Thursday, May 28, 2009

Advice to Newly Minted College Graduates

As I spend my morning pouring over resumes of newly minted graduates from my alma mater, Randolph-Macon College, I remember how bright eyed, excited and ambitious I was, heading to the Nation's Capitol for a big-time job in corporate finance. Turns out, like all entry-level jobs, it's wasn't so big time and as I looked around at all the white men with stay at home wives AND nannies, I realized this wasn't going to be the career for me. Don't get me wrong, it was an incredible opportunity, I learned more than I ever thought possible, and in my early 20s I was absolutely fine with working 60-70 hours per week. Next came business school, then consulting, then pow....trying to gain anything resembling work-life balance just fell apart, zoom to Momentum Resources.

Then I read the most frightening article in the New York Times, David Leonhardt's coverage of a Harvard Study showing the economic and family costs of consulting and finance careers, "Financial Careers Come at a Cost to Families." The research, by Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz of Harvard, answers a question that college students, for all their careful career planning, rarely consider: which jobs offer the best chance at balancing work and family life?

The research considers the financial penalties, mainly salary decrease upon re-entry, of graduates in a variety of fields after an 18 month employment absence. For the vast majority of these graduates, this is for child-rearing, though in many cases it's caring for elderly parents and for the very lucky, the rare sabbatical. Golding and Katz's research shows that the best work-life options, with the lowest salary penalty for time off, comes in  public policy and surprisingly, medicine. Lawyers and CPAs fare fairly well but who was hit the hardest? MBAs, with concentrations in finance and consulting. Good work, Jenn. No wonder this whole career and family thing was so hard to pull off! 

If I could take myself back to the spring of 1997 when I was graduating from college, or even earlier, when I was picking my major, would I have done anything differently? Would I have chosen a different path? Probably not, I loved the academic work and the practical applications even more. What I wish I had known is that there is a financial penalty to on ramping and off ramping, that some fields, and sub-sectors, are friendlier than others, that I would have to plan (to the best of my abilities) when and where I'd have my children. 

So there you have it, new grads, the world is your oyster (or at least in this recession, your Spam), take it run. But think carefully about where you want to be in 5, 10 or even 15 years. It seems improbable that at 21 years old, you could actually ever be 30 something trying to figure out how to raise your children and maintain an career, but the steps you take today will impact just how hard it is to find that balance.

Friday, May 22, 2009

THIS is How We Do It

Astute blog readers will recall that my first true crossroads in work-life balance came while reading Alison Pearsall's I Don't Know How She Does It on my first weekend away from the twins, with a fellow twin mom. Having recently finished the book, she looked over the pink cover and said "put it down. It'll make you quit." While I didn't quit my job the next Monday, I did begin to think.....wait, how DO all of these working mothers out there do it? 

Here's the good news, we're not alone. Every day women of all walks of life across every industry imaginable are finding ways to be successful in their careers, despite many perceived hiccups due to child-rearing and care-taking of elderly parents. Want to learn how? Check out the Hot Momma's Project, Kathy Korman Frey's incredible idea that houses case-style success stories to create online access to role models for women and girls. 

Browse the case library for inspirational, yet tangible, examples of how other women (JUST LIKE YOU) have found their passion at work, achieved their desired work-life balance, and become successful at doing what they love. 

Know someone inspirational? Nominate them as a Role Model! We want to hear their story.