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9 posts from May 2014

May 31, 2014

Surviving end-of-school-year madness

If I had to bet, I would say that by now, most working parents are exhausted. As we get down to the end-of-the-school year, celebrations and activities are coming fast and furious. Can you find time and energy to always be there...physically and mentally? Here's why you might feel swamped: Because of a rising interest in rituals, ceremonies have proliferated, marking nearly every life transition—from preschool to college graduation—and making each the focus of festivities. As a result, families face a long list of must-attends including class parties, award ceremonies, tournaments, recitals, picnics and banquets. They happen all in the few weeks leading up to summer, making this time of year the busiest season of all for many households. I just have to look at the Facebook posts to see how my friends are bouncing from one event to the next. Fortunately, I have some flexibility at my job to attend my kids end of school year activities because I work from home. Sadly, many parents do not have flexibility or understanding bosses. Many of us working parents beat ourselves up for not getting to all of these events. It’s especially awful when our kids really want us there, points out mommy blogger Wendy Sachs. Remember, this is the time to use your goodwill bank -- call in those favors you've done for other parents at work or at school to get some help with the driving. If you can't stay for the entire class party or recital, make sure you speak to your child about the portion you observed: something like, "I enjoyed watching because you were concentrating so well.'' If it's an event you absolutely don't want to miss, offer a solution to your boss or client -- something like "I will come in early tomorrow to tackle that project if I can leave for a few hours mid- day today? " How are you handling the end-of-year madness? Do you find your workplace gives you the flexibility to attend school activities? If not, are you resentful?

May 28, 2014

Should you talk about kids at work? Part 2

I have had a lot of reaction to my previous blog post on whether or not it's okay to talk about your kids at work. Some agree with my take on it, others don't.

I wrote that over the years, I've noticed that in business settings, people are much more tolerant of men when they talk about their kids at work. Talking about their kids makes men more human, but I feel it still makes women appear less professional 

Then, I asked for readers thoughts on talking about kids at work and whether they think there's a career penalty for doing it.

Working mothers and fathers weighed in.

Samantha H. Coyne, Employer Outreach Manager at Duquesne University School of Law, made a great point when she wrote to me and said:  " I understand your point of view, but I firmly believe that by not talking about their children, even (gasp!) while at work, attitudinal shifts will never occur.  As more and more co-workers see more and more competent women who are happy to acknowledge that they can parent AND work, stereotypes will slowly erode."

Judi Furman wrote: "Starting any new job you must not talk about your kids or even caring for elderly parents, as your employer must believe your job is your priority. Thirty years ago when establishing myself in my career , I never mentioned  my children. I was actually working in a pediatric office.  After about 3 months , my supervisor asked if I had any kids, when i told her I had 5 kids between the ages  3 and 11 years, there was a large gasp of disbelief. Soon after all us working mothers, would support each other on the job, and even take phone calls from the children whose mothers were not available at the time of their need. I was very lucky and blessed to work in this environment for over 20 years."

Israel Kreps, co-owner of Krep DiMaria Public Relations, weighed in with a male point of view: "If you work in a place that has comraderie , people tend to talk about their personal lives and it doesn't get more personal than your kids. But you can over do it and then it becomes downright annoying. So, I think you have to gauge who you’re talking to and the office environment."

I asked Israel if he thinks it's more harmful to a woman's career to talk about kids at work. He says: "It can be harmful to anyone’s career to obsessively talk about anything that isn’t work-related at work."  If you're a man who works with mothers, you should talk some about your children, Israel says. "It brings a human element to you. But keep it small talk."

I often strike up conversation with fellow working parents about their kids. But I'm careful to gauge who I'm talking to and I keep the conversation short. So, in summary, I'm not advising never to talk about your kids at work.  But I'm suggesting you gauage with whom and when you bring them up. I would like to think that working mothers aren't put into a box or penalized for trying to balance work and family, but I'm not sure that's the case. I look forward to the day that changes.

Thanks to all who contributed their thoughts.


May 22, 2014

2014 College Grads Want a Job -- and Work Life Balance

You would think 2014's college grads would be so desperate for a job that they would take whatever they could get -- as long as it pays a decent salary. 

Not true.

This group wants work life balance and they are steering away from jobs  -- and internships -- that seem too demanding. 

Let me know what you think of the mindset of today's college graduate. Will they get the flexibility and work life balance they seek? Will employers have to bend a little to accommodate these young workers?

(The Miami Herald, May 22, 2014)

Many new college graduates seek work/life balance, flexibility as they look for jobs


Here come the 2014 college graduates, flooding the highly competitive job market over the next several weeks and bringing their workplace expectations.

University of Florida graduate Stephanie Savage is one of the 11 percent nationwide who has successfully landed a full-time job. Yet, she notices an interesting trend with some of her friends who still are searching: “They’re picky.”

With their notably high debt from student loans, you would think new college graduates would jump at any job they could get. Instead, some of this year’s crop are selective in their job searches, reluctant to be stuck in a cramped cubicle from 9-to-5 each day and looking to be wowed by the jobs they land, career experts say.

“The idea of not being in a job they love is stressful for them,” says Christian Garcia, executive director of the Toppel Career Center at the University of Miami. Garcia said he has had students shy away from jobs in which they’ve heard the boss is difficult, the hours or commute long or the job description “boring.”

“They want to feel each opportunity is THE opportunity. Some can afford to be picky, but there are a lot of students who can’t. I bring them a reality check.”

Savage, 21, who will work as a preschool teacher, sees the same thought process in her peers. “They realize the job market is horrible but they still say, ‘I don’t know if I want to work for someone like that’ or ‘I don’t like the job requirements.’ ”

The pickiness is perplexing considering this is the sixth consecutive graduating class to enter the labor market during a period of profound weakness. However, the Class of 2014 is uniquely optimistic and expects to find positions in their chosen fields, according to an employment survey released this month by consulting firm Accenture. These graduates also are determined to find work/life balance in their jobs — or come up with ways to obtain it.

In fact, for the past few years, work/life balance has been the number one career goal among students in the global surveys by Universum, which offers research and services worldwide to help employers attract talent. More than leadership opportunities, security or prestige, these college graduates seek balance. They want their jobs to reflect who they want to be and the lifestyle they want to live, one that might include training for a 5K or giving back to the community.


Fortunately for the 2014 grads, they are the first generation that can easily expect to find a telecommuting or remote job in their fields, according to FlexJobs.com, a website designed to help people find flexible work options. Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs, said almost every flexible position on her website has entry position levels — and college graduates are applying for them. Many pay salaries equal to onsite positions.

“Telecommuting options are a natural fit,” Fell says. “The younger generation is mobile by nature. They’ve grown up with technology and without having to do location-specific tasks.”

In compiling the best remote jobs for college grads, FlexJobs says some of the jobs to consider are accountant or bookkeeper, online teacher, market research analyst, computer systems analyst, business consulting, data entry positions and customer service posts. “With flexible work, we’re seeing a real broadening of types of opportunities available at all levels,” Fell says.



May 20, 2014

Should you talk about your kids at work?

Sitting at a lunch table, my co-worker mentioned she had been up all night with her daughter who was teething. A few minutes later, the conversation around the lunch table turned to a team project. I noticed the group was excluding my co-worker from the discussion, assuming she was too tired to contribute.

That was the first time I realized it was a bad idea for women to talk about their kids and home life at the office.

Career blogger Penelope Trunk believes being your true self at work means taking risks and letting people in the workplace see you for who you are outside the office, too.  

On her blog today she writes: "I have written many posts about how important it is for gay people to come out of the closet at workThey earn more money, for one thing, because if you are your true self at work people like you more, and likable people earn more money. But of course this does not apply to women with kids. There is no grand study that says if you are your true self you make more money. There are only studies that say women’s true selves are working part time while they have kids."

Penelope says she gets nervous doing anything kid-related in a business setting. "Even if someone else is talking about kids, I stay quiet." However, that's something she wants to overcome. 

"If we can start celebrating parents when we see them at work, we’ll all feel more able to make choices that are true to us at our core, and not just true to our desire to conform to historic icons of power at work," she writes.

Over the years, I've noticed that in business settings, people are much more tolerant of men when they talk about their kids at work. It makes men more human, but it still makes women less professional. It’s tougher for women than men to be authentic about family at work. Married men actually get a wage premium when they become dads since they’re seen as more reliable, more responsible, and need to support their families.

In contrast,  women face discrimination. As a working mom, the only time I think it benefits me to talk about my kids at work is when I'm around other working mothers. 

So while I want to agree with Penelope in theory, I can't. I don't think women who aspire to advance should bring up their kids at work -- or at  least not often. What are your thoughts on talking about kids at work? Do you think there's a penalty for doing it? If if there is, should we still take that risk?


May 16, 2014

How to make work fun -- even when it isn't

I love what I do for a living but I used to like it that much more when I would go to the office and there was a feeling of camaraderie with my fellow reporters. 

Let's face it, some people don't consider their jobs fun but they do feel like the people they work with are fun to be around.

When we're striving for work life balance, it helps to work in a place with camaraderie. That's what I think makes a job fun. Have you ever seen tv shows where doctors are doing a surgical procedure but they're talking each other and even making jokes? We all know surgery is pretty serious but watching the banter makes me want to get in there, put my scrubs on and join in.

Jac Fitz-enz is founder and CEO of the Human Capital Source and The Predictive Initiative has this take on what makes work fun.

Amy Lyman, co-founder of the Great Place to Work Institute, says her organization has have found five factors that make a great workplace — credibility, respect, fairness, pride and camaraderie. This is topped off by the magic factor, trust.

As Bob Levering, the organization’s other co-founder, summed up, it is fun to work there.

Nowhere does it say free lunch, games or the things we read about at places like Facebook and Google. My experience in walking around the fun companies shows that what makes work fun are most of the factors in the research presented here.

How can it be fun to sit at a computer writing code until your fingertips have blisters and your eyes bug out? Yet when I watch the people, I see them smiling, laughing and crunching their way through 50-hour weeks. Where’s the fun?

Fun comes from two factors. One is they really like the work and they feel achievement. Second, they can turn to a co-worker and share something interesting about the work. This is the camaraderie spirit.

But can you find as much interest in a rubber gasket factory? Maybe it’s not as exciting as new computer apps, yet where would we be without gaskets? Machines can’t function without gaskets. The point: A company doesn’t exist unless it fulfills a need, and it is up to management to keep that vision in front of the workforce.

Here’s an opposite example. Ten years ago Yahoo Inc. was an exciting place to work. It was among the leading search engines. People wanted to work there. But in the past five years management lost its way and the company lost market share. People who used to work from home and be very productive slowly lost their motivation.

When Marissa Mayer came in as CEO, she saw what was happening and significantly reduced the work-from-home option. She had to get control before she could turn Yahoo around and make it a fun place to work again.

At the end of the day, the lesson is: If you want a great company, you have to make it a great place to work. The basic elements of that are a shared vision, a trust-based atmosphere and, of course, interesting work.

Rather than concentrating on free lunches and dry cleaning, focus on the elements that make the workscape a place that can be fun and intrinsically rewarding.


Are employers going about creating "fun" workplaces the wrong way? What do you think makes a fun workplace? 



May 13, 2014

Do you love your job enough to do it without pay?




The other morning, I was listening to radio show host Elivs Duran talk about how much he loves his job. He said he would do his job even if he didn't get paid. Of course, the rest of his crew hushed him and told him his agent would be mad.

But today, when I saw a story about small business owners, it made me feel good that there are people out there who love what they do for a living. According to a new survey from BMO Harris Bank, ONLY 39% of entrepreneurs say they would sell their company if they won the lotto.

“Over half say they would definitely continue running their small business,” says BMO Harris Bank head of small business banking Daniela O’Leary-Gill. “They’re passionate about their business and committed to succeeding,”

With so much on our plates, having real passion for your work helps. But sometimes we don't realize we get more out of work than pay. Like what, you ask? I saw this on Payscale.com and had to share it with you. 

1. Social connection.

It's hard to make friends after you're out of school, and work is one place to do it. Even if you don't fall madly in platonic love with your co-workers, humans need company. Ask any unemployed person or freelancer, and they'll tell you: when people are alone too much, they start to get weird.

2. Structure.

What would you do if you didn't have to do anything? If you said "nothing," you're in good company. But doing nothing at all -- or even just doing whatever you want, whenever you want -- gets old fast. Having to show up at a certain time and do things because they're required builds discipline, which makes it easier to do everything else that makes you a healthy, happy person, from eating well to exercising, to keeping a regular sleep schedule.

3. A sense of identity.

Quick: who are you? We bet your job title or at least your field came up in the first five words. You're not just your job, of course, but what you do becomes a big part of who you are, at least eventually. Now, if after considering all of that, you realize that you hate everyone you work with, have a daily schedule that's the opposite of how your brain and body chemistry work, and can't stand the idea of identifying yourself as Job Title X or Y, then it might be time to rethink your career track. Not everyone can do what they love, but everyone should at least try to like what they do.


If your current job doesn't fulfill you, start thinking about jobs you would want to do even if you won the lottery. It might take some effort to land that job or start that business, but nothing is impossible if you work to achieve it. That's the message I heard loud and clear on my radio from Elvis Duran.


May 09, 2014

Celebrating working mothers on Mother's Day

As Mother's Day approaches, I think about what my mother and I have in common -- we both balanced work and family.

My mother, a teacher and single mom, had to find patience for her own three kids after coming home from spending her days with a classroom full of noisy kids. That takes real patience. Because I work from home, I too, must find patience when my kids come barging into my home office noisily or bring large groups of friends home after school while I'm on deadline.

I guess what I'm saying is that combining work and family is never easy but do it well and it's extremely rewarding.

Today, as I sort through the Mother's Day stories and press releases coming into my Inbox, I wanted to share a few that I found interesting.

* 9 Tips for Moms who own their own businesses.

*  Findings from survey by Happify, a popular emotional well-being startup, in honor of Mother’s Day: (see infographic)

  • 31% of moms say they pretend to like their Mother’s Day gifts
  •  62% of working mothers would rather work part-time
  • The best medicine for mommy stress? A female social network.
  • What do moms really want for Mother’s Day? Quality time with family, a gift card to their favorite store, or fine dining out!

* MyHeritage, the world's largest online family-history network,  just conducted research on the evolution of women over the last 100 years just in time for Mother's Day. Here are some of its findings:

Average Age Women Got Married : 1914 – 21.6/ 2014 – 26.9

Percentage of Women Who Got Divorced:  1914 – 0.1%/ 2014 – 50%

Average Age During First Birth:  1914 – 22/ 2014 – 30

Cost of Weekly Grocery Shopping 1914 - $4/2014 - $200

 Percentage of Women in the Work Force 1914 – 19.9%/ 2014 – 46.3%

 Life Expectancy: 1914 – 51.8/2014 – 82.2

 Number of Children: 1914 – 3/2014 – 2

* 9 Surprising Facts about Mom from a recent survey by Any.do, the largest mobile productivity app maker: YouTube video


* Working Mother Magazine has revealed its list  of 50 Most Powerful Moms of 2014. There are some great surprises on this list. 


* Lastly, with Mother’s Day coming up this weekend, the personal financial social network WalletHub released a study analyzing the Best & Worst States for Working Moms, based on nine metrics ranging from the cost and quality of day care to the gender pay gap and parental leave policies in each of the 50 states as well as the District of Columbia. My state (Florida) didn't make either list. Check here to see if your's did. 

To all you working mothers out there doing your best every day to balance work and family, I applaud you and wish you a very happy Mother's Day!

May 07, 2014

Working mothers share best apps for work life balance

My Mother's Gift to all of you out there scrambling for sanity.... 

(From today's Miami Herald)

One night last week, I scooped up sliced meats and cheeses that were waiting for me in a bin at the Publix deli. As I did this, I gave a sympathetic look to a frazzled woman in a business suit who was waiting her turn to order while a child screamed in her cart. I wondered why this mom hadn’t used the amazing time-saving, free Publix Online Ordering app that has cut at least a half hour out of my own grocery shopping time.

Today’s smartphones have led to the development of hundreds of thousands of mobile apps that can make working mothers’ work and home lives run more smoothly. But sorting through them is no simple feat. In celebration of Mother’s Day, I have asked working mothers to share the apps they use for better work/life balance.


Liliana and family


Being a mom and business owner can be a challenge. Liliana Paez runs two businesses, travels at least once a month for work, and raises two children, ages 4 and 6. This supermom uses Dragon Dictation, a free app that uses voice recognition to type text messages, create emails or compile to do lists on the go. She says the simple app allows her to get business done from her car without touching her screen. Paez is sales and marketing director at Key International, a Miami real estate sales company, and CEO of Global Smart Products, a company that sells innovative products through infomercials. Paez regularly needs to meet with manufacturers abroad or designers in cities across the United States. She uses the GoToMeeting app on her iPad (free and paid versions available): “I can see what the other person has on his computers, where their mouse goes and we can talk in detail about renderings.” She says using the app helps her avoid extra business travel — time she now can spend with family.

In many homes, moms handle the family finances. Tammie Purow balances her job as a Miami trusts and estates attorney with being the mother of twin 15-year-old boys and twin 11-year-old girls. To keep organized, she uses Bill Keeper. The free app allows her to manage and track bills and reminds her when a payment is due. “As I pay the bill, I check it off on the app,” Purow says. She finds Bill Keeper also helps her keep in her budget: “I usually try to pay a bill a day so at the end of the month, I don’t get overwhelmed. I look at what’s next on the list and pay it from my phone.”

MerciFor moms who work from home, there are apps to help stay connected to the office. Merci Suarez, mother of two and a young hands-on grandmother of two, runs her husband’s pediatric office in Pembroke Pines from home as often as possible. “I tend to use every app that is office-related so I don’t have to drag my rear end to the office,” Suarez says. One of her favorites is Adobe Reader mobile app, (free) Pro Edition ($4.99), which allows access to pdf files on the go. Suarez will open a file, make changes, highlight sections, sign it with a finger and fax or email it back to the sender from her phone. She also uses the free CamCard app to photograph business cards and quickly store the information in her phone and other devices: “If I can find an app that gives me back a few minutes that I can invest in my family, I’m happy.”

Moms who commute are discovering that apps that cut down drive time are great finds. Vivian Conterio, a Homestead mother of an 11-year-old daughter and a marketing director at Cool de Sac children’s entertainment center, commutes — often 30 miles a day — for her job. She relies on Waze, a free mapping, traffic and navigation app. Waze gives directions, but it also allows users to share accident and road information in real time, making it easier to avert traffic jams and congestion. “It’s my lifesaver for not getting lost and knowing how long it will take me to get anywhere,” Conterio says. She also relies on the free service, IFTTT.com. “If this then that” allows users to connect different apps and sites to create their own “recipe” or action they want their media channels to perform. Conterio has created a recipe that will automatically send photos from her gmail to a Dropbox folder.

Some mothers turn to apps to save their sanity or stay focused on goals. Rushing into client meetings, accountant/mom Susan Marquet would fish around in her purse for change for parking meters — and pull out pacifiers instead. She says the PayByPhone app has changed her life. To use it, she set up an account, entered her license plate, location and how long she wants to park. “The best part is you can be at a restaurant, tap the icon and extend your time without having to leave and go to the meter,” she says. Julie Vessel, a director of talent at an advertising agency and mother of three young children, uses an iPhone app she developed called Intention Reminder (99 cents) to keep her sanity and her goals top of mind. Vessel creates a visual intention of her goals with photos and words. She then set reminders throughout the day for her intention to pop up on her phone screen. “Given I have my phone with me 24/7, this app allows me to stay mindful in a really easy way.”

Of course, working mothers know the best uses of applications often are for tempering Paulafrustration levels. Paula Rizzo, founder of Listproducer.com, hates wasting time on hold to get through to customer services representatives — the bane of most busy working mothers. She uses the free Fast Customer app, which links into many companies and navigates through phone trees. Rizzo, author of the upcoming book "Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed"  also considers the free TalkTo app to be one of her favorites: With it, she can communicate with any business across the country to find out if there’s an item in stock, what the price is, or to make an appointment. Instead of trekking all the way to the grocery store after work, hoping they have, say, golden beets, she just sends a text — even if the business is closed. Rizzo says TalkTo will get back to her when the store reopens.

Lastly, for working mothers like me whose teens drive, tracking apps such as Sprint Family Locator($5 a month), Find My Friends (free) and Life360 (free or $4.99 a month for non-smartphones) offer some peace of mind while at work with your teen (or parent) on the road. Of course, it’s never enough.

What apps do you find helpful with work life balance? Do you have any that you find critical to saving your sanity?


May 01, 2014

Should we really care about a positive reputation at work?

Today, I was reading a press release and I found myself declaring out loud that it was just a big bunch of B.S. 

The topic was how to have a good personal reputation in the workplace. 

The release says:  "A good reputation is much more than simply being a hard worker; how you behave both as an individual, and with others, directly impacts your professional growth."

I'd like to think this is true. But look at the people who lead companies today and you are likely to find real jerks. Unfortunately having a reputation as a jerk often is overlooked if the person is a rainmaker or an innovative leader.

The release went on to say, "Understanding the value in showing gratitude, handling conflict in an appropriate manner, and simply being friendly, are all essential characteristics to a positive reputation in the workplace."

To that I say, having a reputation for being friendly gets you nowhere. Sometimes, it even gets you passed over for a promotion -- particularly if you are a woman. I have heard men say, "She's not up to the job. She's too nice."

All of us, or at least most of us, want to be known as a valuable employee. And, some of us want to be viewed as leadership material. While being friendly can help you make the connections that land you a job or a promotion, it's what you do with those connections that matter. To me, having a good personal reputation at work is less critical to advancement than being someone the boss or client can trust to get a job done well or someone who comes up with a great idea and acts on it. I'd like to say that requires people skills. But often it doesn't.

Being friendly, handling conflict well, showing appreciation....those are nice qualities but unfortunately not always the ones that tend to lead to advancement.

What are your thoughts about reputation? How important do you think it is to be "friendly" at work?