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15 posts from May 2013

May 31, 2013

Should women learn golf?

Golf

I assumed that business professionals are so busy doing their jobs and maybe also raising families that they just don't have the time to play golf. I  assumed golf had lost its importance in business.

I was wrong!

I just read an article in the Harvard Business Review that  caught me off guard. I know it's been hard for women to break into the boardrooms of U.S. public companies. The statistics are disgusting: only 16.6 percent of Fortune 500 board seats were held by women in 2012. 

But, I never really thought about what it's like for the women who do land a seat. Apparently, for those women, an inability to play golf is a giant handicap.

The HBR article said the women directors report that they are told by the men: "If you don't want to be excluded from some of the things we do, you're going to need to learn how to golf and start golfing with us." Other women reported that the male colleagues made a lot of important decisions together on the golf course-- preempting the opportunity to discuss them at formal meetings.

I thought this comment in the article by a female director was insightful: "Golf was amazingly helpful to my career. I would be the only woman on a men's golf trip. It built great camaraderie and relationships -- and respect. It put me on the same playing field as everyone else."

So what's the reality here? Do women need to play golf to get ahead? Is it a skill that remains important for all up and comers?

Before kids, my husband and I would hit golf balls and I even took a golf clinic. The sport didn't come easy to me but if I spent a lot of time at it, I think I could become good enough to hold my own out there.

Still, mastering golf takes lessons and practice -- and lots and lots of time. Between weekends at kids soccer games and dance performances, who has time to master a hole in one? The way I see it, for a woman to get out there and play with men, they need to play well, extremely well. Good golfers get competitive on a golf course. They don't want any player on their team holding them back. They have slightly more patience if that awful golfer is a man. 

Personally, I don't have the desire to devote tons of my free time to golf. But I think I can survive in my profession, even excel in it, without playing golf.  The question is, can you?  My guess is that golf we be less as critical to business success in the next decade when today's moms and dads are in higher level positions. What are your thoughts? Would playing golf well give you an advantage in your career?

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 30, 2013

Summer is here! Finding a gym that works with your life

Raise your hand if you are you dreading summer swimsuit season and wishing you had made more time in your schedule for working out? Ugh, my hand is up! Lured by "special deals" I now belong to two gyms and rarely go to either one. Whenever my work life balance gets thrown off kilter, exercise is the first to go.


BrettBrett Graff, author of The Home Economist, knows all about squeezing exercise into a busy day. Brett is a mother of two, a former US government economist who today writes about how economic forces affect real people. Her column - The Home Economist - runs in newspapers nationwide. Brett  provides great advice for saving  money and finding a gym that works with your life. If you're thinking of joining a gym to get into swimsuit shape fast before you head off on summer vacation, here are Brett's suggestions for what to ask:

1) Do you have to pay extra for classes? It’s hard enough putting on spandex and looking at yourself in the mirror for an hour. But force us to pay an extra $25 for the privilege and suddenly, breakfast sounds like a better idea. Make sure yoga or spinning or whatever is included.

2) What’s the number of members? Many gyms set no membership limits. It might not be crowded when you visit, but be packed during peak hours or after a membership drive. The most honest answer comes from yourself after you make a surprise visit at the time you plan to work out.

3) What are the hours of operation? Because you can’t burn calories if you get there when the place is closed.

4) What’s the cooling off or trial period? Because even if it costs a little more each month, if you’re not enjoying the membership or using it as much as you planned, you will have saved yourself years of payments.

5) When does the special introductory rate end? Make sure you know exactly when the discounted stops and the amount of the price hike taking it’s place.

6) Can I take the contract home? If someone’s pressuring you to sign on the spot, you may wonder why.

 

ExerciseAccording to Statisticbrain.com people spend an average of $55 a month on gym memberships. The average amount of gym membership money that goes to waste is $39 a month. Are you participating in that ugly trend?

If you really want to work out and think you might not stick with it, look for gyms that offer pay-as-you-go memberships or short-term passes. Of course, a walk around the block is a cheap way to get started and can fit into almost anyone's schedule. As Nike says, just do it!

May 29, 2013

Get noticed while you sleep: fitting self promotion into your work life balance

Shameless Self Promotion is easier than you think


(Share Ross, who toured with the Rock Bank Vixen, now creates videos for dozens of small business owners and teaches them how to do it for themselves)

 

Not long ago, I was attending a conference when the speaker talked about all the ways she was creating buzz about her personal brand while she was sleeping or playing with her kids. It got my attention because as a harried working mom, I'm willing to buy into self promotion but I don't have tons of time to spend doing it.

Today, efficient self-promotion is a critical component of success in any career.

“You need to be top of mind,” says Michelle Villalobos, a Miami personal branding expert and founder of the Women’s Success Summit. “If you’re not shamelessly self-promoting, there are plenty of others who are.”

By now, most of us realize we need to create and market our personal brand to be a rock star in our fields, whether we work for an employer or ourselves. Our success depends not just on our individual capabilities but also on our network’s ability to magnify them.

With the venues for self-promotion exploding, the challenge becomes fitting it effectively into our work/life balance. In addressing a few hundred business owners at the recent Women’s Success Summit in Miami, experts shared their secrets for how to build a network that does your bragging for you. It’s time-consuming to promote yourself using every platform available. Experts advise choosing one and using it well.

•  Make a video. Share Ross, a bassist who played with the ’80s all-female rock band, Vixen, strongly advocates using video. After touring with Vixen, Ross began making videos for musical acts. Now she creates videos for dozens of small business owners and teaches them how to do it for themselves through her Video Rock Star University.

“Video is a way to make an emotional connection. Doing it right is not about selling, it’s about tapping into that connection,” she advises. Because YouTube is the second-highest used search engine, ignoring it as an outlet to raise your profile is foolish, she says. A good video doesn’t have to be complicated or awkward, she says. Start out on camera by raising a question and answering it in a way that positions you as an expert, she says.

Making a video doesn’t have to take long, and it can be done at night using a smartphone camera, after the kids are asleep.

•  Publish a book. Dawnna St. Louis, a South Florida motivational speaker on women’s empowerment, says to build a business, you need to build your credibility. Publishing a book will help. “It puts you in position of being an authority long after do the work of writing it,” she explains.

She published her first book, YOLO — Standing on the Ledge of Life and Leaping Towards Your Future, launched without any shameless self-promotion, and she sold only 2,000 copies. The next time around she took a different approach. “Create the demand first,” she says. In her case, she reached out to corporate clients, who pre-ordered the book before its release. That book, Audacious Acts of Successful Women, which encourages women to step out of their comfort zone to become more successful, has sold more than 22,000 copies. And she’s still receiving orders.

She believes almost anyone can position themselves as a expert with a book by identifying a problem and writing about how to fix it. To publish a book efficiently, she advises outsourcing pieces of the process by hiring a copy editor, ghost writer or cover artist. She suggests tackling one chapter a day, setting aside an hour a day for writing.

•  Work the media. Eli Davidson, a business coach and author of Funky to Fabulous, says it is possible to leverage the media to promote yourself; to start, find a “diamond” niche. She recently coached a client who was a nutritionist and suggested he refocus to become an expert on nutrition for newly diagnosed diabetics.

Urgency is a big part of finding a good niche, she says. “He doubled his rate and filled his practice. People can die from diabetes. It’s urgent.” If you have a niche that’s solving a problem, it’s easier to get media attention, she says. For example, the nutritionist since has published articles in diabetic magazines and cooking publications. “When you’re in the media, it never goes away.”

•  Start a blog. If you want your network to keep you top of mind, a blog can do that. If it has the right key words, it can send new customers your way when they search for topics.

A blog is a great “home base” and you can set one up in about 15 minutes, says Jay Berkowitz, author of The Ten Golden Rules of Online Marketing . “Blogs are the simplest websites that you can manage and update without a webmaster.” He suggests blogging to answer questions you get asked by customers, clients or co-workers.

Of course, blogging can be time consuming. However, there are people who will take on the task for you. Lisa Sparks, owner of Verity Content in Miami, launched a business that develops content for others. Sparks suggests quality over quantity and says blog posts can be leveraged further by getting them into article directories such as ezinearticles.com.

•  Become searchable. Take the time to find out how people are searching for the products or services you offer, says Todd Paton of Paton Internet Marketing in Miami. He suggests using Google Keyword Tool to identify popular keywords, then using them on your website. Or you could buy the domain name where potential customers would most likely land.

Villalobos says to become Googlicious, the most important key word you need to own is your own name. And make sure everything associated with your name tells the right story about your professional accomplishments.

This doesn’t have to be time consuming. “The fastest way is to claim your name on all the social media profiles you can and fill it in with good information,” she says. “Start with Linked In.”

•  Use email marketing. Pamela Starr, Southeastern area director for Constant Contact, believes shameless self-promotion starts with leveraging your existing network. Starr recommends sending up an email marketing newsletter and letting your network know what you are doing to improve their lives — saving them money, helping them eat healthier, offering them unique legal expertise.

To widen your network most efficiently, embed a sign-up for your email marketing pieces right into your email signature. Also, ask recipients to share with their friends. “What’s the best source for new business? Existing customers,” Starr says. “Promote to them and have them promote you to others.”

When shamelessly self- promoting, Villalobos says don’t be intimidated to plug your brand with the people who know you. “They are the low-hanging fruit.” But don’t stop there, she says. “Once you have a strong brand, it will speak for you.”

 

 

May 24, 2013

Work Life Lessons from The Office

 

Office

I'm a HUGE fan of The Office television series and was really sad to see it end last week. I think most of us could find something about the inner workings of Dunder Mifflin that we can relate to: an awkward co-worker, inappropriate interoffice relationships, hurt feelings over promotions.

I think the biggest work life takeaway from the show centers on how pivotal co-workers became in each others lives. While many of us strive for work life balance, a giant part of our day is spent with co-workers. It really makes a difference when you like the people you work with. In the end, the folks in The Office were a big family -- even as people came and left. Isn't that the atmosphere every workplace would want to create? I don't know about you, but my life feels more balanced when I enjoy going into work.

I want to share a link from Glamour Magazine called 13 Things The Office Gave Us. What are the work life lessons you took away from the show?

 

 

May 23, 2013

Smart ways to keep a team member from destroying your work life balance

Every time a friend of mine aimsto leave the office in time to beat traffic, her workaholic co-worker insists she finish her part of the newest project before she leaves. My friend has just about had it because usually the team project isn't due for a few more days.

Have you ever been on an office team or in a department where a single team member makes your life miserable or destroys your work life balance?

There are ways to turn things around. It may require a conversation using the most diplomatic skills you can muster. Check out my article on the topic in The Miami Herald.

MiamiHerald.com

The tricky business of collaboration

 
 

BGT Partners employees Aaron Metz, Arad Usha and Brittany Robins dress in costumes to watch "The Dark Knight Rises'' at Fort Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science.

BALANCEGAL@GMAIL.COM

Julie Black, a manager at a South Florida publishing company, was about to have another bad day. Her team member had blown a deadline and she would have to stay late, once again, to finish the project her boss was expecting in the morning.

“It’s so frustrating that one person on a team can create havoc in everyone else’s lives,” she complained.

As NBA playoff season heats up, Miami Heat fans are watching teamwork at its best. But shaping a championship team where individuals play cohesively to pull off a win can be one of the trickiest jobs a corporate leader faces. Workplaces are riddled with dysfunctional teams like Black’s, where a single player — a slacker, a workaholic or a narcissist – can affect the professional and person lives of everyone on the team.

Getting individuals to play together as well as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade can be especially challenging in a workplace culture that places a high emphasis on individual performance and competition. “Even when you have a bunch of egos, at some fundamental level, they need to believe they are working for the greater good of the team,” says South Florida executive coach Alexa Sherr Hartley. “Great players who do not get along with teammates end up limiting their careers.”

Most workers chose the function they carry out, rather than the people on their team or in their department. A team that’s too much alike risks exposure to blind spots. Diverse teams risk contention. But on any team, there may be a person who has a tendency to procrastinate or one who shoots down ideas that would actually move a project forward.

Rebecca Nicholson isn’t exactly someone who shies away from confrontation with a difficult team member. Yet, she knows obvious solutions such as simply kicking the member off of the team, or firing the individual are not always possible. Moreover, she now realizes that a better solution may be reorganizing team structure or responsibilities.

“It’s easy to dismiss conflict as a personality issue, however that detracts from being able to understand what the actual issues are,” says Nicholson, director of special projects for The Wasie Foundation South Florida, who has a doctorate in conflict analysis and resolution. “Sometimes, the real issue creating problems is the processes, the way resources are allocated or the way people understand — or misunderstand — their role on the team.”

Rather than single out “problem’’ individuals, companies often come at solutions with broad stroke fixes.

The most common are teambuilding exercises. For most of us, teambuilding conjures up images of spirited tugs of war, relay races and physical challenges. Now, companies are getting more creative — using charity work, gardening and even glass blowing as bonding exercises.

Emerson Process Management in Sunrise sent its office teams to cooking school to build camaraderie among co-workers. In front of mixing bowls and Bunsen burners, Magali Jarrin and her co-workers were charged with whipping up an entire meal, with each group cooking up a course such as appetizer, entrée, salad or dessert.

“We got to know our colleagues on a different level. When you get to know each other better outside the office, it reinforces communication,” says Jarrin, Organizational Development Director at Emerson Process Management.

At BGT Partners in Aventura, co-founder David Clarke has built team activities into the firm’s culture. The company holds continuous team building events that have included group karaoke, bowling and art projects. Recently, a celebrity drummer gave the entire office a group lesson. “He taught us how to be in rhythm together. By the end of the hour, we had more than a hundred people drumming to same beat.”

Clarke says he sees a noticeable return on investment. At BGT, employees work in teams on client’s digital challenges. Clarke says younger staffers, in particular, want collaboration, and to be a part of a team.

“The foundation of every team is the relationships of the individuals. People don’t work well together if they hate each other,’’ Clarke says. “If they like each other and are happy together, they will work together well.”

With 150 employees, Clarke admits he has encountered a toxic team member along the path to growth. But he’s come up with a way to learn of it sooner, rather than later — an anonymous online suggestion box where employees can submit problems, opinions, ideas and feedback. “It exposes things I otherwise wouldn’t have known about, before they fester and get toxic.”

Some employers bringing in conflict-resolution specialists or coaches to improve team dynamics. Hartley, an executive coach with Premier Leadership Coaching, says she urges team leaders to have direct conversations about expectations and how the team should perform. “It may be simplistic but it really helps.”

Still, there are times when a team manager or leader does need to address problems related to a single individual. Rather than dismiss someone as selfish or a failure and have it affect your work and home life, Hartley suggests confronting the problem without making it a personal attack. “Name the problem in a factual way and how it impacts you. Explain the pattern you observed and make a request for a correction. [Otherwise, you can] forget team building exercises.”

Some conflict among team members is good, say experts. It promotes debate and creative thinking. In a healthy team environment, the leader knows the difference. “People with their own agendas need to be addressed and that’s where the leader comes into place,” says Jarrin at Emerson. Rather than focus on changing behavior of an individual, a team leader may have to change the way he manages the team, she says.

The challenge for team leaders, much like the Miami Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra, is understanding that a talented player isn’t always a good team member At Steven Douglas Associates, a talent search and recruitment firm in Sunrise, even the standouts have come to see the benefit of playing well together. Executive recruiter Alan Berger says sharing leads and contacts with his team members recently helped him make a significant placement with a client. “We’re all driven but we have seen the benefit in supporting each other.”

BGT’s Clarke says leaders who want to create an environment where workers are happy, and their personal lives respected, need to hire well. “It’s not about the best, but more about who is best to work together.”



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 21, 2013

Cultivating Leadership: Where do women fit in?

Last week, I had the pleasure of participating on a panel discussion sponsored by Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Miami. We dove into some rather controversial topics, mostly dissecting how more women can make it into leadership roles.

I'm sharing a blog post that appeared on the CREW-Miami website to give you a glimpse into how the discussion played out:

 

Cultivating Leadership in Business

 

Alexa Sherr Hartley, Mary Jo Eaton, Margaret Nee, & Cindy Krischner Goodman

By Margaret Nee, President of CREW-Miami

Talent is the most valuable asset of any business, especially in real estate, where human capital is the key ingredient to closing deals and growing business.

At our monthly CREW-Miami luncheon held on May 15, “Cultivating Leadership & Talent in Business,” an expert panel discussed the best ways to cultivate leadership, reward team members and promote diversity in a company.

Panelist Mary Jo EatonExecutive Managing Director of CBRE, discussed how in the case of larger companies, such as CBRE, it’s important to have networking groups, as well as professional leadership and development programs in place, in which team members can participate to hone their skills and develop their talent.

One common mistake that companies, from small to large, often make is promoting individuals who become top producers to leadership positions without offering the proper training. Appointing the individuals to those roles without adequate guidance is unfair to them, pointed out Panelist Alexa HartleyPresident of Premier Leadership Coaching.

The key to their success is allowing them to discover what their leadership style is, she notes, and giving them time to practice before taking on this new role.

And when it comes to the role of women in commercial real estate, an industry historically dominated by men, Moderator Jim Dockerty, Managing Director of HFF (Holliday Fenoglio Fowler, L.P.), expressed that women can be strong influencers and should implement that natural skill in their careers. He said men who have wives or daughters that work often are good allies for women in the workplace.

Panelist Cindy Krischer GoodmanWork/Life Columnist for The Miami Herald, added to the discussion an important point about how women have to figure out how to increase the demand for their skills.

She suggested that getting a sponsor that advocates for you in the business can help advance your career and maximize your potential.

Our panelists agreed that losing the fear to ask and engaging in a little self-promotion can lead to meaningful rewards.

 

May 20, 2013

How a spouse can doom your work life balance success

 

MarriageAmendmentinNorthCarolina

 

Sheryl Sandberg, the outspoken COO of Facebook, repeatedly has said one of the most important career moves you make is who you marry. I see that played out, over and over, sometimes in a positive way, and sometimes not. 

Just as lack of consensus around finances can doom a marriage, lack of support from your husband or wife can effectively sink a career. For decades, it's been wives who have supported their husbands careers -- emotionally and physically. But now that most couples are dual earners, the whole dynamics of career priority are changing in marriages. Men are being asked to do more at home as women do more at the office.

Earlier this week, NPR Morning Edition featured a stay-at-home dad for its "The Changing Lives of Women" series.  Jonathan Heisey-Groves and his wife, Dawn, a public health analyst, didn't exactly plan for Jonathan to be a stay-at-home parent to Egan, 5, and Zane, who's 4 months old. The Heisey-Groves were both working full time when he lost his job as a graphic designer.  Jonathan stayed home at first just to save money on child care. But then, Dawn got a promotion.

 "She took a position at her company that involved a lot of travel, last-minute work, late nights and so forth," he says. "And I have some understanding of how it feels to be in that position, so I try to be as supportive as I can."

You might not be married to a Jonathan, who is willing to give up his career to raise the kids, but are you married to someone who wants you to succeed in your job? Are you showing your spouse the physical and emotional support that he or she needs to succeed? 

Think about that before you answer....

A friend of mine complained for weeks that her husband was going to accept a promotion that involved more travel. For her, it meant she would need to leave work earlier to pick their kids up from after school care. But instead of talking it through, she informed him he can't take the promotion. Now they're both resentful. 

Monique Valcour, a professor of management at EDHEC Business School in France, has just published a great article on the Harvard Business Review blog called the Dual-Career Mojo that Makes Couples Thrive. She gives suggestions for how to be more supportive of each other's careers. They're so good I'm sharing them with you (edited a bit with my own comments added in) 

Communicate priorities: Talk early and often about what matters most to both of you. In other words, you want to avoid realizing too late (e.g., when you've already called a divorce lawyer) that there is a big gap between what you say you care about most and how you actually invest your time and energy.

Talk about work at home: Look for solutions together that will reduce career-related conflicts and maximize opportunities for career enrichment between the members of the couple. Valcour says,  "My husband and I routinely help each other decide how to approach issues we encounter in our careers by listening, asking questions, and offering a broader perspective."

Think like a team. This often means taking turns. Dual career couples who are movie actors often take turns being away on set and home with the kids. Valcour notes that many dual-career couples confer with each other before accepting travel commitments to ensure that both parents are never away at the same time. In  less successful dual-career partnerships, each partner's interest in the other's career is often more self-referential — as in, "How will my partner's work demands or rewards affect me?" as opposed to "How do we meet the demands and enjoy the rewards together?"

Ask for help. Your partner may be willing to let you sacrifice some family time to do what you need to do at work or to go back to school. This takes open communication and the ability to help the other person overcome guilt.

Be open to change.  Modern careers don't typically follow a predictable path; the road is ever-changing. That's where a spouse's support is critical. Let's say your business suddenly takes off or your boss offers you a promotion. That inevitably impacts your home life in a way your spouse might not have expected. Valcour notes that few people make it all the way through a career without experiencing an unexpected company event that affects their career prospects, a significant failure, an apparent success that turns out to be unsatisfactory, or a desire to make a significant change. As changes occur, remember the upside of dual career marriages. Having two careers takes the pressure off either person to be responsible for all of the material support of the family unit. Of course, both spouses have to believe that to be true.

Readers, has your spouse been a powerful resources in helping you work through career and life challenges? If not, in what ways has a lack of support created havoc in your personal and professional success?


May 15, 2013

Millennials think being an entrepreneur is the path to work life balance

Millennials, people in their 20s, are used to being overscheduled. They don't mind working hard, they just want to do it where and when they want to do it. Today, I wrote about how Millennials view entrepreneurship and how it will change the workplace for the rest of us. 

Young entrepreneurs redefining work world

 
 
Anthony Summerlin, 26, sits in front of his computer, watching sports games and analyzing them. He then sends out a daily sports report to his customers via email.
(Anthony Summerlin, 26,  sends out a daily sports report to his customers via email. )
WALTER MICHOT / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

BY CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN

On a recent college tour with my teenage son, a professor at a Florida university gave him pointed advice. “Don’t expect to get a job at a company. You’re going to need to be an entrepreneur.” My son didn’t react. While it caught me off guard, he took it as a given.

As college graduates don their robes and caps, they are a generation headed into the real world with a different mindset than my generation or the one before me. They know they may need to forge their own path, and they aren’t intimidated by it.

Today, Millennials, the generation in their 20s, view entrepreneurship as a way to get the freedom to work when and where they choose. They are optimistic and idealistic — and at 80 million strong, they’re going to change the way we all work and think. Empowered by technology, many already have their own side gigs going, biding their time until they can leap out on their own and create the lifestyle and work/life fit they want, according to a new study, “Millennials and the Future of Work.’’

“Even though Millennials view entrepreneurship as presenting obstacles, most of them believe the benefits outweigh downside,” said Dan Schawbel, whose Millennial Branding firm commissioned the survey with oDesk, an online workplace. “They want to be in charge of their own destiny.”

This new Millennial mindset is being stoked by the Internet and encouraged by universities. It will force employers to create entrepreneurial opportunities within their companies.

Out of college just a few years, Anthony Summerlin, 26, already is an entrepreneur. After graduating from the University of Miami, he first went to work in his father’s business, a wholesale auto dealership. But he recently saw an opportunity to go out on his own. Summerlin had been analyzing teams and offering his advice in a public forum on a sports website. He built up more than 2,000 online followers and decided to turn his hobby into an income stream, publishing a website, SweetJones55.com, and a daily sports update, that he delivers electronically to customers’ inboxes. He has more than 1,000 subscribers paying $400 to $1,000 each, and works from his Miami home on his own schedule.

“All I need is a computer with Internet access and I can run my business from anywhere,” Summerlin says. “I love that if something were to come up and I don’t want to work one day, I don’t have to. I love the freedom of being my own boss.”

With the exception of health insurance provided by his parents, Summerlin is making it mostly on his own, earning six figures. For others his age, getting a business going that can sustain them doesn’t come quickly and often requires parental support. Many Millennials are still living at home, are on a parent’s insurance plan and have funded their businesses with start-up money from family.

This generation that grew up involved in after-school activities and told to follow their passion may have student loans, but they want to make money doing things that interest them. And, there never has been a better time to chase a dream. Today there are plenty of young role models and little need to plunk down cash for equipment and real estate. The only thing you need is a computer or smartphone, a connection to the web and a good idea.

It’s no wonder that 54 percent of Millennials say they either want to start a business within the next five years, or have already started one, according to a study funded by the Kauffman Foundation.

Chris DelPrete, 22, tried the traditional route, working for Capital Grille as a chef. Seven months ago, DelPrete says he “wanted to see what else the business world had to offer” and struck out on his own with a food truck, Miami Press Gourmet Sandwiches. “I wanted to do things my way, the way I thought was the right way.” DelPrete quickly discovered the power of the Internet, using social media to broadcast his truck’s whereabouts to customers. He already has more than 700 Facebook followers. DelPrete said he’s paying back his dad, who loaned him money to buy the truck, and is on target to make a profit by the end of his first year in business.

However, DelPrete discovered independence comes with long hours; 10-hour days are not unusual. “It’s been fun and rewarding and, at times, hectic.” He encourages his peers to take the same leap he took.

Like DelPrete Millennials are seizing opportunity, wherever, whenever they see it, and that may be while they’re still in school or working a full-time job.

Of course, entrepreneurship is risky. About a third of new businesses fail within the first two years, according to the Small Business Administration. But it helps that Millennials are easing into their ventures. Odesk, a marketplace to match freelancers with work opportunities, found 21 percent of its users are making money on its platform while still in college, some making as much as $40 an hour for tech work and $30 an hour for non-tech projects.

And 72 percent of its freelancers — who consider themselves entrepreneurs — are making money while at regular jobs and want to quit within two years to work for themselves. “They are willing to trade traditional work experience for something that provides more freedom and flexibility,” said Gary Swart, CEO of oDesk. “They don’t want to be confined to a cubicle.”

Erik Bortzfield, 24, considers himself in the pre-stages of entrepreneurship. Bortzfield left a job with stability and benefits to work for a Boca Raton start-up, an ecommerce optimization software company where he was given equity. He says he has seen an advantage in working first for other employers — mostly figuring out what mistakes not to make and where his strengths lie.

“I would love to be on the beachfront running my company, but I know it’s a long road to get to that point. My plan is to see this company through to end, walk away with money and a means to start my own company.”

The Millennials’ bend toward entrepreneurship isn’t completely by choice. Unemployment is high for this age group and those that do have jobs aren’t loving them. Millennials report low levels of satisfaction with their careers at the stage they are at and are expected to have 10 jobs by the time they are 40, according to Schawbel’s Millennial Branding.

Across the country, universities are reacting. More now offer entrepreneurship programs and hands on assistance. Florida International University even has considered making an entrepreneurship course mandatory for all graduates. “We see that it’s very appealing to them control their own future,” says Seema Pissaris, a Professor of Entrepreneurship with the College of Business Administration at Florida International University. “The technology is available, and innovative ideas are coming their way. Every week something else catching on and it spurs their ideas.”

If traditional employers want to attract this innovative group, they will need to react, too. “They’re competing with a student’s dream to have their own venture,” Pissaris notes. To compete for this innovative talent, both Schawbel and Pissaris say employers will have to create ways for the entrepreneurial mindset to exist in corporations — give a project to a team and let them run with it, or change policies to promote independence.. A PWC survey of Millennials found they want the option to shift their work hours or work in locations outside the office.

“Some organizations have started to react to this trend,” Pissaris says. “The more successful organization absolutely will react.”

 

 

May 14, 2013

Should pregnant workers get special treatment?

Pregnant

When I was pregnant, I made full use of the special parking spot at my newspaper's offices for expecting mothers. It was right up in front of the building and saved me from walking for miles carrying around the 70 pounds I had gained with my daughter.

I didn't ask for special treatment, but it sure was nice to get it.

Now, there's legislation afoot not just to give expecting mothers special treatment, but to save them from losing their jobs or income -- just because they are pregnant. Today, Senators Casey and Shaheen, Representatives Nadler, Maloney, Speier, Davis and Fudge are proposing a Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to ensure that pregnant women are not forced out of jobs unnecessarily or denied reasonable job modifications that would allow them to continue working. 

It would seem like the U.S., the democratic country that we are, wouldn't need such legislation. Sadly, we do.

According to women's advocacy groups,  pregnant working women are being denied simple adjustments – permission to use a stool while working a cash register, or to carry a bottle of water to stay hydrated, or temporary reassignment to lighter duty tasks.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act that's being reintroduced in the House and Senate would close legal loopholes. It would prevent employers from forcing women out on leave when another reasonable accommodation would allow them to continue working.  The bill also bars employers from denying employment opportunities to women based on their need for reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

Here are a few examples proponents are giving for the need: Amy Crosby, a hospital cleaner in Tallahassee, Florida, was forced into unpaid leave from her job when the hospital refused to accommodate her doctor’s request that she not lift more than 20 pounds because of her pregnancy; Heather Wiseman, a retail worker in Salina, Kansas, was fired because she needed to carry a water bottle to stay hydrated and prevent bladder infections; and Victoria Serednyj, an activity director at a nursing home in Valparaiso, Indiana, was terminated because she required help with some physically strenuous aspects of her job to prevent having another miscarriage.

I was pregnant three times and I can tell you that pregnancy, while exciting, can present all kinds of health concerns and on the job dilemmas. If a pregnant women is asking for an accommodation, it's only short term -- and there's a new life at stake. Will business groups fight this legislaion? Will they say it creates an undue hardship on the employer? 

So far, 138 advocacy and legal rights organizations have shown support for Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. It's being called common sense legislation.

I for one want to see just how much common sense our legislators have when it comes to something so basic as knowing the difference between special treatment and a reasonable accommodation for a pregnant worker. Women increasingly are the breadwinners in their families. They can't afford to be forced into unpaid medical leave or fired while pregnant. Let's get this law passed!

 

May 10, 2013

What moms really want for mother's day...Our kids attention

For Mother's Day, I want my kids' attention. I want them to do an activity with me -- plant flowers, ride bikes, go for a run, read a book. 

Lately, "Cats in the Cradle" my husband's favorite song, has begun playing in my head. When my children were younger, I would return home from work and they race toward me with open arms. My son used to immediately tug on my pant legs to be picked up.

But now that my two older children are teens, they're racing toward their friends, filling their calendars with social activities that don't include hanging out with parents.  I know it's normal. I know it's all good. But I also know that anything they could buy me for Mother's Day isn't as meaningful as giving me their time and attention.

For all those moms out there struggling to balance work and families, err on the side of spending more time with your kids. Many experienced moms will tell you raising children to young adults zips by fast. But it doesn't really hit home until, like me, you're a year away from a child leaving for college. 

Over this last week, my Inbox has been flooded with press releases for products to buy mom. People will spend an average of $40 each on mom. But what we really want can't be bought. Offers.com says Most moms are hoping for Mother’s Day gifts this year that are from the heart. Its Mother’s Day poll results reveals handmade, sentimental gifts are most popular. 

I know most of us moms would trade a gift for special time with our kids. And in the end, as we do our daily juggling act, we might want to remember, our kids -- old or young -- probably feel that way too.

Happy Mother's Day to all of you who are moms!