professionals to provide the practical guidance that so many parents need. Kella Hatcher and Maryanne Perrin are experts on flexible employment, working with both employers and job seekers. They have contributed a chapter to Courageous Parents, Confident Kids sharing “Tools for Career Reinvention.” They share provide an introduction to on-ramping and career reshaping, providing actionable advice in their chapter, which will provide insight for both mothers and fathers. If you are ready to dive more fully into the process, you can get a in-depth guidance for going back to work in Kella and Maryanne’s new resource, The On-Ramping Guide: Tips, Exercises and Important Job Search Steps for Returning to Work After Time Out Raising Kids, available now in the Mojo Store.
So no matter where you are on your career path, see what it feels like to ask yourself when and how you’d like to work, and if that requires making a change, begin investigating the steps you can take to get to create a career path that works for you and your family.
Sign up on the MojoMom.com home page to receive a free digital download on the brand-new book “Courageous Parents, Confident Kids” when it is released on April 19th. You can read the book on an ordinary computer or print it out–no Kindle or special e-book reader is required.
I’m continuing my series of Mojo Mom Podcast conversations with Courageous Parents, Confident Kids contributors, this week speaking with Kella Hatcher of Balancing Professionals consulting. Kella, collaborating with her business partner Maryanne Perrin, contributed a chapter on “Tools for Career Reinvention” to our new book.
Listen to the podcast now:
This week Mojo Mom is talking career strategies with Kella Hatcher, who along with Maryanne Perrin is a principal in Balancing Professionals consulting, advocating or a flexible, strategic, sustainable workplace. Kella and Maryanne have also contributed a chapter on career development to the new anthology that Amy Tiemann is editing, “Courageous Parents, Confident Kids — Letting Go So You Both Can Grow.”
Kella and Amy talk about strategies for lifelong career development, on-ramping, putting your best foot forward and getting your confidence back as you craft your own path, which may go “off-road” rather than follow a career ladder. Fortunately, these days more workers are advocating for alternative, flexible work, and that will benefit both Moms and Dads. Workplace change is coming, and we are the pioneers!
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