November 03, 2015

Improve work life balance and fight cancer at the same time

As October came to a close, I began to miss the month when pink was everywhere. Still, it's great that at least one month a year, there is a focus on preventing and curing breast cancer. 

But now that November is here, there is no reason we should stop talking about cancer prevention, particularly when there are some easy things we can do to reduce the risk of cancer and improve our work life balance at the same time.

Dr. Pedro Serrano-Ojeda headshotDr. Pedro Serrano-Ojeda (CEO and Chief Radiation Oncologist of Caribbean Radiation Oncology Center in Doral) offers some suggestions that seem pretty doable:

Cut the sugar and exercise Obesity has surpassed the use of tobacco as a cancer causing factor. Making exercise a part of a daily routine can help minimize stress – make sure to leave the cell phone behind – and it makes for a healthy body.  Even just a brisk walk or light jog for 20 minutes a day will all help towards reducing the risk of cancer. 

Shop smart There are many household products – including certain shampoos – that contain parabens, such as sulfate, that could increase the risk of breast cancer.  There are many online resources that can help with finding products that do not have these elements, just a little bit of research before hitting the grocery store goes a long, long way. 

Read the label Using containers that are not suitable for the microwave can be a cancer-inducing practice. Cancer is an ancient and formidable enemy, yet there are some things we need to avoid in the modern world that will assist us in preventing the disease. Looking carefully at how we are using everyday products can make a difference.

Take Vitamin D– Women with breast cancer often have low levels of vitamin D so it is important to have a regular vitamin D check

Chill out Stress has a great impact on the body and predisposes it to cancer. It’s inevitable that sometimes situations will arise that will lead to stress, but if we stop and ask, “Is this item we are stressing over worth risking cancer for?” then I really think we wouldn’t sweat the small stuff.  

Live with purpose- As Einstein used to say, “Only a life lived for others is a life worth living.” And, as I say, “People do not die from old age, but people die when they stop dreaming.” So keep dreaming and keep living with purpose.

November 02, 2015

A Work Life Balance Must: Always Have a Plan B

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Last week I was lounging comfortably on a couch in Starbucks, drinking coffee with Dr. Heidi Chumley Executive Dean of the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine. During our conversation, Dean Chumley said something so brilliant I had to share it.

I asked Dean Chumley about the what she feels she has done right on her ascension to upper administration and her plunge into motherhood. Not only is Chumley dean of a medical school and an Executive MBA student, she also has five children. Her husband holds an equally weighty job as vice president of education for Broward Health.

Chumley didn't skip a beat with her answer:  "I always have a Plan B."

Oh, how I have learned that to be true!  If there's one safety net that can keep a working parent from a deep plunge into work life disaster, it's having a Plan B.  "Time time to figure out your Plan B is not when you're having a crisis," Chumley told me. She's so right!

I recently read an interview with Ilene Gordon, CEO of Ingredion who talked about having a Plan B in business. Her comments apply to home life as well. Gordon said:  "We need to always be prepared for the possibility that things may not go according to plan. You should always have something to fall back on when things go wrong, or you'll have a hard time making it to the top. "

Gordon took it a step further: "Don't just have a Plan B, have other people readily available to help you execute it when the time comes."  

I have learned that a Plan B looks different at various stages of parenthood, work and life. But I completely agree with both women that having a Plan B is absolutely critical for work life balance. Here is what it involves:

Assembling your village: Before I had children, my desk was situated near a new mother who recently had given birth to her third child. At least once a week, the woman was called by the daycare to pick up her sick baby. She had no one else to pitch in and never asked her spouse to take a turn. After two months, the women, a really talented reporter, quit. The experience was enough to make me aware that I needed to create my village before giving birth. I lined up family members, and backup babysitters to ensure that I was prepared for childcare emergencies. Throughout years of balancing work and family, I added to my village by courting neighbors and other parents to pitch in with childcare when work emergencies cropped up.

Exercising flexibility: This crucial component of having a Plan B comes after proving yourself a hard worker. Even jobs like elementary school teacher can provide the flexibility to come in late or leave early if you have a good reputation and an understanding boss. More jobs than ever can be done at different hours, or from home. You need to figure out how you can use flexibility before a work life conflict arises.

Trading favors: My best advice to working parents is stockpile favors. When your boss calls a last minute meeting and your child is waiting to be picked up from dance class, you may need to ask another parent whose daughter is in the same class to help out. Being a parent who does favors for others goes a long way when you need one back. 

Including your children: As soon as your children are old enough to walk and talk, they are ready to be part of your Plan B. An older child can help out with a younger child, especially when the older child starts to drive. A middle schooler can call friends and ask for a ride to soccer practice when a parent runs late. The key is to include your children in helping you prepare by empowering them to find solutions in advance.

Being okay with delegating: To be successful at juggling, you need to identify people at work who have your back when you need it. Simply put: You can’t be the micro manager. You have to be able to get things done through others, particularly when you can't be there to do them yourself. Decide ahead of time who those people are and establish a give and take relationship.

Do you have your Plan B in place? If not, now's a great time to figure it out. 

October 27, 2015

REI's Work Life Balance Move Gets a Big Thumbs Up

I already loved shopping at REI and now I love the outdoor/sporting goods company's CEO. REI President and CEO Jerry Stritzke announced he will close its stores on Black Friday and give all of the company's 12,000 employees a paid day off to enjoy the beautiful outdoors. 

Wow! What an amazing idea! It's not only an endorsement for the products his company sells, it also says something about his commitment to work life balance.

While its online sales will remain open, no sales will be processed until the next day. There will be a message on the corporate website encouraging people to spend time outside.  With the hashtag #OptOutside, REI will ask people to share what they're doing on Black Friday on social media. REI is hoping to convince consumers to start a new Black Friday tradition, one that encourages relaxation and fitness over stress and consumerism.

"Any retailer that hears this will be startled by the idea," says REI President and CEO Jerry Stritzke, who admits he was apprehensive about closing at first. "As a co-op ... we define success a little differently. It's much broader than just money. How effectively do we get people outside?"

Jerry Stritzke is taking a big gamble by closing on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. But it's a gamble I think will pay off. Imagine the good will he is creating with employees and customers who understand the message he is sending. 

"Somebody has to be the one to kind of put their flag in the sand and say enough is enough,"  Brian Harrower, store manager at the REI in Bloomington, Minn.,told USA Today. "That's what #OptOutside is for us, is saying we're going to be the first, we think this doesn't make sense anymore, it's not healthy. And an outdoor life is a healthy life."

Of course, the idea of closing on Black Friday was enthusiastically embraced by REI employees.

Here is Stritzke on CBS News on why the company is closing its stores on Black Friday:

Rei

"There's more to be gained from brand identity and showing our values than the money we will make on that one day!" he said.

 
 
What do think of REI's announcement? Do you think other retailers should do the same thing?

October 26, 2015

Want work life balance? Consider one of these jobs

Do you wish you had a better work life balance? Most people do. 

So where do you turn to get a job that won’t leave you working 24/7?  Glassdoor set out to that figure that out.

They surveyed a range of people and had them rate their jobs on a scale of one to five, five being the most satisfied and came up with 25 Best Jobs for Work-Life Balance. This list was compiled based entirely on employee feedback from 60,000 reviews shared on Glassdoor. 

Check out the complete results:

1. Data Scientist

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 4.2
  • Salary: $114,808
  • Number of Job Openings: 1,315

2. SEO Manager

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 4.1
  • Salary: $45,720
  • Number of Job Openings: 338

3. Talent Acquisition Specialist

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 4.0
  • Salary: $63,504
  • Number of Job Openings: 1,171

4. Social Media Manager

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 4.0
  • Salary: $40,000
  • Number of Job Openings: 661

5. Substitute Teacher

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.9
  • Salary: $24,380
  • Number of Job Openings: 590

6. Recruiting Coordinator

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.9
  • Salary: $44,700
  • Number of Job Openings: 446

7. UX Designer

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.9
  • Salary: $91,440
  • Number of Job Openings: 338

8. Digital Marketing Manager

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.9
  • Salary: $70,052
  • Number of Job Openings: 640

9. Marketing Assistant

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.8
  • Salary: $32,512
  • Number of Job Openings: 384

10. Web Developer

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.8
  • Salary: $66,040
  • Number of Job Openings: 2,117

11. Risk Analyst

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.8
  • Salary: $69,088
  • Number of Job Openings: 208

12. Civil Engineer

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.8
  • Salary: $65,532
  • Number of Job Openings: 809

13. Client Manager

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.8
  • Salary: $71,120
  • Number of Job Openings: 503

14. Instructional Designer

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.8
  • Salary: $66,040
  • Number of Job Openings: 782

15. Marketing Analyst

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.8
  • Salary: $60,000
  • Number of Job Openings: 341

16. Software QA Engineer

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.8
  • Salary: $91,440
  • Number of Job Openings: 457

17. Web Designer

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.8
  • Salary: $53,848
  • Number of Job Openings: 500

18. Research Technician

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.8
  • Salary: $36,525
  • Number of Job Openings: 299

19. Program Analyst

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.7
  • Salary: $71,120
  • Number of Job Openings: 524

20. Data Analyst

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.7
  • Salary: $58,928
  • Number of Job Openings: 1,954

21. Content Manager

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.7
  • Salary: $60,960
  • Number of Job Openings: 409

22. Solutions Engineer

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.7
  • Salary: $92,456
  • Number of Job Openings: 652

23. Lab Assistant

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.7
  • Salary: $27,550
  • Number of Job Openings: 779

24. Software Developer

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.7
  • Salary: $80,000
  • Number of Job Openings: 3,330

25. Front End Developer

  • Work-Life Balance Rating: 3.7
  • Salary: $75,000
  • Number of Job Openings: 1337

 

If you would ask me for my list, I would tell you that any job where you have flexibility to make your own hours and earn decent income would be considered worth pursuing. That would include writers, bookkeepers, personal trainers, virtual teachers and sales representatives.  

What’s the work-life balance like for your job? Would you consider a career change for better work life balance?

October 22, 2015

What to do when you hate your job

KatlynKatlyn Grasso loves her job as CEO of GenHERation. She talks excitedly about empowering high school girls and has the passion for what she does that all of us want to experience.

When I spoke with Katlyn for a recent Miami Herald column on pursuing your passion, she said something that stuck with me.

Grasso, 22, says she often encounters peers who hold jobs in which they are not fulfilled and offers this advice: “If you are not in a financial position where you can pursue your passion right away, find ways to incorporate it into your schedule — whether volunteering, working on a business idea on weekends, becoming an intern. You have to keep working at it.”

The reality is that fewer than half of American workers are satisfied with their jobs, according to a 2014 survey from the Conference Board, a not-for-profit economic research institute. But just because you're in a job you're not passionate about, doesn't mean you can't eventually segue into doing something you love. 
 
Let's say you're a window washer and you aren't exactly finding your job fulfilling. Instead of walking around complaining that you hate your job, think differently about the big picture. In a TEDx talk in Kansas City, branding expert Terri Trespicio said try doing something -- anything -- in your off hours and be open to where it takes you. 

"Sometimes you don’t know what going to do next and that’s okay not to know. If are waiting to find your passion to take you there, you will be waiting a long time. Instead, spend your time and attention solving your favorite problems. Be useful and people will pay you for it. Success is when your energy and effort meets someone’s needs," she said. 

At a time when people are desperate to figure out what they are passionate about and turn it into their life's work, Terri insists:  "You don’t follow your passion, your passion follows you."

She's not the only one that believes that to be true. This morning I watched an interview with legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola (known best for his film The Godfather). Coppola opened his third winery this month. Okay, I realize few of us have the financial means to launch a wine company but Francis said something that makes a lot of sense: "The things you do out of trying to enjoy life are the things that make business sense."
 
 
 
The bottom line is that you may not be super thrilled in your current job. You may even be miserable, longing to quit, yet desperate to keep a paycheck coming in or hold onto your benefits. If you find yourself venting or complaining about work all the time, remember you're never stuck. Look for opportunities in and out of your workplace to parlay into your next job or career.  
 
Sometimes you don't have to look far for a solution. You might explore different departments or teams at your office where you can learn something new or find a project that excites you. Maybe you've lost interest in what you're doing, or maybe you never were interested, but it's pretty safe to bet there is something that interests you. 

My friend, a lawyer, loves jewelry. She doesn't love her job as a lawyer. On the weekends, she started helping a friend with her jewelry business. Six months later, it's almost like my friend has become completely different person. When I talk to her, she enthusiastic and -- happy! She hasn't given up practicing law, she just added something into her life that she enjoys.

You, too, can improve your work situation and find your passion, you just need to shift your mindset and take a leap! Life's too short to be miserable!

October 16, 2015

Avra Jain: I Love What I Do! (What that really means)

                                  IMG_0001
                                      (Avra Jain in lobby of The Vagabond Hotel Miami)

 

How many times have you heard this?

"Don't aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally."

I have heard it dozens of times and yesterday, I saw and heard exactly what it means when I met Avra Jain.

Yesterday, I moderated a lively panel discussion for attorneys on branding at the Women's International Network's (WIN) Workshop at the Vagabond Hotel Miami. (WIN is part of the International Network of Boutique Law Firms) Prior to my panel, during our intimate lunch at the beautifully renovated hotel, the guest speaker was owner/developer of the property Avra Jain, founder of The Vagabond Group.

When I pulled into the hotel parking lot, it was like arriving at an oasis. The area around the hotel is in transition. But the boutique hotel itself is a gem. It has a chic lobby with a restaurant and bar. The story behind the hotel's redevelopment is inspiring, and so is Avra Jain. 

Avra came to Miami from New York and saw potential in an area no one else did. With financial backing from friends and family, she  bought the 1953 hotel, pressed for the area to be designated historic, used transfer of development rights to her advantage and pioneered the rebirth of Miami’s MiMo district. She also has bought additional properties in the historic area, figuring out when to restore and when to rebuild. 

Several times while telling us her story, Avra excitedly told the audience: I Love What I Do!

Even if she hadn't said it, we could tell. 

As a writer, I talk to hundreds of people about what they do for a living and I can tell in their voices when they love what they do. When I hear the sound of excitement and enthusiasm for all that's ahead, I know that person is going to be successful, regardless of the obstacles in his or her path. 

Avra's career path sets her apart: She is a woman who understands finances and construction. She has a degree in industrial engineering from Purdue and experience as a bond trader on Wall Street. "That helps me because I know how much you can lose," she said. 

Already, Avra has earned a reputation for identifying the next "it" neighborhood. Her vision, and ability to attract investors, has resulted in 26 boutique projects that range from converting a 100,000 square foot warehouse to luxury loft condominiums in New York's Tribeca neighborhood to the remake of The Vagabond, from decrepit motel to quaint hotel on Miami's Biscayne Boulevard. At The Vagabond, Jain spent a lot of time on site during redevelopment -- she gave directions, negotiated with vendors, and even installed fixtures herself.

"I love historic properties," Avra told us, explaining how important it is to work with others in the neighborhoods she goes into. "We always leave a little on the table for the community. I do that by buying right."

Avra recently has bought up property in Miami's Little River neighborhood, where she has plans to do some more renovations. At 52, Avra says she is not as naive as she was when she first started out, having learned about working around obstacle and persevering toward your vision. "I'm really lucky I love what I do," she repeated.

Even with all this vision and career accomplishment, Avra called her 10-year-old daughter Alexandra,  "my greatest accomplishment." (That really made me like this woman!)

Avra says much more change in Miami is on the horizon. I believe her and I would say Avra is going to be a force for change for years to come. My big takeaway:  When you love what you do, others can see it and that can take you far!

October 13, 2015

It's the small work life balance victories that count

This morning I went to the grocery store at 7:30 a.m. That's a big deal for someone who hates mornings. I was surprised how good it felt to get something checked off my to do list so early in the day. The store was quiet and easy to navigate -- no wait at the deli or the check out line.

For me, that's a small victory in my struggle to get more done.

I don't know about you but I have a running to do list at all times. I have begun to keep it electronically on my mobile devices. Some days, I look at it and feel overwhelmed. I know I'm supposed to tackle items based on their priority level, but there is something really satisfying about a completing a task that just needs to get done.

So often, the discussion of work life balance centers on big issues-- disconnecting from the office, choosing between priorities, finding caregiving solutions and negotiating flexibility. These are important issues that affect how we fit our work and home lives together. They affect our career choices and our happiness. They are the reason people quit jobs, have fewer children, give up promotions and move closer to family. 

But sometimes work life balance is about a small change or tweak that brings harmony or zen to our overscheduled, busy lives. Maybe it's my imagination, but starting out today by feeling like I accomplished something has set my whole day in a positive direction. Sometimes, we just need to give ourselves a high five for the small fix or solution that eases our struggle to juggle the competing demands on our time.

Maybe we aim to reach the top of our organizations, maybe we don't. Maybe we want families, maybe we don't. Regardless, most of us want a life outside of our careers and we want to enjoy it. So let's celebrate the small victories on our path to happiness. Whatever you've done today to move in that direction, here's your high 5!

 

October 09, 2015

The crazy chores we find relaxing

 

                                    Dishes

 

I'm clearing the dinner table and urging my son to hurry up and get changed for Lacrosse practice. At the same time, I'm telling my husband that if he hurries he will have just enough time to shed his suit, put on shorts and get our son to the field. Meanwhile, I now have all the dishes in the kitchen sink and something happens next that takes me by surprise.

I'm pouring soap on the sponge, scraping food off the plates  and I feel  -- dare I say it -- a little more relaxed. 

When I read a recent article on Time.com that said washing dishes can significantly lower your stress level—if you do it mindfully, I was taken aback. Really, chores are relaxing???? They must be kidding!

Yet, with most of us trying to do a million things at once to achieve work life balance, I have to admit that mundane household tasks do give me a chance to slow my life down. 

In a recent study quoted by Time,  researchers found that people who washed dishes mindfully (they focused on smelling the soap, feeling the water temperature and touching the dishes) upped their feelings of inspiration by 25% and lowered their nervousness levels by 27%. “It appears that an everyday activity approached with intentionality and awareness may enhance the state of mindfulness,” the study authors conclude.

Do you know what other chore relaxes me? (Please don't think I'm insane!) Making my kids' lunches. I have a formula for packing lunch that I follow every night. I usually make lunches when everyone is asleep and the house is quiet and I put thought into kids preferences and giving them variety. I guess you could say I do the task mindfully. So, I agree there is something to the notion that doing a mundane task mindfully can be relaxing.

                        Lunches

 

But I guess the bigger issue is that we're all so stressed by doing so much at once that simple chores are the new stress relievers. Look at the other things we're latching onto to relieve our stress -- aromatherapy, yoga, meditation, mindfulness. Stress relief has become a giant business. And still, we're suffering from tension headaches, weight gain and burn out. What a sad state of affairs!

Of course, now that I'm aware of the ultimate stress reliever, I'm going to volunteer to do the dishes more often. Who needs a massage when I can scrub a plate clean and restore harmony to my life?

Be honest, do you find dishwashing relaxing? Is there another chore that relaxes you more? 

October 07, 2015

Are Millennial Moms Cooler than I am?

Shannon

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I am talking to 34-year-old Shannon O'Reilly-Fearn while her twin daughters are asleep. She tells me by phone that she was completely overwhelmed when she found out she was having twins. Now, wants to help other mothers of multiples, which is why she founded her business TwinLove Concierge.

So far, Shannon has been running her two-year-old company for about a year and put every penny she has earned back into it. That doesn't concern her at all. The more we talk, I learn that Shannon is tech savvy and well networked. She knows just where to go online to talk to other mothers of multiples. She has even used social media to find young moms in other cities to help her expand her business and spread her concept -- classes and consultations for expecting mothers of twins, triplets and other multiples.

Not only is she networked, Shannon is fearless and wants to create a company with a mission to help others. She represents the mindset of millennial moms, one I admire. I have my talents, but Shannon is WAY cooler than me when it comes to understanding how to market her business online and where to go to find her target audience.

Watch out employers, Shannon is the manager you want on your team, finding niches and bringing innovative ideas to your organization. But the Shannons out there, moms born after 1980, don't want to work for you if they can be home with their kids earning income AND fit their lives and their work together on their own terms.

In her new book, Millennial Moms: 202 Facts Marketers Need To Know To Build Brands and Drive Sales,  Maria Bailey, marketing expert and author, say there are an estimated 13 million millennial moms Millennialmoms_cover
in the U.S., only about a third of the 42 million millennial women, which means their true impact of millennial moms has yet to be felt.

 “To be competitive, businesses need these women who know how to build online relationships and understand the way millennials are communicating,” Bailey says.

In my Miami Herald column today, I delve into more of the ways millennial moms are different. To me, the most important way is mindset. These moms expect help from their spouse. They expect to balance work and family. They expect to earn income even while home with their kids. They expect to have online relationships with other moms and they expect to try new ideas out, even if the ideas don't work they way they originally expected.
 
If businesses want to hire and keep these talented women, they are going to need to do something different than they have done the last decade. They are going to need to go online to recruit these women, create enticing career paths, and engage with them on their unique terms. 
 
It's going to get interesting, but I see big changes ahead for the next generation of mothers in the workplace. It's about time!
 
 
 

 

 

 

October 02, 2015

Is Ambition A Bad Thing?

A former boss called me today to ask me if he had been played for a fool. An intern had asked him how to get ahead. So he told her. He gave her some tips and advised her to set up weekly meetings to get ongoing feedback. The other interns resented that this woman was getting so much attention from the boss.  They minded her ambition. Eventually they claimed she used my former boss to get ahead and then quickly moved on to bigger and better things. She's now doing an internship with a prestigious media company in New York.

So, let me just put it out there: Is ambition a bad thing? Was this woman doing something wrong?

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about ambition. Mostly, because I just read an article in Time Magazine about why ambition isn't working for women. 

If you called me ambitious, I wouldn't know whether to accept it as a compliment, or take it as an insult.

In the Times article, author Stephanie Clifford says, "When you say ambitious woman, there's a judgy tinge to it that doesn't happen for men. If all you hear about a woman is that she is ambitious, you probably wouldn't want to hang out with her. 

Here's what Savannah Gutherie said about ambition: "I hate the word. I think it’s impolite.”

Recently, I saw an interview with Elizabeth Holmes, the young founder of Theranos, a blood diagnostics company.  Holmes is often called the next Steve Jobs. She runs a $9 billion company and spends all her time running the business. Wow, I thought, she has built a 9 million business and she's only 31. By every account, she's ambitious and I admire that. Yet, a small part of me thought, "how sad. She has no outside life. Maybe she's too ambitious."

Yes, I know I was being judgy but the truth is most people are judgy of women who give it all up to pursue their careers because it's something we haven't become comfortable with yet. American corporate life is set up in a way that makes it very hard for women to feel successful both at home and at work. Which is increasingly why women are foregoing family life. 

A lot of us are struggling to figure out what a good life means and where ambition fits in. In a Time poll, men were more likely than women to say they would still work even if they were independently wealthy and did not need a job to support themselves and their families. Men still get more of their identity from what they do and I think ambition is part of that.

 I'd like to think the definition of ambition is changing for men and women.

Psychology Today says: A person is not truly ambitious unless he is willing to make sacrifices in the name of his ambition—even though the end of his ambition may not be worth his sacrifices.

Does ambition take sacrifice? I'd say it does. But that's not a bad thing. Life is about choices. I'm just hoping we get to the point where people can be considered ambitious for their parental choices too, for trying to create a great family life and pursue a career-- whether or not they sit in the corner office!

What are your thoughts on ambition?  Is ambition more acceptable in men?