Tag Archives: career

Lean In, Lean Out

I finally saw Sheryl Sandberg’s Ted Talk about “leaning in” at work. I’m not sure if she was promoting the book or if that talk gave her the impetus to write a book.  Anyway, I didn’t think I was the target audience since  it’s a bit late in my career to lean in, but her talk was very inspiring.

First of all, she was surprisingly funny.  It’s not that I wouldn’t have enjoyed her talk if she was simply straight-forward but I just didn’t expect a laugh along the way.

Secondly, and most importantly, even if you’re not out to super-charge your career, I think she has valuable advice for all.

One thing I got out of that talk is the obstacles faced by female bosses.  In general, people prefer to work under males.  There’s an unfair perception that women are worse bosses.  I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that you have to be tougher and more aggressive as a woman to climb to the top.  Men have to be aggressive to climb up, too, but I do see a wider range of options for them and they can seem more relaxed at the top.

I have had my share of good/bad bosses.  While I really enjoy working for my male bosses, my female boss was the only one who mentored and promoted me.  I don’t think that’s too uncommon and that’s why I think more women at the top could eventually help all women.

On the same topic, I came across a Business week magazine article about a group of Dads at Deloitte who are trying to “lean out”.  It was an interesting take on a new generation of men who want more time with their kids and family.  It’s still not a widely-accepted notion but I do think and hope that the next generation will adopt more family-friendly and flexible policies that create a work/life balance for all.

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Undercover Working Mom

Many years ago, a childless friend and I were discussing another friend’s kids.  As childless people are prone to delusions about the realities of parenthood, she said that this friend’s kids were unruly because they didn’t get enough attention from their working mom.  No mention of dad.   My response was a very lame “Really?”  My mom worked and she is great but I didn’t have a strong opinion on the subject at the time; parenthood seemed so far away.  I had no idea that the so-called “Mommy Wars” was a-brewing!

Another time, my husband’s colleague said that his wife had quit her job to stay home and that this was best for all kids.  We were still pre-kids but I’m proud to say that my husband responded by saying that you can’t generalize working mothers.  He had a working mom and also knew I planned to keep working  once we had kids.

Now that I’m a working mom, I think back to those two conversations and have a stronger reaction.  I still believe the “Mommy Wars” (working vs. stay-at-home moms) are more hype than reality.  People just have time or energy to judge others that often.   At the same time, I was curious to find out if working moms are really judged or pitied by those who stay home.

Recently, I took some vacation time to attend a Toddler/Parenting class with my younger one.  He’s shy and needs the social interaction.  It was a weekday morning so I only needed to take a partial work day off.  I enjoyed having that extra bonding time and shortened work week!

A part of me had this crazy idea: I could pretend to be a Stay-at-home mom and find out what other SAH-moms really think of working mothers.  Are you ready to find out…..?

Drumroll please….

Can you handle the truth?

Find out next Wednesday….

This isn't me, just a random picture of a working mom with baby!

This isn’t me, just a random picture of a working mom with baby!

No, seriously. I didn’t pretend to be a SAH-mom and I didn’t try to set up attacks by denigrating working moms first to get a reaction.   There were at least 2 other women who were planning to return to work after some years off.  All the other people I spoke with were either full-time stay-at-home moms or grandparents.  Note: I live in a middle-class neighborhood so there weren’t any nannies at the class.

Some observations:

A few of the moms were a bit incredulous that I, a working mom, had taken my vacation time to do this toddler play class.  This probably took me out of the line of fire IF any of them were prone to attacks on working moms.

I was sort of the stereotypical working mom when it came to scrapbooking. It’s not that I don’t cherish memories of my kid(s) but I am not crafty or creative.  I  shamelessly copied other’s mom’s scrapbooking ideas.

I did spend a little more time playing or watching my kid than some other moms. However,  I wanted him to play with other kids so I made sure not to hover too much.  I didn’t judge the other moms at all for using this time for adult conversation. After all they’re home with their kids all day so they didn’t really need this extra time.

I panicked when it was my turn to bring snacks…

My kid was a bit unruly and grabbed food off other kids’ plates.  I wonder if his behavior reflected badly on me.  If it did, I was oblivious to any mean stares.

The good news is that I had an easy time talking with these women.  Many were very nice, smart and interesting.  I didn’t really feel a division at all.

I plan to sign up for more classes in the fall!

By the way, I would love to read a real undercover piece from a journalist who pretends to be a SAH-mom (and vice versa).  Would socio-economic levels make a difference? Would they find out the “Mommy Wars” is merely hype. Or would they discover a big divide?

My Balance Now

Before I moved closer to work, I had an hour drive to and from work.  I re-read my 2012 post that went into depth about how I balanced work/life and thought I’d update it.  Sometimes I can’t believe I endured this commute for so long.

1.  What’s your work schedule?

Before: I got up at 5:15 to 5:45 to get to work on time.  I got home by 5:30-6 pm., usually exhausted with an aching back.

Now: I get up around 6:25 and get to work on time.  I often have time for breakfast and light stretching/exercise!  My drive is 30 minutes tops (usually faster in the mornings when fewer people are on the road).  I get home by 5pm. Sometimes I even hit the gym or go to the park with the kids.  According to co-workers, I’m also less grumpy in the morning!

2. How do you handle childcare?

Before: Part-time nanny, freelancing husband with flexible schedule and more time at home.

Now: Still part-time nanny on occasion who does light housecleaning, plus A LOT of help from my mom.  My husband’s schedule and travel has picked up, which leaves me taking more time off for doctor appointments, illness and such. Pre-school pick-up is a pain to manage.

3. What do you find best about your current set-up?

I love my shorter commute which has resulted in more energy and quality time with spouse, self and kids!  I love getting more help from my mom since she is amazingly good and flexible with her schedule.

4. What advice would you give to other moms about the juggle?

It’s not really about working or not. It’s really about flexiblity. Even within the restraints of a traditional 9 to 5 job, I know I’m fortunate that my boss is understanding about childcare issues as long as I manage to meet deadlines.

I still stand by my love of online shopping: Order as much as you can online.

And I’ve converted to the dark side — smartphone with tons of apps. It’s the only way I can keep track of my emails and shopping lists. My husband and I communicate quickly via text, emails and shared shopping lists, too.

I’ve been taking some vacation days to do a mommy-and-me class with my kids on weekday mornings. It’s shorten my work hours which is nice on a mental level BUT also forces me to eat at my desk some days to get all my work done.  I love using that time to  learn and play with my kids alongside mostly stay-at-home moms or grandparents.  This alleviates a lot of mommy guilt because I have more hours with my kids overall and don’t have to cram all the fun stuff on weekends.

5. Do you think the juggle is harder for women than men?

Yes.  I’m actually guilt-free and good at ignoring snippy comments but I do spend more time cleaning the house and thinking/planning kid-friendly activities.

Feel free to chime in with details about how other women (and men) handle the work/life juggling act!

What The Most Successful People Do At Work

I’m in the middle of reading Laura Vanderkam’s new e-Book “What the Most Successful People Do At Work“, a series that follows two previous e-books about what successful people do before breakfast and on weekends. All of these short books are meant to be quick, informative reads. I think they’re all very enjoyable and most people can get good tips from them. Because work is so busy right now, it’s taking me much longer to read this! For now, I will say that I was struck by the example of a successful children’s book illustrator in Chapter 1, as I expected the successful people profiles to hail from the corporate world. I wasn’t sure if I could relate but considering that there are tons of small business owners, entrepreneurs, freelancers out there AND the fact that in many ways, in the current work world, we’re all freelancers that need to plan and prove our worth daily, I think the illustrator can be a good example for all of us. Right now the main take-away I’m getting is the importance of planning the day and your workload. I enjoy taking on bigger projects that require thought and strategic planning but it seems like most of my workday is taken up by immediate needs (and emails!).

Anyway, I would recommend this book. You can buy it yourself today and you’ll probably finish it before I do!

How I’m Doing On Goals and Pseudo-Resolutions

I resolved to focus on my career, bought an interview suit, and am now on the fence about even looking.  My reason for this change of heart is that I want to enjoy my shorter commute and low-stress job. It’s not that my job is without its stresses and deadlines;  it’s just that I’m a seasoned pro here who knows my job well, including short cuts and knowing the right people to ask for help in most situations. Any new job entails a learning curve and possibly longer work hours and the main reason for our move was to increase my time with the kids.

What I have done:

  • I sort of updated my Linked In skills/profile.
  • I read one or two articles related to my field.  It’s a struggle as I’m constantly tempted by other reading materials.  Now if I can apply what I read to my work, that would be a bonus.
  • I emailed my boss about upping the game in terms of building my skills at my current job. I figure that if I’m too lame to make a serious move and check outside options or go for higher titles, then I should make the most of my current situation.

Still, it feels like the new suit hanging in my closet is a constant reminder of my backpedaling ways!

In other areas:

I ate french fries two days in a row.  I didn’t make a resolution to eat healthier but eating worse is never a goal of mine!

I have not stepped into my gym in months.

I have prepped dinner a few nights but still find it a challenge to make the most of my extra half hour per night.

I am trying to not let the house fall into utter disorder/mess before cleaning.  I sweep up almost daily and try not to let things pile up.  This is good in a way as I’m learning that big cleanings are a bigger chore and headache.  The not so good part is that I end up doing more cleaning overall.

I have snapped at my husband (and others) much too often.  Not doing well in terms of appreciating loved ones.

I’m still a stressful basket case at times (though no longer due to traffic and commute!)

I have done some armchair activism but nothing more.

I signed up for a class — nothing related to work, just fun time with the kids.   I can’t wait…

I’m taking a photo a day. It’s not about being creative or artistic, although I try my best. It’s about documenting the small things in life from a messy sink to messy desk to a messy family life.  A mess is what I got…

So even though I didn’t officially make resolutions, in the back of my mind, I still have some goals that I’m trying to achieve..or not.  How are you doing on your goals and resolutions?

2013 Goals: It’s All About Career Focus

Last year, I tried to address my fears, from dancing in front of strangers to trying the crock pot.  That was a fun resolution but nothing that I would worry about if I forgot about it by the mid-year mark.  In 2013,  however, I’ve decided to seriously focus on my career.  I’ve noticed not-too-subtle signs that my reputation at work has fallen.  I don’t get the big, showy projects.  I am loaded with more repetitive “grunt” work.  Someone thought I had the time to join the party planning committee.   Unless I re-invest in my career capital (read Cloud’s great post about career capital), I think I’m in danger of phasing myself out of a job.

So here are my 2013 Goals:

Read Career-related articles at least once a week or more!: As Cloud suggested, it’s a good idea to use your lunch hour or at least half of it, to read up on career-related articles.  Although this sounds easy, it’s much easier for me to spend that time reading glossy magazines or books!

Attend 1 career-related event or seminar: There are many conferences related to my field and I don’t really think they can help my career.  However, it doesn’t hurt to attend one or two.  You never know who you’ll connect with!

Learn A New Skill, or Improve Current Skills: I hope to do this at work.  Taking Revanche’s advice, I’m going to take the initiative to ask my boss for more challenges.

Start A Side Business! This is a big one as well as a tricky one because it involves family.  A side project is a perfect opportunity to stretch my skill set and test out the effectiveness of my ideas.  However, it’s also likely that this will go nowhere unless I act more like a hands-on business partner than a consultant.

Update C.V. and Linked In: It’s time to dust off that old C.V. and make sure all my current skills and accomplishments are there.  I also need to look at job listings and see what’s out there.  It may simply be time to move on and start fresh.

Do What You Love?: I would also like to take a moment or two to think about what really makes me happy at work, and to think about my next career move.  Part of me thinks I can stay in my field until retirement age,  but another part of me thinks that I probably would need to re-invent myself later in life.

I also want to take this time to thank Revanche, Cloud, Nicole&Maggie, Hush and many others who have chimed in with career-related advice from time to time.  I realized that I only have one real-life friend who I can discuss this topic with, and when we meet in person, we have so many other things to talk about that career isn’t top of the mind. I can’t really talk about this with my freelancing husband because he doesn’t quite have the understanding of long-time office politics, AND any talk of job insecurity will freak him out.  So, thanks all!  If not for you guys, I probably would have remained too complacent about my career.

Are you thinking about your 2013 resolutions/goals yet? Any ideas that I could add to my list above? 

BTW, I need to print out this post or I’ll probably forget my own resolution by mid-year!

Gulp…Fear of Public Speaking

This year, I am going to unwillingly address my fear of public speaking.  This is a challenge I’ve taken on and off in the past but no matter how often I practice, it’s never going to be a favorite activity.  My speaking stint is minor and not a big deal for anyone who’s even slightly comfortable with public speaking but I don’t even like leading large meetings.  I think it’s a combination of little practice and the difficulty of having a softer voice that doesn’t project authority.

For this particular work event, I’ve taken on a bigger role and this includes some time in front of a microphone.    I do believe that people who are good at public speaking tend to fare better in the work arena, so it’s probably good for my image to do this.  However, I am under no illusion that this will translate to a larger salary or title, as I have had periodic moments in the spotlight and I think my “image” at this company is pretty set.

I plan to have a general outline of what to say but also “wing it”, which seems counter-intuitive for someone with stage fright.  However this method has worked for me in the past.  If I have a script in my head, I actually get more nervous; I rather speak naturally.  I have also noticed that one of the most best speakers at our company isn’t afraid to stumble a bit or pause to find the right words.   In other words, just having confidence goes a long way.

Do you fear public speaking? Any useful advice on how to tackle this common fear?  

Side note: I honestly don’t know how people can easily give speeches at weddings or funerals.  I think those situations would be easier than a work function but I really don’t like it when all eyes / ears are upon me.