Gig Tip: Do not reveal? Hmmmm.


I had a lunch today with a woman in my industry who is extremely well-known and successful.  She climbed through the ranks within her company and wound up running a subsidiary for many years, innovating and taking the company to new places based upon her vision.   She is now retired from that organization but still busy at work doing “her own thing”.   I had a meeting with her in our offices and it was following this meeting when we went to lunch together, just me and her.  This gave me an opportunity to move beyond the topics we were discussing and ask her thoughts and advice on what worked for her during her career, juggling the roles of a mother and extremely successful businesswoman.

As you can imagine, her situation is unique and unlike many of ours. Her first response was “live-in help who we continued to employ even after the kids went to college.” Uugghhh. That does not apply to me/you very well.

She quickly recognized this and her next piece of advice was something more relevant to me at least. However, I’m not certain if the advice has kept up with the times. Her thoughts were that you separate the kids from work. You don’t reveal too much information. Your co-workers don’t need to know the details. You don’t mention “sick kid” or “soccer practice” but you rather talk about “a needed change in plans” or “a conflict”.

Shush!

I have mixed reactions on her piece of advice of “do not reveal”.

  • I can see her point.  Some people just do not feel comfortable hearing to much information so you may have to be careful with what information you choose to share and with whom (e.g., who really wants to hear about gas movements of your baby or hear you say the same stories over and over??!??!).  Obviously, it is difficult enough to do your job, do your job exceptionally well, and do your job exceptionally well compared to your peers.   Let alone stand out even farther from the pack and exceed all expectations.   Packaging is important.   Perceptions are important.   You do not want to be perceived as not being able to achieve super-stardom because of potential dependability or predictability situations due to children (e.g., sick children).
  • However, she also is in her 60’s and likely made her climb in the 70’s and 80’s, a very different time than today.  There are more women in the workforce these days, with more choices on how to care for children while at work (nannies, daycare, nanny-shares, etc.).  With technology, work is bleeding more and more into the home, therefore isn’t it reasonable that home bleed into work? Are there situations when is it OK?  How private does one need to be to be successful?

I think it depends on the office culture, the dynamics between you and your boss, the kind of work that you do, the industry that you are in, your own personality, the personalities of others in your office, the portfolio of back-up childcare providers you have at your fingertips if/when your kids get sick, and a whole host of other reasons.

But her tone, her packaging, her poise as she gave me the “do not reveal” advice stopped me in my tracks.   I do not think I will ever be a closed-book in the workplace (that just isn’t me, right?), but maybe I should stop and think before I disclose too much of the block and tackling required on the kid-front.   And maybe save the good stories for when the stories are meaningful to those that want to hear them.

I never wanted to be in a job where I felt like my children were liabilities.   Maybe that is why I was so unhappy as a management consultant for so long.  Where I felt like I could not do the basic requirements of the job because of my kids.   Like having a child was analogous to having an illness.  I never wanted to put my children in that kind of position within my own mind or within the minds of others.   I want to CELEBRATE them — BUT if I am NOT working in an industry that celebrates children, or with a company that celebrates children, or with people that celebrate children, then I guess it may be worth thinking about how much information (e.g., limitations because of the kids) I share with my coworkers.

I have not figured this out yet obviously and I am still thinking through the application of this advice in my own situation — in an industry that is typically dominated by men where work is intense and expectations high.    My company has already created hybrid roles and work schedules to better fit my needs.  So the cards are out there.   I guess going forward I will think before I offer up too much information about my hand or the cards that I hold.

Thoughts ladies?  How much do you share?  Do you feel comfortable talking about the kids in your workplace?

Thanks for listening –

– Mama K

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Gig Tips: 9 ways to enhance your professional network


I look back on the different jobs that I’ve had, the opportunities that I have had, and also the future outlook for myself (professionally speaking) and I cannot under-estimate the value of the network of individuals whom I have had the pleasure (or  sometimes displeasure) of interacting.

Do you know that I reach out to my network for personal and/or professional reasons AT LEAST WEEKLY to help me navigate through a problem and/or obtain information.   Most of the time I’m leveraging my network on a DAILY basis, but at a minimum I would say I’m leveraging it weekly.

network

Image source:  collegemedianetwork.com

How can you improve YOUR professional network?

  1. Realize and know the sources of the people in your network.  For me, my network consists of:
    • existing/previous colleagues
    • alumni from graduate school/college/highschool
    • existing/ previous clients
    • friends and/or neighbors in select fields (personal friends, moms/dads at daycare, moms/dads of your kids’ friends, etc.
    • select friends of friends, in select field
    • select individuals who have touched the work that I do through the years (e.g., vendors, partners, people I have interviewed, etc.)
  2. Keep contact information up-to-date; I am a fanatic about keeping my Outlook and personal email contact lists up-to-date with current email addresses and snail-mail addresses.  Whenever I receive an email from someone I have not heard from in a long time, I make sure the email info is current in Outlook, my personal email address book, etc.
  3. Use LinkedIn.   I am an avid user of LinkedIn.  I cannot believe the power of this tool and responsiveness of people who then become part of my own network once I start working with them
  4. Use alumni databases.  I use alumni databases extensively to find people in the right locations, companies, or skillsets that I need help with; also message boards that are set up within the alumni databases I find to be extremely useful
  5. Know how you most feel comfortable in reaching out; feel confident and believe in your story when reaching out; I’m definitely more email heavy than many people.  I’m a visual person and a record of something tends to work best with me (no kidding, hence this blog).   I do use phone, however less frequently.  I find that my first phone call outreach is a bit awkward, but once I get my story down and the reason why I’m reaching out, the dialogue gets much better and I am much more at ease with verbal outreach.   I love interacting with people and find that face-to-face for me works best – I will go out of my way for face-to-face meetings where at all possible – and my favorites are over food and/or drinks.  🙂
  6. Be genuine.  Reaching out to most people are usually when you need something.  Let’s face it.  But sometimes, I reach out to people just because I am thinking about them (e.g., ex-collegues whom are now my friends), or if I come across information or something that I think would be of interest to someone specifically.   I’ve had people reach out to me with canned emails around my birthday with the wrong information about me in their database – each time I get these I cringe; in my outreach to my network I try as best I can to personalize everything.   You build a reputation over years and decades… but you can destroy a reputation in a millisecond.   So in my communications I try to be sincere and genuine – and those that know me know that I write / email like I talk…  I try to make email communications personal and as human as possible.
  7. Be responsive.  If someone in my network is reaching out to me (email, VM) I do my best to respond within 24 hours, if possible.   This is similar to a recent post I did on Give and Take — if someone is reaching out to me for help, I want to give them the respect and respond as quickly as I can – I want to recognize them, see them, and let them know that I am dependable.  What comes around goes around.  I am much better at this in my professional life than my personal life.  Just ask my mom or the best of my friends.   😦
  8. Grow your network selectively.  I have done this by:
    • Asking for contacts through existing contacts, friends of friends
    • Joining appropriate groups in LinkedIn or other on-line forums
    • Opening myself up to the prospect of meeting new people at work events, conferences, kids’ school events/ parents of kids’ friends, social gatherings, industry networking events, the person sitting next to me on the plane….
    • Opening myself up to change – a new job, a new place to live, a new role at the company, a new hobby, a new parenting support group…
  9. Use it!   Make it a habit of leveraging this asset – get comfortable with it!!   The more active you get at maintaining and reaching out to people in your network, the more comfortable you will be at networking in general and continuously building upon it and leveraging the power of the people you know – but in a genuine way.

I’ll likely be talking / posting about some or all of the above in more detail at a later time, but I wanted to start my thinking at least at this level and we can go from there.

Any input ladies?  Any other ideas on how to build, cultivate, and nurture your professional network to help with your job/career?

Thanks for listening –

– Mama K

Gig tips: Be proactive with your career and set goals


I saw this on twitter and thought it good to share. Have a great week ladies!!!

http://bit.ly/1128mXw

– Mama K

Gig Tips: Speak up at meetings


I’m feeling tired tonight so I want to write something short, sweet, and to-the-point.

Have you ever been invited to a meeting with a small group of people and witnessed one person who literally did not add ANYTHING to the meeting?   No comments, no thoughts, no feedback, no voice, no nothing.   Let me tell you, this makes me and others in my company CRINGE.   Why was that person there?   Why was that person taking up that seat?   That person should have been doing something else instead of being at that damn meeting.

Image

image source:  http://jenniferfrahmcollaborations.x.iabc.com/files/2011/06/meeting.jpg

When invited to a meeting with certain objectives, it is important to understand what your role is in that meeting.   Are you there to vet an idea?  Is the person leading the meeting trying to gain consensus for a decision to move forward in some way?  Is it to participate in a debate of an idea?  Brainstorm?  Be informed?  Contribute thought leadership that others can learn from?   WHY ARE YOU THERE???

Once you know this, it is critical that you follow through and do your part.  Fulfill your end of the bargain.   You are an employee there because they see value in you.  They want your opinion, or at least your participation.   When I am in a meeting and I see a non-participant, I get seriously irritated.   Are they not paying attention?  Do they not care?   Is there nothing in that brain to help the cause?   Whatever the reason, it does not reflect well on that individual.

So ladies, be confident.  Be concise.  Be thoughtful.  And come prepared.  And when it is you and a group of individuals coming together to share precious time during the working day, do your best to move that meeting forward.   Speak your mind.  Contribute.   Earn that paycheck.   Be objective, be accurate, and honest.  Sure, sometimes the meetings are boring.  Sometimes they suck.   But we are all strong and we know how to get through painful situations (right, remember 9 months of pregnancy??!?!?)

But whatever you do, don’t text, don’t doodle, don’t look down, and don’t stay silent.

Our time is too limited during the day to waste our own time or to waste other people’s time.

That’s all for now –

– Mama K

Gig Tips: Some initial thoughts on telecommuting


This is a new kind of blog entry for me.  Last week this time, I would have been talking about a Daily Journal where I was balancing being a mom and going to work.   I would have likely talked about Chocolate Tuesday.  But this week, and every week going forward, will be different for me.  I am no longer in that house with my children on Tuesdays.  I am in a different home.  I will have the children the second half of the week.  

So, this leaves me with some time on my hands. 

I’ve been wanting to balance this blog with career-related information that I believe could help working mothers.   There is so much out there to think about and every now and then I come across something that I believe is REALLY useful.  Also, after 20+ years in the workforce, I feel like I have some perspectives to share of my own.  I also believe that there is a very strong overlap of skillset between being a mom and managing a job/career.   I noticed a sharp difference in HOW I worked after having children – some traits for the worse, but some for the better.  Sometimes managing down to your subordinates, up to your bosses, and across to your peers feels like managing a set of Toddlers…. I see the connections frequently, as I’m sure you must as well.

So anyway, this is a test for us.   This may work out well, or it may not.  Who knows.  But I like trying new things.   Let’s see if this kind of post is useful or mildly interesting for people.  If so, I will continue.  If not, I will focus on weeding my backyard instead.  🙂

****

The subject of telecommuting is something near and dear to my heart.  I have the very good fortune of working for a firm where its employees are out of the office most of the time for work anyway… yes, extensive travel is NOT a good thing for work/life balance HOWEVER working in this kind of environment has provided me the opportunity to begin the discussions with my employers about the possibility of my working remotely… carving out a portion of my working week where I can work from home.

I am lucky that I work for a company that believes that “people on the go” can still be productive – this is what we’ve built our business on. But face-time is still important in this line of work as well.  Face time can be important when you need to work with teams.   Sometimes working face-to-face is more efficient – and yields much better results.  But, sometimes you have those “heads down” kinds of tasks where it actually is better to be alone – with less interuption – and more time to focus on what you need to get done.

I believe that telecommuting/workshifting has been PARAMOUNT in my happiness; being able to feel productive at home with your work frees up your time, makes you feel more in control of your life, and simply enables you to be there more for your children when need be (e.g., volunteering, still working if your children are home sick, being able to cook a home-cooked traditional dinner on those days, etc.).

So how was I able to negotiate this kind of working arrangement?   How did I begin?  How did I manage to sell the concept to my management?

I do not know the answer 100%.   But I do know that my tenure there meant something.  That my value to the company was worth more than the risk of having me leave.   I approached the concept as a “test”; let’s see if this works for you, for me.  And I’ve worked VERY hard to make sure this arrangement is humming and that I’m not dropping the ball.  It has taken some time to refine, and there were some kinks that had to be worked out – for example checking email even when I’m not “on the clock” so I can respond to clients, communicating to EVERYONE when I am available and when I am not, making sure I am reachable, setting up a proper workspace in my home so that I can be productive….. there are many things that make this work for me.   And I could probably write more about this if people are interested.

I also have one thing to share that I recently came across at TeleworkResearchNetwork.com:  Lister, Kate; http://TeleworkResearchNetwork.com, (2010), “”Telecommuting Benefits: The Bottom Line”.   

http://www.teleworkresearchnetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2012/03/Bottom-Line-on-Telework-in-the-US.pdf

I thought that it was interesting how they decomposed the value of “workshifting” to the individual, the company, and society.  The website is also interesting and focuses on the topic of telecommuting.

Maybe this could help you in discussing the potential with your own employer?   Maybe it could help you to paint the benefit that they could see from a workshifting arrangement?  

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Thanks for giving me the time to read this “experimental” post –

– Mama K

image sourced from: http://ecoeng49.blogspot.com/

Random Thought: What type of Mama In Motion are you?


I’ve recently made a HUGE transition in my working arrangement at my company.   I’ve realized (and have been tortured over the decision, to be blunt) over the past several years and months that although I like contributing to the financial security of our family and like the challenges of having a job/career, I wanted to make some changes to the time committment that I make to my work compared to the time committment I make to my family.  So, I’ve essentially went from a Full Time worker, to a Full time with some flex time (e.g., working from home), to a Part-time worker also leveraging flex-time.   Quite a change!!!

I’m curious to hear from you — what type of Mama In Motion are you?

Thanks for sharing – more on this topic over the next several weeks.

– Mama K

Random Thought: When evaluating new job opportunities, would you sacrifice “quality of time with your kids” for “more money”?


It’s Tuesday and I have a Random Thought.

I want to thank Mama Serenity for expressing her situation at Meet other Mamas In Motion.   Her description is extremely heartfelt and her tone expressions the confusion and internal conflict that she faces.   It does seem that her existing job treats her well and to some extent suits her balance with her children (but there is travel required and peaks of her business).  She is now presented with another opportunity — and although she has information from which to base a decision, there still is the large “unknown” factor.   I think the “unknown” is what causes stress and pressure in the decision-making process, particularly when these decisions impact not only you, but your entire family.   I believe it is much easier to be a risk taker when you only have to worry about yourself and it becomes harder to venture out into the unknown when these decisions impact your entire family and your little ones.  I feel like I’ve remained in my current job because of my kids – my company knows me, and I know how to navigate to make the most out of my situation with the kids.   There may be better options for me elsewhere – but the unknown does cause me stress particularly if I feel like my current job gives me and my family a sense of stability and security.

This got  me to thinking.   I’m guessing that collectively, working Mamas In Motion are changing jobs all the time.  Job opportunities present themselves – or we proactively go looking for them.   Does the decision process become more difficult if you have little ones to consider?  Or, maybe its just the opposite — does the decision-making process become EASIER if you feel that the things that are most important to you are NOT being fulfilled in your current job situation?   There are considerations to be made when evaluating opportunities, and there are tradeoffs.  And it becomes more difficult when you are potentially leaving a “known” situation to an “unknown” situation, one that may not be able to fulfill on a bonus that you hope to count on, or one that may not be as family-friendly as you assume.

Here are some considerations that I can think of – would the new opportunity provide more:

  • money, compensation, benefits?
  • quality time with the kids (e.g., shorter commute, more flexibility in hours, possibly being able to work from home on some days)?
  • responsibility?
  • stability, job security?
  • autonomy in getting the work done?
  • interesting / compelling work?
  • the ability to stretch your skills and grow in new areas?
  • synergies with people — culture, working style alignment?

This now gets me to a series of polls for the group, for working Mamas:

2 of 3:   If the choices are narrowed down to “more Money” vs. “more Quality time with the Kids”, which would be most important to you when deciding on whether or not to take a new job???

3 of 3:   I’d like to understand the threshold where you would select “more Money” instead of “more Quality time with the Kids” when deciding to take a new job.   How much of a raise would you absolutely require to accept a position, where the tradeoff is less quality of time with your kids (recognize that increased income could still improve their quality of living, but, they would have less time with you).  Would the new job HAVE to give you at LEAST a raise of:

Life is about tradeoffs – earning money for your family to have and do nice things is wonderful, but spending quality time with your children is obviously important as well.   I think the difficulty really sets in when you feel like your life is seriously out of balance; this balance threshold differs for each woman and given each different and distinct situation.   We are all unique Mamas In Motion and I’m sure we will see this in the poll results.   Thank you for participating!

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