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11 posts from November 2008

November 25, 2008

Does juggling work/life get easier with age?

    On The Juggle blog, Sue Shellenbarger writes: Many parents believe they get better at balancing work and family as they grow older. I thought long and hard about whether I agree.

    Sue believes sticking to priorities, staying calm under pressure, drawing boundaries against overwork – all become easier with age. She writes: "I guard against stress better and I’m more patient. But I’m worse at other things — seizing opportunities for spontaneous fun, keeping up with my kids on the ski slopes or soccer field, or finding the energy for quick weekend trips away."

       For me, the juggle was particularly difficult in the early years when my kids weren't self sufficient and I felt I had to be there for them as a caretaker and entertainer. As they get older, the demands on their time are greater. My kids need me in a different way and they understand when I want time for myself or my job. But there's definitely more driving required --  getting kids to the right places at the right times and more opportunities for events to conflict with work schedules.

    So, do we get better at balancing as we age and our kids age? I think what we lack in energy as parents when we grow older, we make up for in acquired organization skills. We simply know how to handle the juggle much better. Do you agree? Have you become a better juggler with age?      

November 24, 2008

Reinvent yourself

       Yes it stinks to lose your job or be out of work. But in talking to people, I discovered it can be an opportunity -- if you let it.

      Yesterday, in my Miami Herald article, I wrote about Kristen Nahum. Her retail store no longer could survive in the high rent shopping mall it was in. So Nahum closed up shop. But she's using this as an opportunity to work from home, where she avoids the 60-mile commute she used to make and which allows her to spend more time with her 7-month-old daughter. She's going to take a course online and become a virtual assistant, an executive assistant who connects with clients via the Internet.

     Here are some other options I mentioned in the article:

  • Start a business. When unemployment rises, so does patent applications. Embrace your creativity and figure out a way to make money on your own terms.
  • Launch a website: This takes anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 in start up fees but if you tap th right niche, you could be profitable within six months to a year.
  • Go back to school. Workforce agencies have lists of high-demand jobs and some even provide tuition assistance if you pursue those careers.
  • Pursue a passion. This could be the right time to become a writer, or go after the dream job you always wanted.
  • Take a risk. A friend of mine who had been an executive in the sports world was struggling for a year to find a job in his profession. Finally, he decided to make a big change and become a police officer. The hours are better and the benefits are too.
  • Apply your skills in a new way. One woman I interviewed had lost her job in corporate sales. She landed a job as a manager of a retail store by demonstrating she could use her sales and marketing background to draw new customers.
  • Hire a career/life coach. I was amazed to learn you can do this online or in person. Visit CareerPath.com  or check with the International Coach Federation. Also, if you're interested in seeking an online mentor, you might want to visit GottaMentor.com.

    In response to the article, I heard from Fedora who says she's a virtual assistant. Here's what she says about her work. It might be path worth looking into.   "Having been a Virtual Assistant for nearly 10 years I can say I love what I do --- I spent 30+ years working in the legal field. I've done the 2 hour commute twice a day & long hours in the office. Now I work from and live full-time in my RV & enjoy the view. I do everything for my clients from digital transcription to drafting briefs/pleadings, writing blogs, making travel arrangements, and collecting overdue accounts."

     Have you reinvented yourself? Are you currently searching for a new career path? Has it been more difficult than you expected?

November 19, 2008

Where to get a part-time job

     Looking for part-time work to help with expenses? I picked up some great ideas to pass on from a segment on The Today Show this morning. Keep in mind that the number of people looking for part-time or seasonal work this holiday season is up more than 120 percent from last year. Better get out there now.

     Unfortunately, stores are hiring fewer seasons employees. But  TODAY’s Jenna Wolfe  gave some ideas for finding work that went beyond your standard job behind the perfume counter at Macy's.

   A few places to look that you might not have thought about:

    * Gyms. They begin hiring now (particularly recruiters) because right around the New Year people tend to join.

    * Inventory services companies. Businesses look to year-end to count their inventory.

    * Tax preparation companies. Many start the hiring process in December.


    Also, Ilyse Shapiro, founder of MyPartTimePro.com has these suggestions heading into the first quarter of the New Year:

   * Consider universities seeking adjunct Spring semester instructors

   * Educational firms looking for college test prep counselors

    Are you looking for part-time work? Do you have any suggestions for others?

November 16, 2008

Advice from Build-A-Bear's Maxine Clark

Maxine_clark_portrait_color_1_2      Sometimes kids get it when adults don't. Sometimes if we just listen to them, when can make millions. That's the message Build-A-Bear founder Maxine Clark passed along to about 300 women in Miami on Friday at a luncheon for The Commonwealth Institute. Clark told us that when she was considering launching a chain of build your own teddy bear stores, the adults she presented the idea thought she was nuts. The kids were thoroughly excited and asked, "Where can I find these stores?"

    Now,  as chairman of Build-A-Bear Workshop with 407 stores, Clark regularly seeks advice and suggestions from children, often communicating with them online and on Facebook. She says "Children can give you great ideas." For example, Maxine said she originally planned to name the animals for the children. But kids told her how important it was to name the animals themselves. Today, each animal is named and gets a birth certificate. It's one of the factors that make the concept so successful.

We all know kids see life from such a different perspective. Wasn't it Wendy Thomas who inspired her dad to start the Wendy's fast-food empire?

      Lately, I've been asking my kids about their thoughts on where the media industry is headed. They have had some pretty interesting ideas. Have you ever sought input from a child in a business decision? Did it work out as well for you as it did for Maxine Clark?


November 13, 2008

Providing feedback to rejected candidates

    I have so many friends out of work right now. Some of them go through several rounds of interviews, don't get the job and don't know why. IShould they be told why?

    I think the debate on the Fistful of Talent blog really brings the topic of rejecting candidates to the forefront. While this isn't necessarily a work/life balance issue, it's a major workplace issue. The blog points out all the options for how to tell candidates they didn't get the job. It also discusses the dangers in telling them why the didn't get the job.  (I never thought about how emotionally tough it can be to be a recruiter!) What if someone just isn't the right fit for your company?

    The blog argument concludes with this suggestion for recruiters: "I think we need to do a better job of respecting the time and energy that candidates put into the process. The more time they invest with us in the process, the more time we should spend communicating the reasons why."

       I think rejected candidates deserve to know why they weren't selected. A friend was looking for a job in pharmaceutical sales and continually rejected. Finally, a recruiter was honest, "The companies are looking for candidates much younger than you." She was thrilled to discover what was going on and immediately began spending her time pursuing other types of positions. Still, I imagine it could be sticky for a recruiter.

     Do you think rejected candidates should be informed in person that they weren't selected? Should they be told why or just suck it up? Do you think providing feedback makes business sense?

November 12, 2008

Computers or spouses?

     I was talking with another mother this morning who mentioned that her Internet at home had been down for a few days and she felt cut off from the world. She hadn't received the PTA bulletin or the emails from her boss. I could hear the panic in her voice.  It got me thinking how much I value my Internet connection.

    Indeed, I love my computer. True love. I spend more time interacting with my laptop than my spouse....and if I had to chose between them, it would be tough.

     Computer Now, here comes a survey that affirms I'm not alone. About 96 percent of women who work in an office claim to like or love their computer, with the average woman spending nearly triple the amount of time daily with her computer than she spends with her significant other (9.3 hours compared to 3.6 hours), according to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive for Wellgate for Women. (Wellgate makes orthopedic wrist supports). Even more, about one in ten women actually have had the same computer longer than a current significant other!

    When I log on to my AOL account at night, I find tons of my female buddies online, too. The survey found that female adults actually spend more time with their computer than they spend shopping (62%),   exercising (79%), outdoors (62%),  with friends (58%),  Taking care of personal hygiene (43%), relaxing (44 percent) and with family (41%).

     I admit I probably spend more time on my computer than any other activity. But, here's what I can do from my computer....shop, plan a getaway, check on the latest celebrity gossip, chat with a friend...and of course, work.

      Now, here's where I admit, my husband has complained about my being on the computer at night. I take some comfort in the survey findings which show one in ten female office workers (9%) claim their significant other thinks she spends too much time with her computer.

    Of course, Wellgate wants us to know the close relationship people have with their computer might be a time-saver, but as the survey indicates, it does take a toll on both personal relationships as well as physical health (by this they mean your wrists).

       Have you ever fought with your significant other about his/her spending too much time on the computer? Do you think women have more of a computer addiction?

November 11, 2008

Brenda Barnes is my hero

Brenda A few years ago, I called Brenda Barnes.  She had resigned as president of PepsiCo Inc.’s North American beverage business in 1997 to spend more time with her three school-age children. At the time, she came in for criticism that she might be hurting other mothers’ chances of climbing the corporate ladder. When I called her in 2004, I wanted to know what she was up to. 

    I marveled at the time at how Barnes had managed to keep herself in the game by sitting on corporate boards -- big ones like Avon, The New York Times Co., Staples, Sears Roebuck & Co., PepsiAmericas and LucasArts Entertainment Co.  Those positions typically pay more than $25,000 a year.  "There are ways to stay engaged without dropping out of the workforce completely, " Barnes told me. "I never totally stopped working."

    So recently, when her kids were older, Barnes was able to jump right back into the corporate world in a big way because she never was FULLY out. She became CEO of Sara Lee Corp.

    Now, from her spot at the top, Barnes has taken it on herself to make the transition back into the workforce easier for other parents who left to raise children. The Illinois company is launching 'returnships,' four- to six-month internships at the food maker for midcareer professionals who have been out of the workforce for a few years.  The interns will be paid the equivalent of full-time employees based on experience, job skills and hours.

    From a company’s point of view, such a program would help an employer find more seasoned workers. It allows returning parents a way to ease back into the workforce. “I haven’t seen anything like this [before], and it’s a great idea,” Robert Wilson, president of Westmont, Illinois-based Employco Group Ltd., told Workforce Management

       Personally, I admire Barnes for reaching out and helping other mothers. Unfortunately, I don't see enough of this happening in Corporate America. Do you? Do you think her new program will give any incentive to other companies to offer returnships? Do you think this concept will be successful if it is used only by women?

November 10, 2008

Stop putting others first

    As moms, we feel we need to take care of our kids, elderly parents, spouses friends. As employees we feel we need to take care of customers, clients, bosses, co-workers. Why is it that we feel guilty putting ourselves first?

          Career coach Jackie Harder, president of the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce, wrote an article today for my newspaper's Business Monday. She struck a chord with me. Coming out of a busy weekend, I had wanted to start a book, but its sitting on my nightstand unopened. I never got to it because I was busy taking care of others. Harder writes, "of all the clients I've worked with over the years, women far and away live most of their lives for others, not themselves." She also says you don't have to be a mother to be guilty of this. Plenty of childless people, men and women, find themselves in the habit of putting other people first.

     Harder goes on to say: "It's a short journey to feeling dissatisfied, restless, tired, depressed, resentful or any of an entire host of emotions."  I have met some women who feel disgruntled at work when their career suffers because they are taking care of others needs. (One blogger tells her experience and wonders, Do Caretakers receive disparate treatment?) I have met mothers who do without to make sure their kids get the best,  only to resent it when their kids don't seem to appreciate their sacrifice.

     But what to do about it?

     Harder says consider why others needs are more important than yours? Ask yourself, what percentage of your life are you living for you? At what point do you say, "Enough!"?

   Do you feel like you're a caretaker both in your personal life and work life? Are you the superbusy co-worker who lends a hand even if it means inconveniencing yourself? Are you the gal who misses an evening event because you feel like you should be at home? What are you going to do today to put yourself first? I going to start that book on my nightstand.



November 06, 2008

Manic Moms Escape

    Today, about 130 working moms from 33 states will arrive in Miami and depart tomorrow for the Manic Mommies Escape, a three day getaway cruise to Nassau. Working moms bonding, I LOVE THIS CONCEPT!    

Manic_mommies_erin_and_kristin    Manic Mommies is a podcast co-hosted by Kristin Brandt and Erin Kane, two working moms trying to manage the chaotic combination of work and family. Kristin says she and pal Erin started the concept to learn how to do a podcast. Now, the show is one of the top Kids & Parenting podcasts in the iTunes store and was recently named a finalist in the 2008 Podcast Awards. The Manic Mommies also have created a social network for their 6,000-plus listeners. Kristin says the getaway weekend idea grew out of her interest in connecting with listeners.

     I totally agree Kristin's take on working moms and their interest in bonding.  She says: My co-host and I know how difficult it is to carve time out for ourselves,as well as meet new friends with similar interests and schedules. The fact that we have so many "crazy busy" moms gathering in one place speaks to the nearly universal need for validation, support and friendship.

     On her blog, Kristin writes: This weekend there are no kids' birthday parties. No soccer games. No shopping trips to BJs accompanied by two kids who'd rather be anywhere else. No laundry, no meals to cook, no bedtime stories to read. No CCD, no McDonald's drive thru and no early mornings with the Wiggles. And while we're not saving the world—by any stretch of the imagination—it does feel good to know that we're providing the permission manic mommies (and some manic grannies) need to allow themselves time to take a break from what is one of the most under-appreciated 24/7 jobs in America."

   It's amazing that Kristin and Erin were able to attract great sponsors for their Escape such as Sara Lee, Saturn and Land's End (It shows corporate interest in marketing to moms). The weekend schedule is packed with cocktail time, exercise and workshops on healthy relationships, time management and siblings. "We are trying to work in just the right amount of relaxation, networking and learning," she says. Next  year, I'm joining these women!

    Would you head off on a Mommy Escape? Do you think too much mom bonding is a turn off? Would you prefer co-ed getaways?

November 04, 2008

Biggest time wasters

    I had the pleasure today of interviewing Julie Morgenstern for my Miami Herald article on efficiency. Julie is a productivity expert and best-selling author who advises clients at small businesses and big companies how to better manage their time and space. We got into a conversation about the biggest time wasters.

     This is her list:

     Number one: You guessed it -- Email addiction. Morgenstern says people use e-mail to procrastinate when they need to do a difficult task. "They say let me just check my e-mail first.''

    Number two:  Internet surfing. Social networking sites are consuming hours of our time.

    Number three: To-do lists. Morgenstern says they are creating workaholism. "At work it is easier to feel like we're getting something done," she explains. "If there's an opportunity to stay at work and get to three more to-dos or go home and chill out, it's more satisfying to get more to-dos done."


Of  course there's also clutter and interruptions, which made personal coach Wendy Hearn's  list of Top 10 Time Wasters.

      By the way, Morgenstern thinks there's a time management backlash taking place right now. "Workers are so overwhelmed that they are not getting back to people for days and simple information is not getting communicated," she says. I agree. I find people more overwhelmed than ever. But like me, they seem to have time for Facebook and email and other time wasters.

     Is it a battle for you to get through your work day without wasting time? Are you struggling with time management? Have you done anything differently to become more efficient?