The first time I lived in London, I believed, for three whole years, that I didn't have any real friends or community. I compared it constantly to my "ideal" life in Brooklyn that was constructed entirely around a sense of community grounded in shared cultural heritage and a particular set of social justice values.
Then I moved back to the states, to Alexandria, VA and I missed my London friends. The "new" London friends. They were good friends. They missed me. They wrote me real letters. (Facebook was just catching on, but still, they wrote me letters and cards! British people are SO good at letters and cards).
The realization: I wasted so much time and emotional energy mourning my life in New York that it made me unwilling to be fully present, open and appreciative of my life in London.
This realization + deep work with my friend, coach and hypnotherapist, Laura Palmer, helped me to let go of the artificial external barriers to human connection (accents, sense of humor, cultural differences) and connect with human beings anywhere. I am fully open (on most days -- we all have our bad days), to being deeply connected to people who come into my life.
Being someone who moves every 4-7 years, quickly becoming fully present and establishing human connections have become my most essential life and career skills. Ease of human connection that transcends artificial social constructs is key to positive and successful transitions of all kinds, and my personal practice in this area helps me to provide a deep and authentic level of support to my clients who are embarking on a big life and career change.
So, here are a few quick lessons that I've learned to be able to plop yourself anywhere (new city, new country, new job, new leadership role, new networking environment, etc) and quickly establish authentic, rich connections that lead to genuine relationships:
Our lives and careers uproot us, transport us, lead us down windy paths and present us with unusual detours. With each turn, we have a choice: to connect deeply with those around us, or not.
Jen Walper Roberts is a leadership and transition coach who supports mission-driven women to thrive in leadership, life and in their work to make the world a better place. Jen has led Conspire Coaching since 2011 and continues to develop coaching communities of mission-driven women in North America and Europe. She currently lives in Leeds, UK with her (very handsome) British husband and four strong-willed children. If you're facing a significant life or career transition, or are stretching into a significant leadership role, contact Jen to save time, energy and mental spiraling.
Five steps to recover from extreme anxiety when faced with a new leadership or life challenge.
We've lived in the UK for just over a year now and by far, the most DIFFICULT challenge in this whole life-changing experience has been taking and passing the UK driving test. More difficult than uprooting the children and my business. More difficult than missing my friends and family. More difficult than giving birth to our fourth child just weeks after arriving here.
And by difficult, I mean that the anxiety I felt around passing this test was full-on heart-racing, palms sweating, sleepless nightmare-filled nights, negative-self-talk - - just horrendous. After driving here for almost a year on my US license (you only get on year to drive on a foreign license), I took a test without having taken any UK driving lessons. ("Jen," I encouraged myself, "You've been driving since you were sixteen. You KNOW how to drive!")
I booked a test. I showed up. My anxiety -- all of it -- from the entire past year, showed up during the test. It wasn't a panic attack, but it wasn't far off. I failed.
And then the depression hit. After a year of only minor setbacks, feeling largely confident in our transition and successful in most areas of life, I suddenly questioned everything. Was I making real friends? Was our family OK here? Would my business be viable? Would this move harm all of my relationships back home and cut us off for good? The weight of it all descended upon me and I was crushed.
I had one more month to pass the driving test and, if I didn't, POOF. Like Cinderella at the stroke of midnight, all the progress we had made to settle in would unravel.
As a life and leadership coach, I have practiced all sorts of ways of releasing this anxiety and being present, bold and living into my new chapter of life and career. So, I gave myself a few days to feel crushed before getting back into action. I'm sharing the steps I took here because every leader, every human being, has moments in which the weight we put on ourselves can potentially crush us. The people you know to be the strongest leaders and the most calm and collected have all had these intense moment of fear. What follows are the steps I followed that brought me back from the darkness in an effort to reach those of you who might be in the thick of it.
Step 1: Be Compassionate With Self
When my kids or clients or friends are struggling, I hold a space for them to be with their feelings, feel their sadness, shame, worry, and to first and foremost figure out what will restore them. For me, I knew I needed to take the pressure valve off. I accepted that I would have a few unproductive work days and lazy-mothering days. There would be frozen pizza and videos. There were a few hours of stillness - literally - staring out the window or at a wall - I don't really know what I was doing but I wasn't trying to push through and maintain the hyper-active pace that had been required of me to move our family from the US to the UK, have a baby, settle kids in, settle into a new community, keep serving my US clients whilst figuring out the UK business - I needed to pause. My capacity to handle stress and the weight of it all was beyond overloaded. I allowed myself to do as little as possible and unload the weight. I threw up temporary boundaries. I made some space. And when I was out from under the rock a few days later, I connected with new and old friends because conversation and authentic friendship never fail to re-energize me.
Step 2: Uncover What The Hell Was Going On
What did passing the UK driving test mean to me? Why was I allowing it to crush me so fiercely? What fears were lurking?
Step 3: Accept the Fears That Were Surfaced.
I could write a lot more about this step, but for now, what matters is that once I meditated, wrote and processed all the meaning and pressure I had been putting on the driving test, I was able to have conversations with my husband and friends about these fears and deal with them separately from the driving test. This released the pressure that I was placing on the test itself. And, I gained a new awareness that I had subconsciously ignored all my fears by neatly packaging them up in the concrete form of a driving test. I accepted that with all the transition, packaging them up this way had served me well up to a point. I handled A LOT this year. But, these feelings were telling me that it was time to untie the tidy package and accept that it was time to deal with what was in it. I sought out help to deal with these fears and put a few other conversations and actions in place to begin this process. Accepting these fears, and acknowledging that they were separate from the driving test itself provided a road-map for action.
Step 4: Acknowledge Vulnerability and Get Help Rebuilding Confidence.
I had hoped to avoid shelling out for driving lessons, but after the first failed test, decided that driving while someone was watching and scrutinizing me, and correcting bad habits, was important.
Opening myself up to critique was a reckoning that although driving was an area of competence in the US, it was an area of vulnerability in the UK. I realized that by moving I had given up a sense of adult competence and was defensive and annoyed about people wanting to "teach" me how to drive. Especially if my husband wanted to teach me as HE was the one who wanted to move. (Note: ah, so I'm NOT really super-supportive and positive. I WAS feeling resentment after all! Another blog for another day.)
I signed up for some driving lessons.
There were nuances to driving in the UK that I simply couldn't have learned without an instructor. The way I held the steering wheel had to be changed, the ways they wanted me to perform driving maneuvers was mysterious and surprisingly specific; knowing how to know what the speed limit was in the absence of signs was not in the driving manual. I could go on. In short, I didn't know what I didn't know. These things were corrected.
I booked another driving test, with only a few day to spare before my 1-year clock hit the stroke of midnight.
Step 5. I applied what I've Learned About Stress and Confidence
The night before the test I put things in place to ensure I would have a good night's sleep. I arranged for help with the kids so I could be free of the life-sapping morning routine of getting kids out the door and to school, and the stress of having to then rush to the driving test center.
I cut myself from any more cramming in driving videos and reading the manual. I had the confidence from my lessons that I was indeed a good, safe, experienced driver and I had been armed with the information that I hadn't known that I hadn't known.
I fell asleep to a lovely relaxation visualization. I arrived very early to the test center. I did some power poses and listened to a five minute mindfulness meditation before entering the center. I did not allow myself to look down at my iPhone while waiting (this raises cortisone levels) and instead maintained a friendly open posture and took in the people and the room. I was nervous, but putting energy into maintaining my connection with my surroundings and a global awareness would translate into being able to just be with the tester in the car and set me up to demonstrate that I could drive with good awareness, safety, judgement and confidence.
I'm a 41 year old woman with four children. I run a global coaching practice to build the capacity of women leaders to transform their lives, careers and society. As an adult I have lived in Maryland, New York, London, Alexandria, VA and now Leeds. I've become practiced at significant transitions. Along the way I have built deep relationships, done meaningful work and mostly thrived. I've had setbacks, and mostly, I'm not very phased. Most of the time I am calm and confident. But life caught up with me, and I was terrified and in a panic. I applied what I have learned on my journey so far. I got some help.
And I passed.
Moving into a new, higher-level position with significant authority for the first time can be intimidating. In our Women Leaders Emerging coaching circles, many of our conversations circle around the feelings we have when stretching into these roles. Some recent coaching conversations we've had include:
1. How are you hoping that this role will advance your career? What is your vision for this role?
2. What are the top priority objectives for your role from the leadership point of view? From your direct supervisor's point of view?
3. What is the one area for which you'd most like to develop credibility and influence?
4. Why did the organization hire you? What were they hoping you would be able to accomplish? What strengths and skills do you have that no one else has?
5. What matters most to the stakeholders involved in your work? What do they need to advance their agendas? What are the key barriers they face? When are their busy times? What's the best way to communicate with them?
6. What do you anticipate your greatest challenges will be?
The common thread in all of these questions is breaking down the hugeness of your developing career identity into manageable areas of focus. You'll be able to start thinking about what's next to focus on rather than being overwhelmed by not having everything in place right now.
What did you discover as a result of answering these questions? We'd love to have you join in on free peer-coaching conversations on our Facebook group, conspiring women. See you over there!
In our Women Leaders Emerging coaching communities for mission-driven women, our members share their experiences and approaches that have worked for them in many areas of their lives and careers. Here are a few tips that members have shared about testing out possible career paths.
1. Find out if your interest in the field is “sticky.” Often people wonder if they’ll sustain an interest in a specific field for a sustained period of time. This can hold you back from pursuing advanced degrees or deepening subject matter expertise professionally and getting pigeon-holed. If you love learning, curating and creating, test out a possible career path by being a catalyst for conversation in the field that you are exploring. You might start a blog, a book group, or start a Facebook or LinkedIn group that you create.
2. If you’re in a large agency or government, pursue a Details are temporary positions that fill a short term-need. Details allow you to gain exposure, build your skillset and test out one of your career theories before giving up your job and making a significant career leap that you’re not sure about. If these kinds of opportunities aren’t available in your work-environment, think about how you might be able to engineer a short-term work arrangement.
3. Shift your career communities. Take a look at the professional associations associated with one of your possible career paths. Are there ways to plug in and get to know the culture of the profession and some of the key issues before you make a big leap in your career? Use meetup.org and LinkedIn groups and connect both on-line and in-person. Check out one day workshops, webinars and minimal-commitment certifications to be in conversation with people in the field you are considering moving into. To take it a step further, position yourself in your target field by hosting a webinar series or in person event in which curate promote relevant thought-leaders!
4. Be your new career for 10 minutes per day. You may have a career aspiration that you can’t fully cultivate right now. Maybe you’re in a good position for your stage of life for some practical reasons and it’s not the right time to transition, for example. This doesn’t need to stop you from gradually taking on a new career identity! If you write your novel for 10 minutes per day, you can start to say to yourself (and others), “I’m a writer.” If you research nutritional science issues for 10 minutes per day, you can start to say to yourself, “I’m a nutritional science researcher.” Small chunks of committed work help you shift how you identify career-wise and, when timing, resources, and mindset are ripe, will create a natural opening for your career transition.
5. Pretend you’re a career anthropologist. Pretend you’re not interested in making a career shift and take on a mindset of being curious about the possible field you’re moving into. What are the norms? Who are the leaders? What is the culture? What are the top concerns and pressing issues? What works well and what dysfunctions do you notice? What are the values that rise to the top? Talk to people without worrying about whether you’d fit in or add value so that you can really By being curious, you’ll have more natural conversations that will create opportunities for meaningful exchange and depth.
Dear my wonderful, soulful clients,
Yes you: I'm still thinking about you. Every day. You are my teachers. Your collective vulnerability sits with me and stirs me.
I'm still remembering that session five years ago when you were struggling get pregnant while also considering advancing your career.
I am still pondering the weight of your family responsibilities as you also make a difference in the world, at work and with your multitude of friends.
I'm still seething from the indignity of that comment during the meeting when that guy underminded your authority.
I still am blown away by how you led the transformation of your organization's culture so that every aspect of the work would take into the account the effects of racial injustice. I know it was unfair that you were called upon to do that as the only woman of color and I admire you for doing it anyway, and doing it so well.
I'm still smiling from that moment when you were able to laugh at how hard you are on yourself when you're so compassionate and forgiving of everyone else.
I'm still inspired by your ideas even though they are not mine to share in this space, and even though you haven't had a chance to breathe life into them - yet.
I'm still really mad that you had to endure those patronizing, flirty comments. And I am so impressed that you took the risk to find the support you needed. And you got it. Nice.
I am still mourning the loss of your career and freedom since you've decided to take care of your mother in your home.
I am still devastated by the election outcome and especially about how hard it hit you when you worked so long and so hard for a different outcome.
I still stand in admiration that you are balancing taking care of your child's special needs AND being so thoughtful about your leadership at work AND making space to ensure that you are calm and peaceful in yourself.
I'm still reflecting on how you were so bold in calling attention to inequality in promotions and how you made such a strong case for your own advancement. And how now they could not imagine the department without you at the helm. Yes. You did that.
I still feel my own stomach churn with the shared guilt of not doing enough to fight for social justice, but when you told me how much is on your plate, I felt angry at the injustice that there is such a deeply entrenched burden on you, the woman, to handle EVERYTHING.
I still notice how much you put into developing authentic work relationships while also becoming fearless in your true talent of being strategic and decisive. If others feel threatened by your power, I know a coach that they can hire. Ha! And, let it be know - I LIKE YOU A LOT.
I still want to remind you that a whole bunch of people don't have the patience to do the research and they need people like you. And you need the people who will help you synthesize and take action. And all these people are just perfectly fine with the strengths that they have. I haven't checked in with you for a while, but I hope you continue to let go of that critical voice and have found the right partners.
I am still sitting with the feelings of going through your parents things and clearing out their house while you ponder your next career move.
I still hold sacred that you deeply desire a life partner and there's no perfect way to r hold a space for that possibility while also pursuing your your other life and career ambitions.
I still see how you are the glue to so many communities, at work, in your family and how though you thrive in this role, right now you are utterly depleted.
I still see your inner-child receiving your love and compassion - the kind she always deserved to have. I see how kind you are to her now and how that has softened and strengthened you. And I see how this is freeing you to embrace the power of adulthood.
I am still enlivened by how you have begun to work from your strengths and own them instead of trying to fit into some mythical perfect leader role. And to see the power of those strengths unfold!
I am still breathing easier because you found your boundaries and your routines that keep you centered. And because even when you abandon your boundaries and fall out of your routines, you and your body remember how to find your way back to them. Well done!
I am still moved that you have shed beliefs about yourself that have kept you from leading from who you are and living into your AMAZING vision.
I am still humbled that you were able to recognize that it was too much; that there was an unhealthy imbalance that could not be fixed. That you gave it everything you had, and more than most human beings could. And it was not salvageable. And you moved on.
I am still feeling feisty and bold because of that stand you took on YOUR expertise and YOUR contributions in the fight for reproductive rights. Own it, sister!
I'm still celebrating that you are doing that thing you said for so many years that you wanted to do. You! You are doing it! Yay!
I am still celebrating what you needed to mourn and let go of to get to this new place in this new chapter. What a beautiful butterfly you are.
I think about you all the time. I am thinking about you right now which is why I needed to write this letter to you. I could write these little snippets all day. I see you there making powerful requests. Getting focused. Holding firm boundaries. Falling down. Recovering. Retreating. Coming back. Creating new models of women's leadership. Insisting on being a change-maker and leader while insisting on being present to your life outside of work and social change. I think I should write a book or a blog or something to give to the world from all the insight and nuance I've gained from the great privilege of hearing your challenges and triumphs. And I will, someday. Some season. Like you, I am sitting with a lot on my plate. I am giving so much in so many places, taking so much in, forever learning. For now, just know, I am still thinking about you.
To your success and thriving,
Less than a year ago, our family transplanted ourselves from the Washington, DC metro area to Leeds, UK. Being new to a place (a country, a job, anywhere) heightens our senses and gives a gift of being able to notice what others might take for granted. We love the proximity to countryside as well as a cool city, the laid-back, down-to-earth vibe, the mix of people from backgrounds different to those in Metro DC. Though life long citizens of Leeds may value all of these things, for us it is exciting and we are able to hold up a mirror in a way that helps others appreciate more what they love about living here. This creates new energy and positivity to the lives of our new friends and, in return, connects us more deeply to the values of this place.
My daughter, who is five, can't walk two steps without stopping to notice an insect, a crack, a dandelion, a sign. Though frustrating at times, I consider her my mindfulness teacher and imagine that someday, when she is leading a team, she will notice every little thing. She will notice how someone took extra time to format a presentation and the small touches that make it great. She will see someone's unique approach to designing a new system. She will notice, and by being a noticer, she will hold a mirror to her team, creating new energy and positivity. She will surface the values held by team members and, simply by noticing, create a team culture that is grounded in and appreciates a set of shared values.
If you're a leader (at work, at home, or in your community) I invite you to try out being a noticer today. Name what you see. Look for the values that are underneath the choices and actions that people take. See what is happening around you. Without adding any new meetings or big strategies, you will find you will breathe new energy and positivity into your team.
Some people fear being overly-gushy or appreciative of small things. (More on this in another article.) But being a noticer is accessible even for the most praise-resistant among us. Remember these two components 1) what did you observe? and 2) what value are you noticing?
Try these phrases:
Please comment below, or join in on free leadership coaching conversations in our Facebook Group: Conspiring Women
For information on the Women's Mindfulness Leadership Institute, attend one of our upcoming free introductory phone calls.
A Guest Blog by Kelly Belmonte
You see, I want a lot.
Perhaps I want everything:
the darkness that comes with every infinite fall
and the shivering blaze of every step up.
So many live on and want nothing,
and are raised to the rank of prince
by the slippery ease of their light judgments.
But what you love to see are faces
that do work and feel thirst.
You love most of all those who need you
as they need a crowbar or a hoe.
You have not grown old, and it is not too late
to dive into your increasing depths
where life calmly gives out its own secret.
Rainer Maria Rilke / from The Book of the Hours
(translated by Robert Bly)
I love the first line of this poem. I love it so much, I want to cover it in hot fudge and let it melt in my mouth. It expresses perfectly the dilemma and glory of mid-life motherhood. Rilke starts this poem in the middle of a conversation (“You see…”), which is how I feel I am living my life most of the time, mid-thought. What follows – I want a lot – is just the nuts. Oh yes, RMR, you nailed that one. It is almost as good as the second line. Perhaps I want everything…
Indeed. Even before becoming a mom for the first time at 39, I found myself frustrated at many points with having to choose a path, a title, a job description. I wanted to do it all. I wanted my fingerprints all over whatever mess was being made, because that was just the fun of it. And I wanted to plant herbs, travel (occasionally), lead writing workshops, make soup, get and stay fit, read the latest Carl Hiaasen novel, sing in choirs, keep my house tidy (well, sort of), and be a good wife, friend, daughter, neighbor. Then when I became a mother, I wanted to experience motherhood in full along with all the other things I didn’t want to give up.
And I wanted to write. Always I have wanted to write. Which is another reason I love this entire poem even more than a half day spa treatment with pedicure and mimosas included. I want to write like Rilke does in this poem. Even more, when I do write, I want it to feel just like this. “The darkness that comes with every infinite fall / and the shivering blaze of every step up.” Yes, yes, yes! Such courage, such empathy, such presence. You know you have found your true self when it feels like this.
But I have been known to suppress this artistic exuberance. In early incarnations of self, I allowed myself to be raised to the “rank of prince” – or rather, to the rank of manager, director, chief special deputy assistant in charge of my little corner of the world (LLC) – by my own “light judgments.” I am thankful for the provision, the experience, the skills and knowledge acquired, the friends and colleagues who bore with me. I am grateful for a core set of competence that allowed for, in some cases, a certain amount of “slippery ease.” Yet I never felt a true thirst for the work if it did not include the elements of creativity and courage combined to produce something beautiful. Something one might even call art.
I have realized of late that I am a “crowbar or a hoe” for those who need a safe place or setting or system (virtual or real) to be courageous and creative, a place for the making of beauty, connection, meaning. It’s what I’ve been doing for nearly twenty years when I have felt most alive, when I have done work that I have been called to do and felt thirst for artistic expression. Through whatever phase, identity shift, or situation I find myself in, I’m certain I will be doing this in some form for the rest of my life. It is nice be able to finally give it a name.
As I inch up on the half-century marker in my life, the last three lines of this poem are pure gift. It’s like Rilke suddenly became cheerleader for team Belmonte: “You have not grown old, and it is not too late”… There is a lot of life left to live in this very moment. I refuse to miss out on a single thing.
In fact, as the calendar moves from year to year, my “I wants” become more about single things than “everything.” Or, rather, single moments: being alive for everything that is happening in this moment.
As my world changed in both momentous and mundane ways over the past year, I have found myself grow more free “to dive into … increasing depths,” to be alive to this moment.I am not going to say I haven’t been completely panicked at times. However, I have found as I go deeper into the depths, the bottom is rock solid and sure.
Life – that courteous and calm host – gives out secrets from a gracious well.
Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke, ed. and trans. Robert Bly (Harper & Row, New York, 1981
Want to read more from Kelly? See http://allninemuses.blogspot.co.uk/ Want to share your story about making it all work? Contact me about guest-blogging.
The results of the "Making it Work Survey" show that parents who rated themselves as “5 – very satisfied” with their work-life balance* are skilled at the strategy: making time for what matters most. It seems these very satisfied folks make careful choices and are very attentive to living their values. Their methods for doing this fall into a few categories:
1. Prioritize. The most common method for the making time for what matters most strategy turns out to be knowing what your values are and choosing to live them. Several of you commented that being able to see your life in chapters – e.g. putting your career as number two, for now- knowing that there will be more time for that later – helps you to feel satisfied.
2. Manage time and resources. I almost named this category “get help” but I realized that it is more than that. We all make choices about how to manage our lives, careers and households. And, as any good project manager will know, managing tasks on time, on budget, and to a high quality standard is the key to success. Our “5's" seem to be excellent project managers who know how to allocate time and resources to achieve the most high quality result: total satisfaction. As one “5” put it,
“[I Implement] specific time management strategies to ensure that work does not over run my life. Focusing constantly on priorities, what matters most and what makes me and my family happy. Setting goals and putting strategies in place to achieve them.”
Here’s another amazing time manager:
“…when I was going to school and the kids were in school, I made a menu every Sunday, went to the grocery store and cooked what I planned each night. I often did batch cooking on Sunday. I also worked my classes so I would be home to meet the bus as much as possible. My youngest was a classical ballet dancer so I hired someone to drive him 4 days a week. I would always have a bag of books in the car, so if I was waiting somewhere, I would read. I learned to be able to pick up and put down things quickly.
Other ways that time and resources were allocated were:
A few respondents noted that they were good at “paying attention” to their children’s cues. That they were able to stop what they were doing and redirect their attention as needed to their children. Confidence in being able to be present in this way seems to relieve feelings of guilt in our “5’s”. One mom said,
“I try to watch my kids' behavior with regard to our schedules. Our youngest, for example, begins to get really bossy and needy when we haven't spent enough time with her. My oldest gets clingy.”
4. Be creative. I just loved your methods for fitting things in and getting things done in really creative ways. Here are a few of my favorites:
5. Communicate. “5’s” communicate a lot. With their spouses about division of duties and for priority setting. With employers about boundaries. With hired help about what is needed. With children about expectations and feelings. Every strategy mentioned above was typically accompanied by a corollary: these things don’t just happen without engaging people in a conversation about values, commitments, plans and boundaries.
The next two blogs will cover the next two most cited strategies that our “5’s” sited: Creating Real Partnerships and Keeping Perspective.
*Note: this is referring to the “Making It Work” survey that is the source data for many of my blog entries. I invite you to take the survey, or just take a look at the questions, if you haven’t already done so!
This week I've started digging into the results of the strategies that many of you provided in the Making It Work Survey. I took a look at the respondents who rated their satisfaction with their work life balance as a 4 or a 5 to find out what their strategies were.
The most common strategy theme was finding a job, or tweaking an existing job, to be able to have the right mix of career and home time. The mix itself varied greatly from person to person, but the idea was that our 4's and 5's seem to have taken charge and found a way to carve out the most ideal arrangement for themselves. Specifically, some approaches included:
1. Negotiate alternate or flexible work schedule. The most satisfied parents asserted that it's worth proposing to your employer an alternate full time schedule that allows more time with family. Examples included:
- Negotiating a four day work week to have three days with the kids.
- Having one parent work an early schedule and the other a late schedule so that each has special time with the children, and the children spend less time in day care.
- Each parent leaves work early a couple days per week to pick kids up from school and have special quality time, and making up the work after bedtime.
2. Scale back to part time. Many of you thought you wouldn't be able to meet your family's needs and work part time time, but, in the end, figured out that you could, in fact, make it work. This response really captured the spirit of the answers in this category:
"3 days/wk from 8:30-5 is perfect for me and I never thought I'd be able to find part-time but I did. My mom of all people really pushed me to look into it. Before I went on maternity leave my manager (a woman) had told me "I don't know how you could do consulting part-time." My mom said, "they won't do it for you; just come up with a solution and present it to them and make it airtight so they can't say no." Well she was right. Before coming back from maternity leave I started making phone calls and eventually found a project manager who was looking for my skills and was actually himself wondering if he could bring someone on part-time! And I do good work for him so he has kept me on. As long as I'm billable my consulting team can't really say no. It's been perfect."
3. Find a full time job that advances your career but also values work/life balance. I loved these responses because they really demonstrated that there are competitive, high-level full time jobs out there with employers that 'get it.' Whether it's allowing remote work or encouraging strong work-life boundaries, the most satisfied full-time working parents indicated that their positions and employers provided the kind of support that makes it work. Here were a few of the responses:
Shifting careers to the Federal government.
"I was working for a consulting firm Making $120K plus.. but working 50-55 hours a week... I decided to take a government job GS-13 step 10 Meaning $115K a year well below my skill set... but 37-40 hour work weeks ... oh and poor me 2 x a year I have to travel to Europe .... my husband watches my son. So far and it has worked out great.. I have flexibility in my work schedule and am very technically challenged... I lucked out."
Finding a job that allows work from home.
"I have a job now that provides great flexibility. I work from home when I'm not on the road and that has been terrific."
"[I chose] not to climb the corporate ladder or take a position that requires 24-7 attention, for more reasonable hours and a reasonable commute"
Aside from finding the right work environment, our most satisfied parents have figured out really effective approaches to making the most of the time at home. I look forward to sharing more next week. In the meantime, I'd love your comments on the findings I presented today.
My last several clients happened to be IT professionals. I'm starting to think that this is not a coincidence, but a signal that IT professionals need to cope with much more uncertainty and with much more agility than most other fields.
As it is, carers today are so much more uncertain and shifting, with everyone likely to make 2-3 career changes during their lives - at least!
The IT world requires even more rapid-cycle nearly constant career transitioning. The pace of innovation and client expectation is super-fast. I'd love to hear from those of you who are in the IT world or who live with someone who is. What have you noticed? What career navigation skills do you think are critical to success as a technologist?
I'd also LOVE to have a few guest bloggers on this topic. Let me know if you're interested!
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