Sunday, December 28, 2008

Me? Just Like a Kennedy?

Although I'm an inside-the-beltway kind of person, tracking political news daily, I hadn't given much thought to Caroline Kennedy's run for Hilary Clinton's New York Senate seat. But today I read Anne Glusker's op/ed in the Washington Post, "She's a Kennedy, But She's a Lot Like Us," and it really made me think.

Anne describes her own resume (big career pre-kids, consulting/freelance since then) as being very similar to Caroline Kennedy's, and shockingly like the last chapter of my own. As a middle-aged woman, whose young children are no longer young, returns to the workforce, how is she received? What does all of her part-time or consulting work mean? Can she, or any of us, return to a full-time career when our resumes have a more winding path than Lombard Street in San Francisco?

As Glusker points out, many women don't "opt out" when they have children - they're pushed out by a workforce that is entirely incompatible with family life. When the family's all grown up, many women are faced with a stark reality: many contacts are no longer valid, their job skills are out of date, and much of their volunteer and freelance work is not valued in the marketplace.

Since the writing's on the wall for us, what can we do while out of the traditional step-by-step career force?
  • Keep Networking: make a MONTHLY commitment to yourself to have lunch/coffee/drinks with people from your past life; your old assistant, a vendor you loved, you name it, keep their contact information updated in your Blackberry and USE that contact
  • Join a Professional Organization: most industries have strong national trade organizations with local chapters that have regular networking events, educational seminars and opportunities to earn professional development credits. Although it seems like a stretch at the time, putting on a suit, shaking hands with a stranger in your field and keeping those skills fresh should be on top of your to-to list.
  • Volunteer Strategically: Every school needs volunteers, lots of them, but do not spend ALL of your waking hours at your own children's school. Find a cause you believe in, use a skill you can't hone at home, and dig in. Make friends and contacts outside of the ever-important (but very small) world of your children's school.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Lessons from Dickens

With dire economic news all around, I find myself looking for lessons in all of the bad news. After becoming thoroughly depressed with CNBC, I switched over to NPR for something a little more positive. Even if the news itself wasn't positive, I find the calm, soothing tones of their broadcasters somewhat reassuring. On Monday I stumbled across Diane Rehm's Interview with Les Staniford, a biographer of Charles Dickens, with a new book out, The Man Who Invented Christmas.

What I heard were tremendous parallels to today's tough times, examples of tenacity and ingenuity to come out ahead and some warnings of how now to fall victim to Dickensian plight.

Firstly, Dickens was the way he was ("Debbie Downer," to quote my college-aged babysitter) because he was the only member of his family to not go to debtor's prison. Even though his father had a good job as a Navy Clerk, he spent more than he earned and the whole family was jailed because they owed the baker. The lesson? Live within your means, no matter what those means are. In modern times we may not go to debtor's prison but the shackles of credit card debt are enough to bear.

Secondly, in tough times - just when you think your career is kaput- your greatest accomplishment might be lurking. Dickens wrote a Christmas Carol when he was broke during the "Hungry (18)40s," after a disastrous trip to America, just when he thought he might have to go back to his day job. Down in the dumps and debt-ridden, seemingly destined to repeat the sins of his father, Dickens wrote a story he thought would keep creditors at bay. This story is credited with creating the modern interpretation of Christmas. The lesson here is that sometimes our greatest accomplishments come out of the worst circumstances.

Lastly, with tough times come desperate measures. Dickens wrote this story in the age before copyrighting and he was quickly ripped off. A rival copied this story and sold it for many dollars in the U.S.; Dickens never got rich from his greatest work. The lesson here is that in tough times, folks are looking out for themselves. Whether it's a colleague stealing credit for your work amidst pending layoffs or something more nefarious, dire economic straits can bring out the worst in some people. Maybe they just need a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Future.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Business Case for Reduced-Hours

We always knew that the flexible hours model worked. Maybe it's reduced hours, maybe it's flexible full-time, maybe it's just a little telecommuting when needed but bottom line, this employment model works. It's best for families and great for companies trying to attract and retain top talent. Now current economic conditions are proving that it's best for the bottom line as well.

As highlighted in today's, the upside (to us) of the economic downturn is that more employers are calling us. Clearly, these hiring managers are simply looking for a smart way to lower costs while getting the same (and often better!) output. And we're more than happy to help.

Momentum Resources candidates are lowering the total cost of hiring a staff attorney by approximately 35% for one client, bringing a non-profit client's financial management costs down by 40% and the increasingly popular contractual relationship is minimizing our clients' hiring risk.

This economic environment is giving Momentum Resources candidates the chance to prove- in a variety of functions across multiple industries- that yes, the flexible work environment does in fact work. It's cheaper, you get the same or better output and once this economy turns around, we will have created more flexible work options for working parents.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Best Minimal Effort Holiday Dish

This post is a bit off-topic, but I stumbled upon a tremendously easy, delicious and kid-friendly recipe that I wanted to share with you all. This is the perfect comfort food dish to have ready as we zoom around in the pre-holiday madness:
Crock Pot Chicken & Stuffing
1. Prepare Stove Top stuffing as directed (basically, boil water and stir!)
2. Place one 16 oz bag of baby carrots and a one quartered onion in the bottom of your crock pot.
3. Place 3 chicken breasts on top, season with salt and pepper. Top with 1/2 Stuffing mixture.
4. Place another 3 chicken breasts on top of that layer and again, season with salt and pepper.
5. Top with remaining stuffing, Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
It is delicious, contains vegetables and takes about 4 minutes to prepare. Wow your family with this recipe which gives you the appearance of a calm, cool and collected meal planner at the height of the holiday busy season!