Thursday, March 18, 2010

Work Time Revolution

NPR just began a great 3 part series called When Employers Make Room for Work Life Balance. Author Jennifer Ludden cites research by University of Minnesota sociologist Phyllis Moe and what she describes as a "work time revolution," akin to the industrial revolution, that takes the emphasis off of a rigid 9-5 schedule with a face-time culture.

We are seeing that every day. With a strong emphasis on the bottom-line and workers at every level eying the P&L, it suddenly doesn't matter how or when or where work gets done. So long as the work is done right, on time, and customers are happy so that sales are up and costs are down, managers are increasingly approving flexible arrangements. The Great Recession has in many ways been a blessing for working mothers.

Moreover, it's a blessing for any type of workers that want flexibility. The author cites an increase in GenX, GenY and millennial employees demanding a greater work-life balance and a reluctance to be tied to the desk. We're seeing that too. What began as a company to help working mothers achieve greater balance and solve clients resource problems has turned into a company that can help freelancers maintain a pipeline, grad students work evening hours and baby boomers to maintain a career without burning the midnight oil.

And the smart companies get it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Should You Leave the Mom Label At Home?

I read an interesting blog post today on the San Francisco Chronicle's website that got me thinking: Should you leave the mom label at home? This is certainly an interesting question, particularly given the fact that "mom" is in the title of our company.

The author is responding to a commenter that noted she listed her titles as "Girl Scout CEO, Lawyer, Mom;" mom was third. The author goes on to say why and tells an interesting anecdote about interviewing for a job and asking about the culture. When she asked if it's OK to leave midday occasionally to volunteer in school or make a recital the interviewer said "sure, just make up an excuse, no one will ever know what your'e really doing." She didn't take the job.

It reminded me of my first job search post-MBA. A mom of newborn twins, I couldn't figure out how and when to disclose this. On the one hand, would I knock myself out of consideration if I disclosed it to early? But on the other hand, do I want to work for a company where I have to hide my family status? Ultimately I chose to disclose this at the end of the third interview, once they already wanted to make the offer. Although I was always the mom, the one who had to get up and leave meetings to make daycare pick up, I tried to keep my mom "chatter" to a minimum, 2 kid pictures maximum in my cube. For me, at least at that time, work was the one place where I didn't have to be the mom 110% of the time.

Fast forward nearly eight years, and this is what we're selling! Although we work with a variety of individuals who need some sort of flexibility in their lives- Dads, Baby Boomers, Grad Students- we are primarily helping working mothers achieve balance and professional success at the same time.

What's happened? Well for one thing, the Great Recession. With managers focusing on P&L and production, not a culture of "face time," it's suddenly extremely attractive to hire part-time professionals. Getting more done in less time and for less money? Bring it on!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Social Media Research for Job Interviews

So your resume was fabulous, you networked, got the interview, now what? It's research time!

Every job candidates knows that you must visit the company's website, review core competencies, read the latest news releases and know the management team, and an even more industrious candidate might google the company and see what else is out there.

But most candidates are missing a huge advantage over the competition in their research: social media. And as we've discussed repeatedly, it's a very crowded job market, you must stand out.

Here are a few tips to use the easy, free and publicly available social media outlets to set you apart in your interview preparation research:
  • LinkedIn: Join the company's page, review the company's profile and most importantly, identify and 1st or 2nd degree connections within the organization. If you've got a 2nd degree connection, ask for an introduction. Take those "insiders" to coffee, pick their brain about the company's culture, challenges and opportunities.
  • Twitter: Use the SEARCH function to find out what others are saying about the company. Follow major players, what are they saying?
  • FaceBook: Fan the company's page, if they have one. Enter the company name in the Search field to determine if you have a FaceBook friend with a connection there.
  • Google Alert: Enter the company's name in the Google Alert search field and every day you'll receive a daily digest email with all relevant references that day across the entire world wide web, from blog posts to news releases and even Twitter feeds.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Internships, the New On Ramp for SAHMs?

Last fall I had the pleasure of speaking to Anne-Lise Gere, a stay-at-home mom and graduate student seeking the right return to work strategy. Though she lives in a market we don't currently serve, we offered to help. We're big believers of good karma and besides, Anne-Lise was the perfect guinea pig for a new career-switcher and On Ramper strategy: the grown-up internship. Here's what she had to say in her own words.

I have been a military spouse for the past 10 years and we have moved 6 times during the past decade. Along the way, we have welcomed into our family three children (currently 8, 5 and 2 years of age). I have a solid resume and over 10 years of experience in Human Resources with blue-chip companies around the world, working in three countries over three continents.

I stopped working full-time a few months before the birth of my first child because of a military move. I have not been back into the full-time employment since. However I have always considered that I would go back to work some day. I have grown to be a believer that you can have it all, but not all at the same time. In order to keep my life interesting, to make new friends and to keep my managerial skills fresh, I devoted time to other activities, besides mothering three little ones. For example, I worked as a journalist in Hawaii (another military assignment), helped a friend with a small business, volunteered in many capacities (VA hospital, schools, museums). I also embarked on a new professional qualification to specialize in Compensation and Benefits. I have worked on my own with books and study guides for the past 3 years, taking one exam each year and finally claiming my new designation this year.

After years of theory, I was ready to apply my knowledge to the world of work. Regardless of the economic environment, I was not considering a full-time job. I don’t have to work for money thanks to my hard-working spouse and some good home economics. However, we are thinking about the future. We feel the need for a more balanced life style for both of us. This will entail him spending more time with our family (not difficult considering several 12-months’ deployments overseas), and me working more outside the home for money.

So I decided to look for an internship just like during my student days. I am happy to report that I have been successful. A growing defense contractor has accepted to take me on as an HR intern working on projects in the area of benefits and compensation. The company does not have a budget to pay for an intern. I was asking for $50/day, enough to cover child care for the toddler. However, they have mentioned a “bonus” once I start producing some good work products. We have agreed on 8-10 hours/week, mostly from home but I have a badge to go into the office whenever I need to.

I went into this search for an internship with 3 main objectives

  • Gain practical experience on Compensation and Benefits
  • Refresh my resume
  • Gain insight into a new industry

My current assignment meets all 3 objectives. I think using the word internship worked well for me. It sounds less of a commitment than part-time work (and it is from a financial standpoint). It also gives me the flexibility I need when one of the three children is sick or there is no school (snow days, teacher workday, vacations, etc.). I am a married, single mother with no family nearby, like most military spouses these days.

Longer term, once my husband retires from the military, my objective is to work part-time in my area of expertise either as an adjunct consultant for a professional firm or an employee in a business. And once the children are in college, I might even consider returning full-time!

Know where you want to be, put the means in place to get there and grab any good opportunity along the way. That is my motto.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Economic Consequences of Breastfeeding

Today's Wall Street Journal blog has an interesting post by Ruth Mantell on the Economic Consequences of Breastfeeding. Deciding how and what you can physically do to feed your baby is an extremely personal choice, one fraught with emotion and, cultural influence and health statistics, but this article struck me as the first time I'd seen a financial downside to breastfeeding. When faced with the to-breastfeed-or-not-to-breastfeed decision with my first children, twins, cost was a major factor. Have you seen the cost of formula?

All of the costs associated with breastfeeding that the author lists (pump, nursing bras, etc) are really small in comparison to the cost of formula. More and more health insurance policies cover lactation consultants and even the rental of a hospital grade pump (Tip: get your pediatrician to prescribe it under "failure to thrive" and file a claim under durable medical equipment).

But the data described by researched Phyllis Rippeyoung from Acadia University is interesting; "In terms of long-term earnings, women who breastfeed less than six months have similar income trajectories to those who never breastfeed, but those who breastfeed for six months or longer have far steeper declines in income, mainly due to their increased likelihood of reducing their work hours or quitting.”

Before coming to Momentum Resources I was a management consultant at a Big 5 Firm returning to work with 6 month old preemie twins. After pumping exclusively for 6 weeks until they reached their due date the boys finally learned how to breastfeed with a very supportive husband and miraculous lactation consultant. I still consider tandem breastfeeding one of my greatest accomplishments in life! But with the stress of returning to work I decided to breastfeed just twice a day and not pump at work. After all, I was starting work on client site and sharing a physical office with my client on a military base. I didn't think I could waltz in and say, "excuse me sir, would you mind vacating your office so I could pump?"

A couple of years later I worked in our corporate office which was blissfully outfitted with a pumping suite, replete with recliner, locked door and small fridge for storage. One day I noticed a middle-aged man walk into this suite, toting a bag from the deli across the street. Moments later, the scent of raw onions came wafting out. It suddenly occurred to me: this man was eating a stinky onion-laced sandwich in the coveted pumping room!

Feeling slighted from my own experience, I marched right up to the door, knocked and calmly explained to the man reclined in a chair, eating his stinky sandwich with his feet propped up on the fridge, that this room was reserved for pumping mothers. Looking embarrassed, the gentleman quickly packed up his stinky meal and exited while I triumphantly marched back to my cube. The next day I discovered he was a Regional Vice President visiting our office. Perhaps that was my personal economic consequence to breastfeeding.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Our Table: Salmon and Green Beans with Buttered Almonds

Continuing the Our Table series, sharing successful family meals that meet my strict criteria (fast, affordable, healthy and delicious!) I wanted to share what worked last night.
I adapted a recipe from Real Simple to make this meal dairy-free (my kids are allergic) and servings for 6 so that there were leftovers for 2 adults for lunch.

I also broke out the cast iron skillet, inspired by a recent television segment I participated in, detailing dangers in your home. Needless to say the scratched Teflon coated pan made it's way to the trash can afterwards.

7 boneless, skinless salmon fillets ($9)
3 TBS of butter substitute ($1/serving, Earth Balance)
2 lbs Green Beans, trimmed and halved ($2.50)
1/2 cup sliced almonds ($2)
Organic Salad (bagged, $3.5)
2 TBS Capers ($1/serving)

Melt 1TBS butter substitute in the cast iron skillet and saute salmon fillets for 4 minutes on each side until the fish flakes. At the same time boil 1/2" of water in a second skillet, add green beans, cover and steam for 5 minutes. Remove salmon from skillet, rest on plate and add the remaining 2 TBS of butter substitute to the skillet. Add the almonds and capers, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Serve the almonds over the green beans and salmon, serve with a fresh salad.

Delicious dinner in 15 minutes and at least than $20, that's cheaper than a meal at McDonalds.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Moms+Part Time Jobs = Healthier Kids

A friend passed me a very interesting article today published on by Neharika Sabharwal detailing the lasting findings on research conducted by the University of New England (UNE). The study, led byJan Nicholson, principal research fellow at Melbourne’s Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, found that women with flexible work schedules raised healthier kids.

The study, titled "Do Working Mothers Raise Couch Potato Kids?,"cites findings that show no great difference in health (measured by TV time, height/weight, amount of exercise) among working and non-working mothers. In fact, the healthiest combination was with mothers working part-time and flexible solutions.

Nicholson states several theories, from "quality vs. quantity" of time of working mothers to the way mothers working part-time run their households. What do our friends down under know that we don't?

I know from my own personal experience that I plan and prepare better meals and snacks when I'm busy, working and running an efficient household. I get laziest around the holidays and in August when work slows down and schedules grind to a halt. Of course, the study concludes with "more research is required."

And You Thought WE Had it Rough

I'm coming off a lovely week-long Florida vacation where I stayed (mostly) unplugged and did lots of great family things like biking, walking and reading and dove head-long into work yesterday. I was just having that return-from-vacation panic attack that results from a giant InBox, unreturned calls and more work coming in when I spied an interesting article in the Washington Post. Blaine Harden's article, With High Pressures, South Korean Women Put Off Marriage and Childbirth.

What a giant dose of perspective! Whereas on paper America has less comprehensive working mother benefits, after all we have FMLA (unpaid, after 1 year of employment, only for companies with more than 50 employees) South Korea provides a year of subsidized parental leave. South Korean culture, as described by Harden, shows a culture war of the traditional role of the wife and mother against the demands of working mothers.

Not all husbands, parents and in laws are perfect - not by a stretch- but for the most part I'm seeing working families pull together in a giant team effort. Pickups at my youngest son's noon dismissal preschool show scores of retired grandparents lining the halls. I strategically plan "Camp Grammy" during the last week in August when there are no summer camps to be found. Most fathers I know in the area do either pick-up or drop-off and the waiting room of my pediatrician's office, conveniently downstairs from our new Momentum Resources Washington, DC office, is about 50-50 women/men.

We have a long, long way to go in terms of women in the C-suite, supportive legislation and the Chore War going on at home, but I feel very thankful this morning for the women the blazed trails before us, facing the same cultural wars as South Korean women today, to make what I have possible. In honor of Women's History Month, thank you.