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13 posts from May 2012

May 31, 2012

Whether or not to work for free, that is the question


Should you or shouldn't you work for free? It's a question you almost certainly will face at some point in your career. Sometimes the answer is yes.

I just interviewed a plastic surgeon who told me when he's at a party or in the men's room, he regularly gets asked for free advice No big deal, he says. Sometimes, giving out free advice results in a client. But then he also gets asked by friends to do nips and tucks for free. He's had to make a rule -- no freebies, no exceptions. 

When is working for free a good idea? 

You may have to face the decision to work for free early in your career when deciding if you want to take an unpaid internship. Or, the dilemma may come later in your career when you must decide whether to take on a project that means more work hours and no additional pay. Of course, it most commonly comes when you own a business and are asked to provide your services for free.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. WIll it pay off in the long run?

I just asked someone to make a DVD montage for me for free. It was actually for my child's school. She did an amazing job and said she enjoyed it. I know I can send lots of paying business her way. So, doing it for free was probably a good choice for her. It almost certainly was a path to payment.

2. Who is asking?

Blogger Penelope Trunk  says  you should consider whether the person asking is well connected and could send business your way. "If you do a good job, they are likely to pay you for the next one—or recommend that someone else pay you. Either way, you’ll get paid," Trunk says.

3. Will it build your resume?

You might not get paid for what you do, but taking an unpaid internship or more managerial responsibility without a raise can pay off later when you are able to use the experience on your resume. Penelope says, "When you start working for free, you need to have a very clear idea of how you are going to describe this work in your resume." 

4. Will you be learning new skills or exposing yourself to new experiences?

Unpaid work for personal growth is a tradeoff some people are willing to make. I recently offered to host a panel discussion on work life balance at a TV station. I didn't get paid but I did learn more about how television journalism works and met some amazing women.  I consider it a win-win.

5. Have you done the gut test?

At the end of the day, you must ask yourself whether you will hate yourself for saying yes to working for free. Most of the time, you know the answer in your gut.


May 30, 2012

Is dinner the new mid-day break?

Do you have a bite to eat with your spouse, maybe tuck the kids into bed, and then head right back to your laptop?

Has dinner become the new mid-day break? I think it has and I'm not sure it's a good thing. I often work at night. Part of it is the workload, the other part is I'm taking advantage of flexibility to use daylight for other personal activities and night time for quiet writing time.

But when I'm toiling away on my comptuer at night, I notice Twitter is on fire and emails are coming in non-stop.

I'm not sure what started this new work pattern. Some say technology. Others say competition and the recession.

Why do you think more Americans are working in the evening and is it good or bad for our work life balance?

The Miami Herald

There’s no end to workday

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

   Mario Contreras, 32, owns 27 Charley’s Grilled Subs. He says he uses his evening hours to connect with people all over the country and the world who are designing and building his new restaurants. “I find you just can’t clock out anymore.”
Mario Contreras, 32, owns 27 Charley’s Grilled Subs. He says he uses his evening hours to connect with people all over the country and the world who are designing and building his new restaurants. “I find you just can’t clock out anymore.”
For Mario Contreras, putting in eight hours at the office is just the beginning of his workday. After he eats with his kids and puts them to bed, Contreras heads over to his laptop and shoots off emails or resolves a concern with his construction crew. The night might end hours later when he finally slips into bed.

Contreras, the 32-year-old owner of 27 Charley’s Grilled Subs, says as he opens new restaurant locations worldwide his workload stretches as does his work hours. In the evening, he connects with people all over the country and the world who are designing and building his new restaurants. “I find you just can’t clock out anymore.”

Today, only 11 percent of professionals globally say they have accomplished all the tasks they planned to do by the end of an average workday, according to a study by LinkedIn. It’s no wonder then that many workers find business is creeping into the evening hours and more of us now consider dinner simply a midday break.

The smartphone, the laptop and the tablet allow us to be more connected than ever before, and that makes it oh so tempting to reconnect with work from home at night. Workplace experts are grappling with whether we are burning the midnight oil by need or by choice and if we can sustain this pace.

“Today, jobs are more precious and the economy has driven that home,” says Tim Geisert, chief marketing officer for Kenexa, a global recruiting and leadership development firm. “That has made people more willing to put in discretionary effort.”

Geisert says he is one of those workers who put in evening hours. “Technology is an enabler. I’ll spend my quiet evening time catching up on what didn’t get done that day and trying to get ahead for the following day.”

Some late-nighters say it’s daytime distractions that lead to evening hours — the meetings, the phone calls, the people who barge into your cubicle. “Nighttime is my think time. I save emails that take more thought and do that at night,” Geisert explains. “I find online conversations at night are more fruitful.”

Valerie Mitrani and Julie Lambert, co-directors of educational services at the Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education in Miami, say working more effectively during the day may help your workload from invading your personal time at night. The pair, trained in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, recently spoke at the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Broward County and advised scrutinizing and prioritizing our work habits to do tasks that are both urgent and important.

Flexibility and connectivity factor into this new work pattern, too. Mitrani says she is one of millions of Americans who took on more job responsibilities in the past few years as organizations cut back staff.

“Fortunately, with technology, everyone can work on their own time frame,” she says. “I’d rather get home at 4:30, do homework and eat dinner, and then be more productive for another hour at night, rather than staying later, fighting traffic to get home and missing out on time with my kids.”

Of course, the ease of working at night may have turned it into a habit that may need to be curbed.

Read more....



May 23, 2012

How to tame your inner control freak


I never thought of myself as a control freak -- until this week.

I am in charge of the end-of-the-year graduation activities at my child's school and I want to do everything myself because I know it will get done right. BUT, I just don't have the time to do it all --unless I give up sleep, entirely.

So, I need to delegate and trust. I'm not good at that, are you?

Last Friday, when I attended the Women's Success Summit, Nell Merlino, founder of Make Mine A Million Dollar Business and Count Me In, spoke about taming your inner control freak. She didn't exactly use those terms. But I read between the lines and realized what she was saying. Nell has been behind a giant, nationwide effort to help women business owners reach $1 million in revenue. This is no easy task since she says that most women business owners earn less than $50,000.

From what she's seen, Nell says you can ONLY grow your business to as much as $250,000 in revenue by doing everything yourself. If you want to get bigger, you MUST hire help.

Nell believes that almost every business owner should let go of their inner control freak and hire people who can do the things he or she isn't good at.

"Sleeping less and drinking more coffee is not a business growth strategy," she said. Wow, how true is that!!

Most of us think to manage it all, we have to keep it all on the table. "Change that thinking," she says. "Make it a bigger table." Controlling our inner control freak applies whether you are an owner or employee --there's always something you can hand off to someone who can do it better.

Nells points out that when you hire people, you can make different decisions, mostly because you've expanded your ability to get things done. "The best way to grow is by building a team who are good at what you are not. That’s how you create an extraordinary enterprise," she says.

She advises convincing yourself you can delegate, you can be a boss. "People don’t talk enough about how much fun it is to be the boss," Nell says.

Now, going forward, she suggests these steps:

1. Set a financial goal. Once you pick a number, you will need to work backwards. Understand what you charge and your profit margin. Figure out how you can actually reach that goal. "Once you put it on paper, you can see exactly what you need to do. It’s eye opening."

2.Think about how you can start to work with others and colloborate to make your product or services available to more people.

3. Figure out what areas you're not handling as well as you should. Hire or barter with someone to take over those tasks. 

If you do these things, Nell says you expand your vision for what you can accomplish.

Think about it, are you limiting yourself by being a control freak?  

Nell Merlino signing books at the Women's Sucess Summit in Miami

May 22, 2012

It's okay to ask for a sale

A friend of mine manages to get businesses to donate all kinds of raffle items to raise money for non-profits. I'm amazed and awed each time I see her in action. Her secret is pretty simple: she asks.

I hate asking people for things. I'm a lousy sales person, mostly because I hate rejection. That seems to be a problem most people face, but in business it can take you down. Spending hours networking and not turning that time into revenue can also wreak havoc on your work life balance.

On Friday, I learned a lot about asking for business and closing deals at the Women's Success Summit in Miami. Michelle Villalobos, a personal branding consultant and founder of the Summit, told me she picked the topic because she hears often about how challenging it is for women business owners to close a deal. "Women are excellent at networking and every piece of the sales process up until the time to close the deal." Michelle says we just have to get bolder about asking for business. We need to give ourselves permission to be fearless and more aggressive. "Everything else is a waste of time if we can't turn a relationship into revenue," she says.

At the Summit, sales guru Ivan Misner, founder of BNI, spoke about how women spend time building relationships with our dry cleaner, other women business owners or soccer parents and then we don't ask them to buy what we're selling. Examine who you have relationships with and whether they would want what you offer.

Listening to the statistics, I think closing the deal is hard for many men, too.

Here are some tips I picked up at the Summit:

* Target the customer who typically finds value in your product or services. Melissa Rubin sells high end condos for Platinum Properties. She networks in places where her best prospects circulate such as bar association meetings. By approaching the right customer, it takes away some of the fear of rejection, she says.

* Tap into an emotion. What are you selling that will help ease someone's pain? Jody Johnson, founder of Action Coaching, says people are more pain averse than pleasure seeking. Maybe you're selling something that will help a struggling business bleed less cash or maybe you're product that will help someone improve his or her marriage that's falling apart. Speak to their concerns when you ask for their business.

* Listen, watch, then ask questions. What a potential customer says or where he looks gives you signals for how to create a win-win. Jolie Glassman, owner of South Florida Boxing, says she formulates how she asks for the sale based on what someone says they want to accomplish and where they look when they enter the gym. "I get in their world and then I get them in mine," she says. At the end of her gym tour, she never asks the client directly if they want to sign up, rather she gives them two options that both assume they are going to register.

* Remove any impediments. Alex Lessa, speaker author and serial entrepreneur, says he used to sell martial arts memberships. When it would come time for the close, potential customers would say they didn't have their wallet buy a membership. So, Lessa began asking for a potential client's drivers license when he would enter and held it while they would do their trial workout. If you have your drivers license, you usually have your wallet!

* Sell your value. To avoid bickering over price, present your value and how the customer is going to benefit from doing business with you. "You can't establish price until you talk value," says Sebastian Rusk, founder of Social Buss TV and a Miami social media consultant,

* End with a question.Some people like to ask, "What do we need to do to get started? or "Would you like to pay all at once or in payments?" The key is not to close with a yes or no option but rather an option that has the client focus on when or how they are going to to follow through with your request.  Rusk says he will close by asking, "When would you like to get started?"

* Know when to walk away. If you just can't seem to close the deal, walk away. Natalie Boden, owner of BodenPR, a Miami public relations agency, says that's key in business. Usually, she presents her value in a way that the response is "When are you available?" But if the response isn't there and doesn't seem to be coming, she moves on.  

Below are some photos from the Women's Success Summit at the Miracle Theater in Coral Gables. If you missed it, don't fret. Michelle holds them every six month and chooses a different hot topic each time.








Nell Merlino, founder of Make Mine A Million, and Jessica Kizorek, founder of BadassBusinessWomen.org  



Natalie Boden, owner of BodenPR in Miami






Me and Michelle Villalobos, Summit Founder and Emcee









Lourdes "Luly" Balepogi, president of Chispa Marketing and her mom, an educational consultant.

May 17, 2012

Letting Go of Super Mom

Letting Go of Supermom_2-1My guest blogger today is Daisy Sutherland. I met Daisy at the recent SheStreams conference and was impressed with her energy and smarts. She certainly knows what it's like to be Super Mom. She is a doctor, author, speaker, wife and mom to five children. She also is the founder/CEO of Dr. Mommy Online and Dr. Mommy andFriends. Daisy says her mission is to motivate busy women to live happier, and healthier lifestyles by simply letting go of guilt. Watch for her new book - 'Letting Go of Super Mom' coming out on August 7. For more tips visit: http://www.drmommyonline.com

Here's a brief glimpse into Daisy's take on Letting Go of Supermom:Daisy

The art of saying no is extremely essential to learning how to find balance in your life. Although it may seem easier said than done, it is truly possible. With a bit a practice and some self assurance and actually the ability to truly let go you will find saying the simple word no will be just that—simple.

All moms are seeking some sort of balance, but some are looking in all the wrong places.

What I would like to propose is that we swap the ratio: the proportion of our yeses to our nos could be easily switched to reflect the time you are comfortably able to spend doing the things that benefit yourself and your family, versus the time you spend on others.

This is not selfishness; this is wisdom. "No" is your new "yes".

Instead of saying an outright no, try this: "I can't say yes to your request." It gets people off guard because they might be expecting an excuse. But instead just say that one line.

Or, you may want to say, "I don't have time right now, but let me recommend someone else."

Saying no more often leaves you more time for yourself. Consider using that time to treat yourself by meeting a friend for coffee, joining a book or craft club or doing something you've always dreamed of like skydiving or taking dance classes.

The whole purpose of Letting Go of SuperMom is to help women realize they don't have to be everything to everyone. When you let go and let others pitch in, you take stress off your shoulders. That's when you live a happier and more fulfilled life.


May 16, 2012

Parents of graduates, What would you do differently?

High school grads

Over the weekend, I watched as gorgeously dressed high school seniors stood outside posing for photos in their prom attire. It's strange but I can still remember that excitement mixed with fear that I felt as the last few weeks of high school came to an end.

Now, I'm starting to get that same feeling. I know my time is coming soon to send my oldest off to college and as a parent, I’m excited for what lies ahead for them but I'm not ready to let go.

I have a freshman and a sophomore in high school, and this year I began changing as a parent. I saw my teens becoming more independent and I began to give them some room to mature. Now, I'm watching my friends’ children and my nephew making college plans and securing their dorm assignments and I’m realizing that my time to influence my teens on a daily basis will be short-lived.

I’ve been asking my peers with kids off at college what they would have done differently as parents, what lessons they may inadvertently had neglected to teach their kids. Do their kids know how to do laundry, address an envelope, make a homemade meal? Do they know how to change a flat tire, french braid hair, write a check or keep tabs on the balance of a checking account?

Suddenly, I feel pressure. I know it’s the big lessons that count the most — how to be a good friend, how to be an ethical student or employee, how to communicate with someone rather than shut them out. But the small things count too.

So for those of you who have experienced sending a high school graduate off to college or into the real world, what would you have done differently before they left? Most of us are so busy balancing work and family that we overlook the opportunity for teaching moments. What lessons about work and life should I cram into the next two years before my oldest daughter graduates?

May 15, 2012

Do you crave interruptions?


While I'm clacking away on my keyboard, a tweet has just popped on to my screen. It's teasing me, trying to get my attention away from this blog post. That's the type of distraction I face most of the day, every time I set out to be productive.

In the last year, I feel like interruptions have proliferated. How long do you think you could go before your phone rings, someone talks to you, an email arrival distracts you? The average time, according to a study by the market research firm uSamp, is 15 minutes. That's barely enough time to type out a well thought out  email.

But what would happen if you went an hour or two without interruptions? Would you feel less important? While solitude sounds appealing, is there something in the back of your head that seems a little scary about a complete lack of pinging, ringing or talking?  

Still, a big part of being productive is recognizing the interruptions that we chose versus the ones that are pushed on us. If we can get the big stuff done without interruption, we can allow ourselves the diversions that help us feel like we're in the loop. Experts say do the big stuff first.

 "The temptation is, 'Let me take care of all the little things people need from me, and then I can relax and focus. That's misguided because the little things never stop," explains Julie Morgenstern, author of Never Check E-mail in the Morning, in a recent Ijustworkhere column.

With the pace of communication speeding up, I'm realizing that now is the time to figure out interruptions that I'm allowing into my work day and to decipher which ones are preventable. 

What are the interruptions you can't ignore -- maybe someone tapping on your shoulder or your boss calling a meeting? What are the interruptions you can ignore -- maybe an instant message or incoming email?

I'm embarking on a new path...training myself to shut down interruptions for a block of time each work day. No more peeking at tweets when I'm supposed to be writing a blog post. I think I can do it. I hope I can do it...guess I better keep Twitter closed, just in case I'm tempted.

Readers, what's your biggest interruption? Could you work without interruptions if you really, really tried?





May 14, 2012

Yahoo CEO's resume scandal -- When is lying okay?

Have you ever exaggerated just a little bit to put yourself in the best light possible?

Most of us do, particularly when it comes to our bios or resumes. We take what we've done and word it just so to make ourselves look as accomplished as possible. It's what we're told to do.

But resumes are tricky. Experts tell us it's okay to airbrush our photos, glamorize our accomplishments. Yet, we aren't supposed to cross the line into over-embellishment or take it a step further and add facts that aren't true.

That's where Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson went wrong. He just was fired as CEO after it was found he padded his resume with an embellished college degree, ending his term at the company after
just four months.

As college grads begin putting together their resumes, I think there's a lesson here. Don't put yourself in a position where you have to fear being caught. Airbrushing is ok. Lying is not.

Thompson's resume scandal ignited just over a week ago, when activist shareholder group Third Point alleged that Thompson lied about details of his college degree. Thompson's published Yahoo bios -- including the one in the company's latest annual report, a legal document that CEOs must personally swear are truthful -- have claimed that he holds a bachelor's degree in both accounting and computer science from Stonehill College.

His degree is actually in accounting only. Yahoo called the mistake an "inadvertent error."

Unfortunately, Thompson is just the latest executive to lose his job in a resume scandal. The Associated Press put together a long list: A Look at Leaders Undone by Resume Inaccuracies

The lesson here is don't do it. If you think your resume needs some flair, do something about it -- the right way. Take a class. Do volunteer work. Gain the skills or experience you're missing. Yes, gaining those skills or experience could cut into your work life balance, but so can losing your job. If Thompson felt he needed to add a computer science degree to his resume, he should have taken classes. It's never too late to gain more education. By the way, education is the area of a resume where people lie the most, experts say.

Studies show half of all resumes include a little padding and a third contain outright lies. (Fox Business: Yahoo scandal fuels doubts about vetting) Experts have compiled the Top 5 Resume Lies

Chris3Chris Lawson, CEO of the Eli Daniel Group in Dallas, hires people for a living. I asked him for tips on airbrushing a resume without lying :

Why do you think people lie on their resumes? People lie on their resume to cover up or enhance the information in hopes of “getting that interview”. Smaller organizations can fall prey to hiring some of these people while larger organizations with a well-structured HR Department typically filter out some of basic lies such as: altered employment dates to cover gaps, recent salary paid or
education verification.

Are the lies increasing as the unemployment rates rise? When economic times are tougher, the desperation creates a sense of “why not, I am not getting any interviews anyway”. The problem will usually backfire, especially if their skills are exposed quickly once hired.

What can people do to boost their resumes without lying? People can boost their resume by
ensuring they list every skill and job function they performed at each job. Keywords are huge, especially since many searches for online information are performed by typing a few critical keywords to pull up a list of prospects. In addition, listing accomplishments that are factual
demonstrates a higher performing candidate. People that narrow their job target objective and tailor their resume factually based on the job description will always get a good look as well.

How much effort do employers put into verifying information? This varies greatly. The degreed positions will usually always get atleast two reference checks to ensure dates are accurate. Non-degreed candidates do not get as much scrutiny but almost all companies perform a criminal background check. Typically the public organizations will ensure most everything is checked, but
surprisingly, education is not always verified, especially if they have work history that would lead to an assumption it’s accurate. Yahoo CEO is now the latest in a long line of high profile people fudging on education.


So readers, do you think it would have made a difference to Yahoo if Scott Thompson didn't have a degree in computer science? Did he really need to put that on his resume? Do you think there are lots of CEOs out there who have lied about their educational background? Do you think seeing what happened to Scott Thompson will make anyone stop and think twice, or is lying just embedded in the way we do business today?


May 10, 2012

A Motherly Lesson

This weekend, a little girl came up to my car window at a red light. She looked about 7 years old. She was holding a Mickey Mouse bucket and asked me for money. I didn't see an adult anywhere nearby.  It broke my heart. All mothers - whether we work or not - want the best for our kids and for the rest of the world's children. My kids were as upset as I was about this little girl alone in the street. I realized I must be doing something right as a parent.

How do you get your children to want to help others?

Today, my guest blogger is Lourdes Castillo de la Peña, a mother of four who has been focused on making a difference in the lives of women and children. Lourdes was appointed to the Florida Commission on the Status of Women, founded the Miami Children’s Hospital XOXO (Hugs and Kisses) group and serves on the Board of Friends of the Orphans.In 2010 she was honored by the Junior League of Miami at their annual “Women Who Make a Difference” luncheon.

Here is her take on how mothers can make a difference: 


Children will follow your footsteps easier than they will your advice. Our children are watching our actions, and learning from them, especially when giving. Whether it is of your time, heart or money, there is never such a thing as “being too young to give of yourself.”


As parents, it is our job to teach the concept of giving to our children. This might be a tough topic to tackle, but important considering it may inspire a whole new generation of people working to support worthy causes.

In 1996, I was introduced to a church in Little Havana which had a small makeshift clinic to provide care for immigrants. I come from immigrant parents so I could identify with the need. I saw mothers with their kids and families lined up outside and realized the need to create a bigger, better clinic. Once I helped create a more substantial clinic, I feel in love with the community and saw a need to do more. I decided to help create the San Juan Bosco Christmas Food Distribution in 1998, a yearly food distribution in which my family volunteers its time in order to provide needy families a holiday meal.

The food distribution in particular brings back a lot of lovely memories. My children were born into this tradition. Sofia Victoria, my oldest daughter was only three months old when she began to participate in the food distribution. Today, at 12, Sofia Victoria looks towards the event every year, as it has a big impact on her and the rest of her family. My kids take the food distribution just as important as opening presents on Christmas Day. They have even gone as far as to recruit their classmates and their families to join us so that they can get everyone involved.

I suggest that the best way to teach children to contribute to their community in a positive way is to lead by example. Children are the future leaders of the world...they’ll keep the torch going after we’re gone. When you bring your kids along and involve them in your charitable outings, it makes a lasting impression on them.

Two years ago, I took my two eldest daughters (Sofia 10, Lulu 8) to Guatemala to visit one of the Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NHP) homes. NHP strives to provide a permanent family and home for orphaned, abandoned and other at-risk children who live in conditions of extreme poverty. I wondered, before going on this trip, whether it was right to bring my children along…whether they would understand. But halfway through the visit, my daughter turned to me and said ‘You know, Mommy, you are making these children very happy,’ and when you hear that, you realize that it’s worth every penny and minute you put into the cause.”

I also have taken my children to La Romana, Santo Domingo, where they adopted a community, and provided the neighborhood children with all the necessary materials for the upcoming school year including clothing, books and school supplies.

As a mother my duty to my kids is not only to expose them to all of the privileges one has in this great county, but also to allow them to see the world through different perspectives, in order for to learn to give back in adulthood.

My mom passed away this year. I had wondered if it was the right thing to have her at my house when she was so sick. My whole family was committed to taking care of my mother. There's not a book or schooling that will help a person understand what it's like taking care of someone when they are no longer fun, when that someone needs your attention.

Now, I know I would do it again. I gave my kids the opportunity to experience something special. I think they learned to enjoy special moments with people becausethey now know that at any moment, someone's body may give out and they might need to step in and help them.

My Mother's Day message is speak with actions. If you're good person, doing good things, your kids will follow your lead.  


May 09, 2012

What new mothers need at work might surprise you

Baby 22
For most new mothers, giving birth is the easy part. It's the worrying, the juggling, the financial stress and trying to please everyone that makes a working mother's life challenging.

In honor of Mother's Day, I spoke to new mothers and asked them what makes a difference for them at work -- what keeps them in the job they hold after returning from maternity leave. I wanted to know if what they need is what employers think they need.

Janet Fernandez knows she's fortunate. She's in business for herself and makes her own hours. Most new mothers want control over their schedules. Time off means lack of income, but Janet went back after two weeks working a reduced schedule out of her home. She plans to start working from her office soon, for a few hours a day while her mother watches the baby. Janet, a travel agent, says she's narrowed her niche, and will now specialize by running cruiseweddingsinc.com. She feels that will allow her to work smarter, still earn income and still spend time with her baby.

Five years after giving birth, Katrina Ductant, a safety manager for South Florida for Turner Construction Co., still remembers how difficult it was to come back to work after giving birth, particularly in a male dominated industry - construction. One of the first things she did was have a conversation with her supervisor. She let him know she preferred not to work the late night shifts. He agreed. "In return, I worked harder while at work. I would go the extra mile so that when I did leave, I didn’t leave feeling like could have done more or didn’t have productive

I also spoke to Rose Alouidor, mother of three month old Melody. Rose is a teacher at Sunny Isles Beach K-8. She told me she went back to work after 7 weeks because she couldn't afford to take more time off. Fortunately, she works in a family-friendly school where her prinicipal and co-workers understand if she needs to come in late to take her baby to the pediatrician. "The key thing that makes a difference, is an understanding employer, before and after you have the baby."

What I came to learn from new mothers is that both a supportive boss and supportive co-workers are key in whether a mother stays in her job during that critical first year. There are lots of moms who go back to work and get treated so poorly, they leave. They don't necessarily drop out of the workforce, they find a job that better suits them.

Today's mothers are older on average, more experienced and skilled. It's in an employer's financial interest to do what it takes to keep them. I hope today's column gives them some much-needed insight. Moms, if you aren't getting support at work, look at your options. There are some businesses where moms are treated well.

The Miami Herald

Moms back on job; will they stay?

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

   Adrienne Zalkind holds her 8 month old daughter, Chloe during a brief moment of rest at a fountian near their home. For working women with young children, work and chlidcare becomes a complicated balancing act.
  Adrienne Zalkind holds her 8 month old daughter, Chloe during a brief moment of rest at a fountian near their home. For working women with young children, work and chlidcare becomes a complicated balancing act.
In late April, Alexandra Bach Lagos had one of those rough weeks most lawyers dread. She spent three days out of town conducting depositions, returned and put in two more 12-hour days. While the schedule would be taxing for anyone, it was particularly difficult for a new mother.

“What keeps me going is having a supportive work environment,” says Lagos, explaining that her partners gave her the option of having someone else conduct the out-of-town depositions. “I said, no, I’m fine. I want that opportunity and I’m going to take it. But it’s the fact that they care, and want to make it work that makes a difference,” says Lagos, an associate at Shook Hardy & Bacon in Miami.

As families get ready to celebrate Mother’s Day, workplaces are struggling with how to keep new mothers engaged and employed. A new study of mothers by TheLadders.com shows those who return to full-time work after giving birth said they do so for first for financial reasons and secondly because they enjoy the work. Yet, even in this troubled economy, new mothers bolt when the juggling act becomes too overwhelming.

New mothers, often experienced workers with valued skills, say there are particular workplace factors that keep them in their jobs the trying first year, when exhaustion, emotions and changed routines take a toll. Few of those factors cost a company money, yet many employers — both large and small — haven’t figured them out.

“Good companies are having honest conversations with their new moms,” says Jennifer Owens, editorial director of Working Mother. “They are talking to them in a non-judgmental way about how they can be supportive.”

Studies show at most companies, the immediate return rate for mothers is significantly higher than the long-term retention rate. Mothers will tell you their direct supervisor plays a key role in whether they stick around. Adrienne Zalkind, a public relations executive and mother of two, discovered the importance of talking with her boss when she returned from maternity leave with her now 8-month-old daughter, Chloe. She sat down with her supervisor and discussed more flexible work hours, allowing her to pick up her baby on time from daycare. “If they work with you, it can make all the difference.”

Co-workers play a role in retention, too, a factor employers may underestimate. Only two weeks back on the job, Fox News reporter Molly Henneberg attributes her smoother adjustment to “a community of working mothers” at the network who give her advice and encouragement and act as role models. “The first week can be a difficult emotional transition,” Henneberg says. “They told me each day would get better and then I would get into a routine. So far it’s worked.”

On her second week back, Henneberg experienced her first work/family challenge. An unexpected late night threw a wrench into her child-care arrangement. “It used to be no big deal, but now it was like a military troop movement to make sure the baby was cared for.” Henneberg said her co-workers helped her figure it out, even offering to hold the baby during her live shots. Fortunately, her husband was able to leave work earlier than usual.

Yet, for every story of a supportive workplace, there are mothers who have opposite experiences. Zalkind says the glare of co-workers who see a flexible work arrangement as perks rather than a different way of putting in the same hours can create the tension that causes a new mother to leave or search for a new job. “You have to walk out with your head held high, knowing you are working as hard as anyone else. But for some people, day after day, that can be hard to do,” Zalkind says.

Some companies have become intentional in their effort to retain new mothers, offering coaching before, during and after maternity leave. Five years ago, Citi, a financial services company, discovered a high percentage of its women who go on maternity leave have 10 years of experience or more — “talent we can’t afford to lose,” according to Carolanne Minashi, regional head of diversity for Citi’s Markets & Banking Division. The discovery led to a voluntary program called Maternity Matters. The program, started in the United Kingdom and now offered in the United States, offers group coaching for new moms and their managers and maternity buddies for the women giving birth or adopting. In the United Kingdom, Citi says its short- and long-term retention of mothers has risen. And, while Citi hasn’t released U.S. retention numbers, spokesman Anu Ahluwalia said more than 1,000 of its employees here have participated.

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 Fox News reporter Molly Henneberg says support from co-workers and her boss make motherhood and work much easier.






Sofia  Mom Janet Fernandez is a business owner who makes her own work schedule. She started working from home two weeks after baby Sofia was born.