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The Hero of Your Own Story

Much of my time as a coach is building my clients back up. I have had cancer survivors, spouses of cancer survivors, clients who have cared for sick parents and others who have cared for children with special needs. These are people who inspire me, yet when I tell them this, they look at me like I have six heads. They’re not so special, they tell me. Loo at all their failures. When I point out all the amazing things they have accomplished, they say, “Oh you had to say this because you are my coach.” No I don’t and honestly I could not pretend to be inspired even if I tried.  These are people who have suffered and survived. They should be strutting around tooting their horn, but instead they are stuck in self-doubt.

My job as a coach is to remind people that there are multiple ways to tell their story. There is no one right way. Our life is complicated and telling our story is complicated. Is the way you tell your story serving you?

When prepping for job interviews, I help my clients write their story. What are you proud life coachingof? What have you struggled with and survived? How have you grown as a person. How have your circumstances made you the person you are today? And how does this translate into you being successful in the future? You cannot convince a future employer that you are awesome if you are stuck in a mediocre story. Practice telling your new story until you believe it in your soul.

This is your truth. I am not asking my clients to lie or create something out of nothing. We all have things to be proud of. We have all survived in our own way. But we need to see it and believe it. And, most importantly, we need to tell it–to ourselves and to others.

In the book The Artists Way, Julia Cameron advises her readers to let their fear be their fuel. When writing your story, let your self-doubt fuel you. When you spiral downward by focusing on your perceived failures and your weaknesses, question your assumptions. Imagine I am sitting in front of you. How would I challenge you? What are you minimizing? What are you highlighting?  Why are you making those choices and do they serve your future? We all share a fear of failure as well as a fear of success. Use that fear to fuel you.

You get one life. Are you going to be the hero or the villain in your story? You are the hero… trust me. Not because you are perfect or because your life was easy, but precisely because it is not.

 

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A Key To Success for Working Moms: Create All-In Partnerships

Since I became a mother 16 years ago, I have experienced the challenges of being a working mother. Also, as a coach and a friend I have watched others struggle as working mothers. Being a working mother is fraught with guilt, exhaustion and moments of intense satisfaction. Tiffany Dufu author of Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less has a fresh look at the dilemma and a useful guide for us to follow.  The premise of the book is that women cannot “have it all” if they continue to “do it all”. It reminds me of the story of Cinderella, when her evil stepmother tells her she can go to Unknown-1the ball if she gets her enormous and impossible list of tasks done first. She has been set up for failure and so have we. How can women truly advance in their careers with these kinds of expectations? Dufu has given this a lot of thought, spoken with a lot of successful women and has experimented with her theories. Thankfully, she shares her well-researched strategies with us in her book.

Dufu explains that one way women can do less, is by creating “All-in Partnerships” with her husband (or partner or family member, etc.). All-In Partnerships mean that both parents are running the home. If you think about all the times we are disadvantaged in our career due to our home responsibilities, we need to ask ourselves, do we need to be doing it all? How can we share the wealth? The more we share our home responsibilities, the more time we will have to devote to our career. OK, don’t roll your eyes, because according to Dufu, we are as much on the hook as our spouses in our journey to create an All-in Partnership.

How do we create an All-in Partnership?

  1. Let Go of Home Control Disease (HCD)

First, Dufu explains, women must let go of Home Control Disorder or “HCD”. Come on, you know what she is talking about, right? By being the boss at home, we are limiting our potential of being the boss at work. Dufu talks about how she provided her husband with pages of notes the first time she left her son with him when she went on a business trip. She talks about how she was guilty of HCD and being a maternal gatekeeper. She bought into society’s expectation that her way was the right way when it came to the home. After hitting rock bottom after having her second child, she realized things had to change.

  1. Delegate with Joy

We have learned that “women acting like men” in the workplace is not preferable as it denies the workplace the benefits of a different way of seeing and doing things. Dufu career coachingargues that men confront the same bias at home. They can contribute at home, but they are asked to act like women in that domain. Women may delegate to their husbands, but then they micromanage what they delegate. For instance, how many times have you reorganized the dishwasher after your husband has filled it? “One UK study showed that women spend three hours every week re-doing chores that they think their men have done “badly”. So much time would be freed up if the job was accepted as complete, even if it wasn’t accomplished the same way we would have done it.” Women are slow to share their power in the home—the area that women have historically governed. But the key to work/life success and satisfaction is sharing the control of the home with your partner. We need to assume that our spouses can handle delegation, are capable of learning something new (they are!) and we need to let go of our own perfectionist standards of running a home.

  1. Leverage the unique skills of our spouse on the homefront

Once Dufu started letting her husband do things his way, she discovered that sometimes his way turned out to better than her way (go figure!). One of my favorite stories Dufu shares is the Career coachtime her husband was in charge of finding a babysitter at the last minute. As Dufu explains, when looking for a babysitter, she typically would send one text at a time, waiting for a response before reaching out to another sitter. Her husband’s efficient strategy was different. He sent one text out to 10 potential babysitters and charged them with responding first to get the job. They had a babysitter within minutes. Brilliant!

  1. Drop the Ball!

Dufu discusses her efforts to create an All-In-Partnership with her husband. They literally sat down and created an excel spreadsheet with every single task that they do (which was eye opening in and of itself) and then they decided who would do what based on their strengths, interests and availability. (There favorite column was the “no one does it” column-but this is for another blog.) They continued to use this spreadsheet with modifications when her husband “commuted” from NY to Dubai for work. She tells a fabulous story of how her husband was in charge of dealing with any apartment-related problems. When Dufu noticed she had a leaky faucet before leaving for work one morning, she texted her husband who was in Dubai so he could fix it. Amazingly, when she returned home from work a new, ugly, yet working, faucet was in place! He had bought the faucet online and worked with the super to install it. OK, the faucet was ugly, but Dufu had “delegated with joy” and was able to focus on other things at work knowing the faucet would be taken care of. And her husband could contribute to the house even when far away. Now she smiles with pride when she passes the ugly faucet knowing that this is the perfect representation of dropping the ball. Done is better than perfect—“one person’s ‘done’ can be another person’s ‘perfect’”.

Dufu reminds us that we are not the only ones who can run a home. Our partners are more than capable. Patience and gratitude are great tools as we build our All-In Partnerships and watch our career success grow.

Interested in exploring more tools and strategies for career growth as a Working Mom? Contact me to set up an initial consultation.

 

 

 

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The Why and How of Being an Approachable Manager

Happiness and success on the job are greatly affected by our relationship with our manager. The ability to communicate issues with our manager, ask questions, make requests and know that he or she will do what they can to assist you can matter more than supposed company policies. I was curious to learn from actual managers what creative ideas they have developed to ensure an approachable and supportive relationship with their employees. I am amazed by the amount of forethought, creativity and effort many managers put into their role.

Why should you be an approachable manager?

Employees are comfortable asking questions: Mistakes can be made because an employee is afraid to ask an important question for feCareer coachar of looking foolish. An approachable manager can communicate to her team that there are no dumb questions as well as demonstrate with kindness, openness and, most importantly, a clear answer to questions asked by employees.

Mistakes can be caught and dealt with early: If an employee does make a mistake, an approachable manager can potentially minimize the size and scope of that mistake for the company if dealt with early and immediately. If an employee feels comfortable approaching her manager immediately, the manager can do what is necessary to limit the negative impact. Being approachable allows you to deal with something before it escalates. You cannot fix something you do not know is broken.

Learn what motivates employees: Being approachable allows you to understand what motivates and drives your employees. Inya Chehade, CEO of The Bridge says that understanding an employee’s motivation is critical as a manager and what motivates one person can be very different from what motivates another.

Promotes a creative environment: An approachable manager means employees are more comfortable being creative, suggesting different ideas and thinking outside the box. In our fast paced world, we do not have time to overthink.  Moving forward without fear can contribute to the success of an organization.

Most importantly, being approachable can ensure your head is not in the sand. Ignorance is bliss but is not in your best interest long term as a manager. Being approachable requires courage to face the truth and deal with it.

How can you be an approachable manager?

Get a (well-rounded) life…  and flaunt it: A balanced life allows you better perspective and increased confidence when things go wrong at work. Managers with a full life have perspective and often more confidence, which allows them to feel less threatened by questions and concerns from their employees. In addition, a manager with responsibilities and interests outside of work is more likely to support employees with their whole life and encourage balance for them as well.

Let Your People Go: As often happens with good managers, their employees achieve great success due to the positive and enriching environment they have provided. The conundrum of this is that your fantastic employee whom you have nurtured and mentored is now ready to move on up to a higher position outside your group. As hard as it is, you must set them free to share their skills. As Lori Schuldiner Schor, Social Welfare Program Manager for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany noted, her support of employees within her group also motivates other staff members in knowing that she also has their back.

Spread the good news: Of course we know that you should document problems with an employee and keep HR informed. However, why can’t we keep HR informed of the good news as well?  Lori makes a habit of sending a compliment to an employee and copying Career coachHR so HR can put it in the employee’s file. Smiles all around!

Pay attention to your physical cues: You don’t need to walk around smiling, but you do need to be aware of how your stance and expression impact those around you. As Judy Summers, Director of the Montclair State University Red Hawk Math Learning Center notes, employees can be sensitive to the moods of their managers, so be aware of unintended messages you might be sending.

Meet Your Team: This could seem pretty obvious if your team is 10 people. But what if your team is almost 200? One successful manager shared that she took the time to meet with her almost 200 employees even though it took her six images-128months to do this. Several employees told her that they had never sat down and talked with a person at her level before. Meeting your team one-on-one can give you great insight into what is going on in the organization and help you identify problems before they start.

Request Feedback: Lori sends an email to her team every few months asking if they have the “resources they need to do their jobs and be able to feel satisfied.” These resources could be as small as a new headset to something more complicated like additional support for a project they are working on.

Say Thank you: As one manager states, “Thank your employees for their specific contributions and articulate how their work is contributing to achieving the team’s goals and the company’s visions. I get thank you notes for my thank you notes!”

Do you have thoughts about how to be an approachable manager due to your experience as an employee or a manager?  Please share! We can all learn from the creativity and experience of others. Also, I plan to write a blog about the challenges of being an approachable manager. I would love to hear your insights about this as well. As one of the managers mentioned, the mere exercise of thinking about her management habits allowed her to revisit her strategy and continue to improve upon it. Thinking about how we manage can enhance productivity and is worth our time and attention.

Interested in learning more?

 

 

Contact me to schedule a complimentary coaching session and/or subscribe to my mailing list


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6 Reasons Freelancing Could be Right for You

According to Freelancersunion.org, “nearly one in three working Americans is an independent worker. That’s almost 54 million people – and growing.”  A freelancer is usually self-employed, offering a service based on a skill or expertise he or she can offer. Services include many fields: marketing, legal, writing, admin support, sales, translation, design, engineering, human resources, accountants/bookkeepers, customer service, and much more.

Freelancing allows for autonomy, flexibility and variety. Depending on your personality, life responsibilities, skills and interests, this career path could be very beneficial.  So the question is whether freelancing makes sense for you and then if it does, how to go about it.

Is Freelancing the right career path for you?

1.  Interested in dabbling in something new?

Many of my clients are considering switching to a new career. Before making this leap, freelancicareer coachng can allow you to try something new without having to commit. You can sign onto a project, give it a whirl and see how it goes. Seeing all the different freelance projects on the freelancing websites is a great way to get a sense of the different types of work that is out there and can help you focus in on an area.

2.  Thinking about re-entering the workforce?

Have you been out of the workforce for a while caring for kids or elderly parents or other reasons you needed to take some time off? You may not want to go back to what you were doing or may find it difficult to re-enter that career. Freelancing is a great way to experiment with new options and dip your toe back into the working world.

3.  Looking for part-time work that will keep you on course with your career?

It is hard to find intellectually stimulating part-time work. If you search for part-time jobs on Indeed.com, you will find that there are a lot of part-time jobs that do not require education or experience. If you want a job that allows you to stay on your career path, freelancing is sometimes your best bet. When looking for freelancing jobs you can sort these jobs by job titles from all professional areas and job levels, including mid-level jobs and senior level jobs. No need to take a step back in your career just so you can work part time.

4.  Filling time between jobs?

Are you having a hard job landing a job that meets your standards? Freelancing may be the perfect thing to do while you are conducting your job search. Getting out and working on jobs related to your career is a productive way to continue to contribute, develop skills and grow your network. It is beneficial to be able to talk about current work you are doing while you are at an interview. In addition, having project work can help you feel more confident during a job search since job searches can often erode confidence.

5.  Do you want a career with autonomy or flexibility?

Not everyone wants to go the traditional route of working in one job with a boss. Becoming a freelancer may feel empowering and freeing. Yes, there is work with keepinglife coaching your business running and definitely more unpredictability, but you will rarely be bored! With freelancing you can figure out what hours you want to work, how much work you want and who you like working for. If you want extended time off to travel, write a book, or other long-term projects, freelancing could provide you with that flexibility as well.

6.  Interested in trying a side hustle to determine if you want to start your own business?

Thinking about creating a marketing consultant company? Then why not do some marketing freelance projects first to see how it goes and potentially foster some future client relationships. In the same way freelancing can help you dabble in a new career, it can also help you determine if you want to start your own business and perhaps reduce your risk when you are ready to launch.

Challenges to Freelancing

Of course there are challenges to freelancing. First, you often have to provide your own health benefits.  In addition, there is less predictability and security in this route, which can be stressful if you have bills to pay.  Finally, you need to continue to market yourself and find work, rather than keeping a stable job; although the truth of the matter is that job security is much less common these days and we should all see ourselves as freelancers whether we are employed or not.

Freelancing Resources

Check out these websites to find freelancing opportunities:

  • Linked In Profinder
  • Guru.com
  • Freelancer.com
  • Upwork.com
  • Freelancersunion.org

There are even opportunities to freelance with your volunteer work. If you want to share your expertise (or develop your expertise) while helping a cause you care about, check out Catchafire.org

I hope this blog helped you see the different benefits and challenges of freelancing. If you are interested in talking more about your career and the possibilities of freelancing, please feel free to contact me and schedule an initial free consultation.

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Parenting Sanity: Play to Your Strengths

After watching the movie Bad Moms and reading several articles about the ridiculous expectations that are placed on moms these days, I felt compelled to write about a different way to evaluate ourselves as parents. I laugh as I recall from my childhood my mom yelling sweetly from her bed “Have a nice day!”  as I ran off to catch the bus for school. She did not feel obligated to wake me up, make my breakfast and make sure I made it to the bus on time. But she did see it as her duty to bring me to all the latest movies and made sure that we watched 0aa3256e252a7450a676312f5d0187ccHappy Days together every Tuesday night. As she would explain, without guilt, she is simply not a morning person, but she is a night person. So we benefited from the nighttime activities and fended for ourselves in the morning. My mom played to her strengths and I think she was a much happier mom for it.

Today, we, like our children, are expected to be good at everything. I am here to argue that we should go back to that aspect of 1970s parenting (not the seatbelt-less and lack of rearview cameras 1970s). Let’s connect with our rebellious side and give ourselves a break.

The first step is to identify YOUR strengths. After all, you may hate to watch Happy Days and may really enjoy waking your kids up in the morning. And that is ok. I for one gave up doing arts and crafts with my kids years ago. I find it mind numbingly boring and I have absolutely no images-83artistic talent. Baking with my kids and eating our creations are strengths of mine and I have done tons of that with my kids. For me baking with my kids gives me the same happiness that arts and crafts may provide for a different mom.

We all can share our love for our kids in different ways. My husband has tons of inside jokes with the kids. He loves to make up nicknames and to get to know their friends. He also loves to talk about sports with my son – which is something I will never ever understand, and thankfully he can help my daughter with math. I, on the other hand, am amazing at helping my kids when they are anxious or worried. “Worried” is my middle name and runs in my family back to the dark ages, so throw any fear my way and I am ready to calm, soothe and empathize.

So what are your strengths and how can you play to them? Not easy to come up with right? As Mary Reckmeyer says in her book Strengths Based Parenting “Talents are so innate, so ever-present, that you might not even realize you have them. In fact, people typically think that whatever talents they have everybody has.” In contrast, what if I asked you what your weaknesses are? Of course that list is already embedded in your brain ready to roll off your tongue. Sadly, focusing on weaknesses is often a waste. We should only focus on our weaknesses to the extent they interfere with our pursuing our strengths. Focusing on our strengths provides much more bang for our buck.

I recently wrote a blog about Job Crafting, where I discussed current research on how people can craft their jobs to enhance their job satisfaction. The good news is that the same approach applies to our jobs as parents. If we design our parental roles with our strengths in mind, we will enjoy parenting more. For example, I love to read. During one road trip I read my family one of the books I was reading. Everyone got hooked. After that, I would tell my family about each book I was reading as I read it. I loved keeping them informed of the twists and turns in the plot and my secret hope is that they end up loving reading as much as I do. My sister-in-law shares her love of the ocean and hiking with her kids by spending hours in the ocean jumping the waves family-waves-20901345
with them or finding cool hikes wherever they go. My sister shares her fun and creative spirit with her kids by creating awesome family traditions and incredible birthday parties and sleepovers. My best friend shares her comedic timing with her kids and helps everyone laugh at themselves and not take life too seriously. Each family benefits from their parents being their authentic selves instead of mimicking some ridiculous ideal.

The village approach to parenting is essential for this idea of focusing on our strengths. Fortunately, I have a village of friends and family who can share their talents with my kids. We don’t have to be good at everything, but if we build rich and solid relationships in our lives, we can fill in the gaps.

Begin to pay attention to your strengths and what you enjoy to figure out how you can craft your job as a parent. Then, think about how you can utilize your village to help you with your lesser strengths (aka “weaknesses”). Parenting does not need to be so hard! Maybe we should all try yelling from our bed one morning “Have a nice day!” as our kids run out to catch their school bus.

Interested in learning more about strengths based parenting? Please contact me at amyalpertlifecoach@gmail.com

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“Let the Sunshine In” – Job Crafting

You may have seen an interesting experiment where Joshua Bell, an internationally known violinist, anonymously played in a DC train station and only a handful of people stopped to notice.* While a large number of the people walking through that train station would have most likely gladly paid the $100 a ticket he typically charges to see him perform, these travelers neglected to notice the beauty of his music while rushing through the train station. One cannot blame these individuals who were rushing off to work or to appointments for not noticing the music; however, think about how lovely it would have been for those who did take a moment to stop and appreciate a bit of beauty in their day. As Positive Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson says “The negative screams at you, but the positive only whispers”. We need to look for the positive to counteract the negative.

Why is it so important to see the positive? Fredrickson has a wonderful theory called “Broaden and Build”.** Basically she says that positive moments can foster more positive moments. Positivity promotes an upward spiral of happiness, creativity and openness. Had the people in career coachingthe train station noticed the beautiful music and appreciated it for a moment, they may have been primed for more positive moments throughout the day. Intuitively, we all know how a negative interaction can set us off track for hours and a positive interaction can set our day on the right foot. The good news is that if we are intentional and pay attention to what makes us happy, we can increase these opportunities.

Increasing positivity on the job

As a career coach, I like to ask my clients the question “what do you enjoy about your job?” Sometimes this is tough for people who are miserable in their jobs, but usually you can find one bright spot in your day. Then we work together thinking of ways to increase those opportunities. Take a moment to think about what it is you like about your job (if you are not currently working think about a previous job or any volunteer work you are doing). Are there ways to increase those enjoyable moments?

Job Crafting

When you think about what you like about your job and how you can increase those opportunities, you are essentially thinking about how you can craft your job to make it fit you better. Psychologists Jane Dutton and Amy Wrzesniewski  define job crafting as an opportunity for employees to “redesign their own jobs in ways that can foster job satisfaction, as well as engagement, resilience and thriving at work.”***

Many of us neglect to notice what it is that brings us joy in our job in the same way people neglected to notice the beautiful music in the train station. We get sidetracked with our busy lives and we overlook moments of beauty in our day.

There are three ways to job craft. We can alter the tasks we do, the people we interact with or the way we perceive our tasks.

Task Crafting

Task crafting “consists of adding or dropping tasks, adjusting the time or effort spent on various tasks, and redesigning aspects of tasks (e.g., a teacher who spends time learning new classroom technology to fulfill his passion for IT)”. **** Are there tasks that you do in your job that you dislike? Can you automate those tasks? Delegate them? Reframe them?

One of my clients was life coachinginstructed to make cold calls as part of her sales role. She despised this piece of her job and dreaded doing it. She did however love other methods of marketing including blogging, social media and google ads. Therefore she researched the effectiveness of these sales modes in her industry and presented her findings to her boss. She now does much less cold calling and has increased the marketing strategies where she excels and enjoys.

Can you find ways to increase the amount of time you spend on job tasks you enjoy and decrease the amount of time you spend on tasks you don’t enjoy?

Relational Crafting

Clearly building strong relationships at work can make your job more pleasurable and contribute to productivity. As with all three of these modes of job crafting, sometimes changing one area changes another. For instance, if you want to introduce more technology into your job, you may need to increase your interactions with the technology group. Building relationships is a satisfying way to enhance your experience at work.

My husband Gideon is a good example of building relationships as a way to find pleasure in his job. A quintessential extravert, he has made numerous friends and acquaintances at every job where he has worked. Not only does he get to know his co-workers, he loves to have fun with them. Whenever he works from home and I overhear his conference calls, there is a ton of career coachinglaughing and joking—while also lots of work talk too (just in case his boss is reading this). His ability to create a social environment at work is incredibly beneficial not only for his own enjoyment of his job but also for encouraging collaboration throughout his group. Prioritizing this aspect of himself allows him to be authentic on the job and authenticity contributes to productivity and happiness.

Are there relationships at work that you can cultivate to increase your productivity and happiness at work?

Alter How We Perceive Tasks (Reframing our job)

We do not always need to change what we do at work, instead we can change the way we see things. IT specialists can see themselves as teachers, clothing sales people can see themselves as people whose job it is to help their customers feel beautiful and leave happier than they came, people in product design can think of themselves as innovators, and the list goes on…. What I love about this form of job crafting is that you can do this without your manager even knowing you are doing this, it is a lot about perception and reframing the way you see your role.

A wonderful piece of research was done back in 2000 where researchers interviewed hospital custodians at a hospital about their jobs*****. Researchers discovered a group of custodians career coachingwho saw their work as well beyond their job description. These custodians saw themselves as healers who contributed to the healthy environment of the hospital by keeping it clean and sanitary. They were members of the team committed to helping patients get better. As a result of this perception, they went out of their way to contribute to the patients healing in creative and loving ways. Job crafting in this way not only enhances your experience at work but also increases your productivity.

Are their parts of your job where you could alter your perception so you can increase the positive?

Increasing the positive in our life can have profound effects and focusing on the positive within our job is one way to do this. Take a moment to think if you have crafted your job. I would love to hear your stories, so please share with me anything you have learned in the process. Also, think of ways you can craft your job now. Happiness at work matters and luckily there are ways we can enhance our own happiness.

Interested in learning more about how to craft your job? Please contact me at amyalpertlifecoach@gmail.com

 

*https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UM21gPmkDpI

**Fredrickson B.L., (2009). Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life Penguin Random House

***Berg J.M., Dutton J.E., Wrzesniewski, A (2007). What is Job Crafting and Why Does It Matter? Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship, University of Michigan Ross School of Business

****Wrzesniewski A, Berg, J.M., Dutton, J.E. (2010). Managing Yourself: Turn the Job you Have in the Job You Want Harvard Business Review

*****Dutton, J. E., Debebe, G., & Wrzesniewski, A. (2000). A social valuing perspective on relationship sensemaking. Working paper, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

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Three “Rs” in Job Seeking: Reflect, Research and Relay

With one click, you can submit your resume and cover letter for a job opening. It is so simple when compared to the old days. For example, when I applied to my first job I needed to print out my resume (the printer was in the computer lab at my school) and then print out the envelope (making sure to put the envelope into the printer in just the right way), attach the stamp and then lick the envelope shut.

While the old way was tedious, the current way has a downside as well. The ability to apply to a job without much effort can result in a mindless approach to job seeking. When applying to a job took more effort, we made Life Coachingsure to only apply to places we really liked. Now things move much more quickly. However, slowing down and thinking about where you are applying not only increases your chance of getting noticed by the recruiter but it can increase your likelihood of landing a job you will actually like.

  1. Reflect

When looking for a job, it is important to seek the right environment and cultural fit. Take a moment to think about a few times where you were at your best. Ask yourself why you succeeded in those situations? Who were you working with? Where were you working? What were the surroundings like? Your work environment can impact your productivity, effectiveness and ultimately your overall happiness. Before you click “send” on a resume or cover letter, take the time to get to know the company you are applying to.

Luckily, there are websites that provide us with an opportunity to get the inside scoop on work environments – allowing you to mindfully choose where you want to apply.

  1. Research

Websites like The Muse, Glassdoor and WorkClear allow potential applicants to peek behind the curtain at a potential employer. These websites enrich your job search by providing insights into Life Coachthe environments where you will be working. Below are descriptions of three websites as a starting point for you. I encourage you to check out these websites to see if any of them would help you.

  • “WorkClear was founded to provide insight into the work-life balance cultures of employers around the world. Members of the WorkClear community anonymously post actual work hours, vacation time, and other work-life metrics.” (Quotation from WorkClear’s website)
  • Glassdoor offers a variety of career-oriented services including the opportunity to read reviews from employees where employees can tell you the real deal about the company.
  • The Muse allows you to learn more about a companies culture. As they state on their website “We think company culture is pretty important. We show you inside offices before you apply to make sure you’ll love working there.” While these summaries are not anonymous reviews like the other two websites, the descriptions are written in a very clear way focusing primarily on the working culture at the organization.

These websites support the idea that the culture in the company is a huge contributor to happiness. Posting actual work hours? That is fantastic! Seeing pictures of the physical space you will be working? Ideal! These websites are gifts for the job seeker.

Connect Your Reflections to Your Research

When you research potential employers, be sure they have some of the qualities you identified above when I asked you to reflect on where and how you do your best work. For instance, which of the descriptions below appeal to you:

-Is a down-to-earth environment a top requirement for you? Then this company that was reviewed on Glassdoor may be a match for you: “Incredibly supportive culture with an incredible focus on learning and mentoring, Highly intelligent, down-to-earth and fun people, Focused on making a real impact for our clients”

-Are you willing to work long hours but need flexibility? Then this company’s review on Workclear’s website may be of interest: “While my lunch break is non existent and days are long, I have the flexibility to work around my business commitments, including flexible work schedule. This flexibility allows me to start work early in the morning so I can step out for my daughter’s game / practice / etc., and this sometimes means I need to catch up on work over the weekend.”

-Do you like autonomy and the freedom to utilize and develop your expertise? Then this career coachcompany reviewed by an employee on the Muse website may be for you: “One of the best aspects of [our company’s] management style is that individuals hired are considered experts in their respective fields. We’re encouraged to do our own thing and really excel.” (Note that the Muse website is different from the two above. While this quote is by an actual employee it is not anonymous and is part of an overall work overview that was provided by the company itself.)

  1. Relay your Connections with Your Potential Employer

These pieces of information the websites offer, while not the complete story, can give you some insight about a company and determine if it is worth your time applying. If the reviews are exciting to you, you can address that in your cover letter, interview and beyond. Rather than sending dozens of resumes into a black hole, take the time to determine why you are applying to a particular job and customize your resume and cover letter accordingly. Show the emplCareer Coachingoyer that you take this process seriously, you have done your homework and you have SELECTED this particular company. Ensuring that the company where you work is the right fit for you is a benefit for everyone involved. The company benefits because you will do your best work there and you will benefit because prioritizing your happiness at work is a step in the right direction to cultivating your overall happiness.

 

If you are interested in speaking with me about career coaching, please contact me at amyalpertlifecoach@gmail.com.

 

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Double Standards Hurt Men Too

Over 15 years ago, I helped write the paternity leave policy for Goldman Sachs. We offered fathers two weeks of paid leave and provided flexibility as to when they could take this leave. Perhaps fathers wanted to use the leave for the first two weeks after the child is born, maybe they wanted to supplement their spouse’s leave, or maybe they preferred to use it a little at a time to fill in the gaps at home. By providing flexibility, we were acknowledging that every family is different. Our intention was for the policy to make sense to our employees and to assist a family adjusting to a new baby at home. Did I think two-week paternity leave was adequate? No. But it was a start, especially at a firm that made no apologies for its face-time oriented, workaholic culture.

I helped write this paternity leave policy when I was newly married and did not have kids of my own. At the time, one of our male friends expressed a strong negative reaction to the idea of paternity leave. He teased me (in a loving way of course) about the ridiculousness of paternity leave and said he would lose respect for any man who took advantage of it. Fortunately, our friend changed his tune after he married, started his own successful business and had children of his own. Not only did he establish a paternity leave within his organization, he also was a role model by utilizing in the paternity leave himself when he became a father. Over time his definition of masculinity was expanded to include caregiving. This change in our friend exemplifies the larger change that is going on all around us. Men are realizing the benefits of caregiving and men, women and children, stand to benefit from this modern definition of what it is to be a man.

ReadiStock_000017967210_Largeing Unfinished Business, by Anne-Marie Slaughter, I was reminded of the power of men in the women’s movement. As Slaughter points out in her book, girls have more choices than boys do today. Girls can choose to stay home, work part time, work full time etc. while boys are typically given a more singular option of providing financially for the family. Of course we are constantly seeing exceptions to this rule and the hope is that these exceptions continue to flourish. Giving men a broader definition of masculinity benefits men and women. The opportunity to provide care for our children and elderly relatives is a gift both for the caregiver as well as the one receiving care. In addition, providing opportunities for men to be caregivers will elevate the value we place on care in our society..

Leading The Way Towards a Paradigm Shift

Same-Sex marriage: Heterosexual couples can learn from same-sex couples regarding how to define their roles within their marriage. Same-sex couples have the freedom to design their own marriage (p. 78). They can ask the following questions to guide their choices: Whose job pays more or has the best income prospects down the road? Who enjoys work more? Who has a more supportive employer? Who prefers to be the primary parent? Wouldn’t it be incredible if heterosexual couples evaluated their division of labor with the same openness? Perhaps in the near future heterosexual couples will make their choices in the same way same sex couples make their decisions rather than relying on predetermined, outdated gender roles. This would open up opportunities for men and women to evaluate their unique hopes and dreams for themselves and for their families.

Women’s increase in income

“40% of American women are the primary breadwinners in their families. That includes single mothers, but it still tracks a major trend.” (p. 49) With this fact, it makes sense for many families to revisit traditional roles. When a woman earns more than her husband, it confuses the traditional model of fathers being the breadwinners due to a higher salary. Of course this does not automatically reverse the roles because there are many factors that determine who does what within a couple, but it opens up the opportunity for a more thoughtful conversation.


What Can Women Do to Help the Men’s Movement?

“Let it Go” in the Home

Ok, this is a really big deal and I love how Slaughter captures this in her book. We women need to Let it Go at home. We need to let our husbands handle parenting and housework in their own way. If we micromanage our husbands, we are denying them the opportunity to make a unique contribution. Slaughter talks about how women have a tendency to give men step-by-step instructions on how to handle the house when they are not home (p.150). Our husbands may do things differently, but that does not make it wrong. In the same way women want to contribute to their workplace in their own way without having to “act like a man”, men need to be able to contribute at home without micromanagement. If we want men to contribute equally at home, we must make room for them to express themselves their way and allow them to learn from their mistakes just as women are making their own unique mark in the workplace.

Support Young Men

career coachingWhat are the messages we are giving our sons? Do we tell them they can do anything like we tell our daughters? We need to make sure we tell our son’s (just like we tell our daughters) that they can be whoever they want to be. They can choose to be primary caregiver whether it is for their children’s entire childhood or seesawing career opportunities with their spouse, or they can choose to be the primary breadwinner. As mentors, we need to ask young men to think about what work and family means for them. Women are asked constantly about how they plan to manage work and family. Men also need the opportunity to reflect on this and to ask themselves the questions about their values and priorities (p. 180). Women and men need to live lives with authenticity and integrity, but the only way to do that is to search your own soul and determine what will make you truly happy. We have worked very hard over the years to expand women’s choices; men also deserve more choices and an expanded definition of masculinity to provide freedoms and opportunities for all.

If you are interested in learning more about life coaching, please visit my worklife coaching page or email me at amyalpertlifecoach@gmail.com.

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Hurricanes and Snowstorms Oh My: The Business Case for Telecommuting

It has become common knowledge that Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs) help individuals manage their work-life needs, but to my surprise there are some employers who continue to question the business benefits of FWAs. The Agile Workforce and Workplace: Flex Primer for the New Future of Work (2011) by Karol Rose and Lori Sokol, PhD enumerates the many ways FWAs help employees: control over workload, ability to handle work-life demands, promotes health and well being, reduces stress, etc. In addition, the book also points out the clear-cut and compelling ways FWAs help employers, including Business Continuity Planning and Facilities Planning.

Business Continuity Planning

When weather events like Hurricane Joaquin occur, employers who have embraced FWAs and telework arrangements have an advantage. These companies can feel assured that employees will continue to produce even if the office is closed. Technology makes working from home a reality for many employees. However, this was not always the case. During the terrorist attacks on 9/11, I was working downtown at Goldman Sachs. Our office was closed for several days following the attacks. Since I managed Goldman’s Employee Assistance Program and arranged for the emotional care of our employees, I worked incredibly hard during those few days. Given the limited technology we had at that time, the work was slow and frustrating. Not only were we emotional and traumatized ourselves, we had to work harder than ever without the technological support to do so.

Thankfully, today, we have the technology to support workers if there is an emergency. Events like the Swine Flu, hurcareer coaching west orange njricanes, snowstorms and even a visit from the Pope are among the multiple events that prompt the need for employees to work offsite. Companies that have embraced telecommuting as part of their corporate culture are better able to handle unexpected events. If employees already have technology that allow them to work from home and managers already have the skills to handle remote employees, then they can make a seamless transition when an emergency arises.

By having employees telework on a more regular basis—not just when there are big events, employees can create a work space at home that is conducive to working from home. They can also work out any kinks with their technology. Finally, when employees work from home, managers and employees develop skills to work together remotely. Competitively speaking, the better able employees can continue to work when there is a crisis, the better a company’s competitive edge.

Facilities Planning

Another fascinating trend that was highlighted in The Agile Workforce and Workplace is facilities planning and design. There is so much creativity with designing the modern workspace. Developing a flexible workforce contributes to this trend. Today, facility design can be more creative with space dedicated to collaborative meeting spaces in addition to individual workspaces. Embracing telework supports this opportunity.

Companies spend a ton of money on real estate. According to The Agile Workforce and Workplace, it costs approximately $8,000-$14,000 a year for a workspace per employee. If companies can reduce office space by supporting employees who wish to work from home or leveraging an emplcareer coaching west orange njoyee’s hectic travel schedule, there are many benefits. Companies save money on space, reduce energy costs, and can design a more fluid and adaptable workspace. “Hoteling” is a brilliant way to address the real estate realities of a modern workforce.   Since many employees are not in their office all the time due to travel schedules or telework arrangements, hoteling is a way to create shared workspaces and save money.

Hoteling involves creating workspace that can be utilized by multiple employees. By having employees work from home and then reserve office space at work when they need to come into the office, companies reduce the 1:1 ratio of employee to workspace. Not to mention the fact that employees save on gas by not having to drive to and from work each day and employers save on energy costs by reducing the amount of space they need for workspaces. Employers who reduce energy output can also receive carbon-offset credits.career coaching west orange nj

Encouraging employees who prefer to work from home the opportunity to focus on their work there and then come into work for collaborative opportunities, is an enterprising way to give employees control over how work gets done. Supporting employees’ unique needs without sacrificing productivity is the crux of the flexible work culture.

Employers can prepare for the inevitable emergencies by embracing telework and can save money on real estate costs. Having a more fluid approach to how and where work gets done is a win/win for employers and employees. For more information about The Agile Workforce and Workplace: Flex Primer for the New Future of Work, visit Karol Rose’s website at  http://www.klrandassociates.com.

Click here for more information on the benefits of Career Coaching in West Orange NJ & Surrounding areas.

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Returning to Work: Leveraging Organizational Resources

In the first blog of this series, Returning to Work: Details and Dreams, we focused on identifying our responsibilities and prioritizing them according to our values. In Blog #2 of this series Returning to Work: Leveraging Your Village, we focused on how to get the things done on your list after going back to work. In this blog, we will focus on how to utilize your employer’s work-life programs and policies and how to communicate with your manager to figure out work arrangements that foster work-life success.

Taking advantage of corporate programs can be hugely helpful and worth exploring. In addition, companies may also have work-life policies to consider, including work from home options, part-time arrangements and other flexible work options. In many ways, however, the best way to find work-life balance at work is to have a supportive manager who respects your autonomy and lets you get your work done in the way that best utilizes your strengths and family responsibilities. Developing a healthy relationship with your manager is one of the best ways to achieve work-life balance and job satisfaction.

If you are a freelancer or self-employed?

This blog can also apply to you as it can provide you with a template for evaluating how to organize your time. How do you work best? How many hours should you work? Please use this lens as you read through the rest of the blog.

Work-life Programs

The good news is that many companies offer work-life programs—especially the larger companies. Often organizations partner with vendors like LifeCare, Harris Rothenberg International and Bright Horizons Family Solutions (to name a few) to provide a variety of family friendly services. If you have not done so already, familiarize yourself with your company’s family–friendly benefits. Programs can include (but are not limited to):

  • Childcare – full-time and back-up
    • Companies can provide on-site full-time care or partner with full-time childcare facilities located near the office.
    • Back-up childcare is helpful for the occasional school holiday or when your nanny calls in sick and can be located on-site or at off-site affiliates
  • Eldercare assistance
  • On-site Gym
  • On-site Wellness programs: nurses and doctors on-site, health screenings, flu shots
  • Concierge services –these services can make life a little bit easier—e.g. on-site dry cleaning
  • Homework help for your kids: homework help via the internet or by phone
  • College Coaching: Assistance with the college search and application process
  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAP): counseling services that are free and convenient
  • On-site Lactation programs
  • Mentoring programs and Parenting Groups—learn from other working parents

Work-life Policies

In addition to work-life programs, there are work-life policies to consider. Parental leave is a popular one in the news today with companies like Netflix announcing very generous policies. (Of course having a policy does not necessarily mean people feel safe to take it advantage of it—but that is for a separate blog.) Since you are returning to work, parental leave policies probably don’t apply to you so let’s focus on Flexible Work Arrangement (FWAs). FWAs are hugely helpful because standard work hours are not always ideal for real life. FWAs include:

  • Part-time arrangements – involves working less than full-time so it is accompanied by a pay reduction
  • FlexTime arrangements: flexibility with when you work
    • Compressed work-week: nurses often work longer hours a day for fewer days a week.
    • Irregular hours: working different hours -– often seen in retail where evening and weekend hours are often the most wanted timesimages-5
  • FlexPlace: Working from home or from a satellite location
  • Job Sharing: Creating a full-time schedule for one position with two employees

These arrangements can be negotiated during the job offer process, but they can also be arranged as needed. Sometimes it takes working a bit to realize you need an FWA and sometimes it takes being in the job to see whether an FWA is conducive to your job. You may even find that working an FWA is actually preferable for your job situation. For instance, if you work with clients in a different time zone.

Informal Work-life Options

Informal work-life options are an ideal solution to work-life issues. Things change constantly—a child gets sick, after school activities change, work is busy, work is not busy. It is great for all involved when you can work out arrangements with your manager on an as needed basis. Sometimes a particular project lends itself to telecommuting while a different project requires working late. How can you communicate with your boss to make things work for you?

Which Work-Life Resource Do You Need?

First you should ask, what do you want?

  • Are there days you need to be home earlier due to carpools?
  • Are there days you want to be home to volunteer?
  • Do you want to go in later some mornings so you can bring your kids to school?
  • Do you want to be home by 5:00 so you can help your kids with homework?
  • Do you need one day off a week to tackle your errands, self-care, etc.?
  • Do you need a day off a month to take an elderly parent to a medical treatment?

Now evaluate ways to meet the needs that you identify. Do you need to work from home some days? Do you need a part-time schedule? Do you want flexible hours (a full-time schedule but with modified work times)?

Communicating with Your Manager

The key to success with negotiating with your manager is to make it a conversation—not a negotiation. Come with a suggestion, but be open to modifying it. As a positive psychology coach, these are some things I recommend thinking about before your meeting:

  • What are your strengths? Are those leveraged in your modified job responsibilities?
  • Can you fill a need with your job change? For instance, can you volunteer to work late one day a week so you can work with West coast time zone and then come in late a different day?

I love exploring creative solutions to work-life dilemmas and I am pleasantly surprised by how often there are win/win situations. For instance, a client of mine was hoping to work fewer than 5 days a week, but she was not sure how to ask. After talking with her, we realized that her boss was in a difficult situation trying to give another employee more hours. By volunteering one of her days to her boss, her boss was ecstatic since she was able to give those hours to an employee who needed them. It was a win/win.  My client was able to keep a job she loved and have improved work-life balance and her boss was grateful to have a work dilemma resolved.

Take some time now to evaluate your needs and your employer’s work options. Keep an open mind and be willing to experiment.  Going back to work can be challenging, but there are resources out there to explore.  Creativity and communication are keys leveraging organizational resources to enhance your work-life balance.

Click here for more information on the benefits of Career Coaching.