Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Reigning in After-School Activities

I'm a big fan of the Miami Herald's Balancing Act Blog. Today's post by Cindy Krischer gives some fantastic tips on scheduling and managing all of those crazy after-school activities that are just gearing up after a long, hot summer.

I was totally unprepared for how much more flexibility I needed in my career once my children entered elementary school. Looking back, how on earth was I supposed to get to a 4pm soccer practice when I didn't get off work till 5pm? And dinner? What?

Between carpooling, enrolling in school-based activities and grouping the kids' activities together, I've made it work. But I wanted to share Cindy's excellent suggestions with you as you wade through a mountain of Brownies, soccer and tae kwon doe registration forms:

* Guage your flexibility at work. Your employer may be willing to make an arrangement with you, even if it's temporary, to allow you to get your kids to practices if you come in earlier. This usually involves a conversation in advance.

* Consider proximity. The more activities kids can do at school, the easier it is on working parents. Get a schedule of team try-ours from your child's school. Some day-care centers have started to offer dance or martial arts classes during the day.

* Let your child choose. Children inevitably are more successful when they choose the activity rather than a parent. "If it's something they really want to do, they are more likely to figure out on their own how to get where they need to be," says Mandee Heller Adler, a Hollywood college admissions consultant.

* Find a carpool. This is when networking with other parents pays off. When asked, most working parents are thrilled to split driving duties.

* Do the activity with your child. Attorney Valerie Greenberg enrolled in martial arts classes with her two kids. She found it the best way to combine exercise for her with activity for them.

* Look into online activities. Your child might want to take cooking lessons by watching online videos at home.

* Enlist multiple children in the same activity. This may seem like a no-brainer but it may require some compromise.

* Ask about flexibility. If you plan to sign up for gymnastics or dance classes for your child, find out whether they have make-up opportunities for those times when your work schedules prohibits you from getting your child to their activity.

* Lose the guilt. "Parents don't have to be at every practice or show," says parenting expert Laura Gauld of Sometimes, stepping back has its advantages, she says. "Someone else steps up and can turn out to be a good mentor for your child."

*Know the expectations. While elite youth sports teams are popular, they require travel and mandatory practices. It's best to check into requirements before signing up for a major commitment.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Working Mothers Redefining Success

MSNBC.COM recently ran a great article aggregating several new studies and research statistics about the changing roles of mothers in the workplace. Eve Tahhimcioglu's article cites new studies showing that women now make up the majority of the workforce (51%, but still...), are delaying starting families, are better educated and are, in short, redefining the rules of success.

I recall my first performance review cycle after returning to work following the birth of my twin boys. It was "fine," you know- meets expectations consistently with a few exceeds expectations in there- but I'm not just "fine." Doggone it, I'm a rock star! How could I be just average? Well, I'll tell you how. Because 2 or 3 nights a week I was up several time nebulizing an infant with an inflamed respiratory tract, I had to leave at 5pm to make daycare pick up and frequently missed work for sick kids. Why couldn't they couldn't get sick at the same time, but rather, one after the other?

My husband has always been an equal partner and in fact during that time period he took the morning shift (including daycare drop off), split sick days and was a frequent flier at the Pediatrician's office. But what that review cycle told me was that I wasn't superhuman, I was not the same employee I was before I had kids, I had (significant!) external factors that limited my ability to go above and beyond.

With the help of a dear friend, who returned to work after having twins the same day I did, we sat down and drafted "New Goals for Success." They're outdated, company- and industry-specific, but the gist of it was we could not judge ourselves against our child-free co-workers. It was just apples and oranges. All we could do was our level best day in, day out, and then get home to our families.

I urge each of you to think about redefining what success means to you. Does it mean the proverbial corner office? A "C" in your title? Well good on ya, you have my vote ! But for you it might mean being off every other Friday to volunteer in your daughter's classroom, or home by 6pm on Mondays to lead cub scouts, or the ability to work from home when your little one is sick. There are tradeoffs for each of these, no doubt, but if they're your goals, you won't feel like you're missing a thing.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

When the Job Search Drags On

A job search in this market, particularly one that involves competitive rates, flexibility and the right location, can be quite time consuming. It's important to focus your limited time on the best next steps.

First, do you want to do something different or do you want to continue what you’re doing, albeit in a more flexible manner? If it's the former, you've got your work cut out for you. Career transitions are tough in this very crowded market. Focus on in-demand industries and identify your most highly desirable skill sets.

If the latter, what companies do you want to work for? Who's hiring for your skills and in your area? Which of those companies show up on Working Mother's Top 100 list for flexibility? Who in your peer group raves about their flexibility, where do they work? In short, you need to develop a target list and drill down.

On that target list, who do you know in each organization? Reach out to your own network via phone, email and offer to take folks out for a coffee. It's 20 minutes and $5, the best use of your time (captive audience!) Use the Search Function in to find people in your network (or your network's network) at (or formerly with) those companies. Check out our LinkedIn Job Search Tips. Make a spreadsheet, track your correspondence, be overly thankful for assistance and time.

This is absolutely a partnership and a process, we're happy to help along the way, even if that means you don't land a position with one of our clients.

Congratulations Corporate America!

In what can only be described as Corporate America finally "getting it," Bank of America has announced they are expanding their My Work program. Available to 23,000 of the Bank's 283,000 employees- and expected to double next year- the My Work program allows employees to work when and where they work best. They work from home, suburban telecommuting centers and home offices around hours that work for them and their families. Can I get a Hallelujah from the Choir? In an era when there's nothing but bad news out of the financial services sector, I'd like to send props their way.

And the thing is, this isn't a publicity play, nor a "feel good" initiative (there's no room in corporate budgets for feeling good right now!) but rather there's a real business case for these kinds of efforts. Bank of America reports increased productivity and significantly improved retention at 98%. It costs 1.8 times the annual cost of an employee to replace him or her, translating to real dollars saved.

And building out smaller, flexible suburban work centers where employees drastically cut down their commutes and simply plug in a company laptop and use a company cell phone? Wayyyy cheaper than the fancy downtown headquarters with sparkling fountain and marble lobby. Not to mention, the reduction in carbon foot print on drive time and commute time, a huge work-life plus.

Good work, Bank of America. Keep it up!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Salary Levels & Resources

Vickie Elmer, one of our favorite Washington Post business writers, recently detailed the lack of salary information in job descriptions. Vickie reports exactly what we're seeing: compensation levels are volatile and vary widely. You can (and should!) leverage resources like, but Vickie's team of experts also suggests:

-- If you already work for the organization, simply go to the human resources department and ask. This may work for some outside candidates, too, especially if they are finalists for the job.

-- Check recent job postings specific to the city and industry where you want to work and to your level of experience. Exclude contract jobs (unless that is what you're seeking), because their base pay is much higher. Recruiters also can be great sources.

-- Use Web sites to learn a ballpark estimate of market salaries.

-- Talk to people who already hold the job you want. Connect with them on LinkedIn or through professional associations. Ask for career advice and insights -- including salary ranges.

And keep in mind that salary levels are a function of supply and demand. In the Washington, DC area, there are thousands of unemployed attorneys and bill rates are showing it. But IT professionals with security clearances are still able to command competitive rates. If you've been out of the job force for a few years (for raising children, layoffs, etc) keep in mind that you will likely not make what you made then. It's math. It's the Great Recession. It's the role and the budget for the role but it's not you.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

10 Things Recruiters Won't Tell You recently posted 10 Things Recruiters Won't Tell You that gave the Momentum Resources staff both a good laugh and a hallelujah from the choir, and we wanted to share them with you.
  1. Your interview attire is outdated/messy/too tight/too revealing/too flashy.
  2. Your physical appearance is disheveled/outdated/sloppy/smelly/overpowering (i.e. too much perfume).
  3. Your eye contact is weak/shifty/intense.
  4. Your handshake is limp/too forceful/clammy.
  5. You say ah/um/like too much.
  6. You talk too much/use poor grammar/say inappropriate things (i.e. swearing) when you answer interview questions.
  7. You appear overconfident/pushy/self-centered/insecure/aloof/ditzy/scatter-brained/desperate.
  8. You talk too fast/too slow/too loud/too soft.
  9. You giggle/fidget/act awkward/have facial tics/lack expression.
  10. You lack sincerity/self-confidence/clarity/conviction.

Home Office Tips

Between Graduate School, occasional telecommuting for a Big 5 Consulting firm and running a start-ups's office, I've had a lot of experience with the home office. I recently saw some great tips in Ladies Who Launch "8Tips for Setting Up a Home Office," and wanted to share them with you.

Some of my own tips include:
  • Designate a space. If you need to make phone calls, you need a door. Yes, this means my older kids will share a room till they leave for college but I need a separate space for files, doors to close for phone call privacy and some physical separation to keep my contracts, files and laptop off the dining room table.
  • Get the Right Gear. Wireless printer, laptop, the Pentax Mobile Scanner, these are all things that make my home office possible. I love Ikea's while cardboard (with space for labels!) storage boxes for uniformity in storing files and supplies and Real Simple (available at Target) makes great, stylish home office organization supplies.
  • Get a Headset. Make sure it has a mute button for the occasional home-office noise (dumpster being delivered next door, dog barking at mailman, etc.)

Friday, August 6, 2010

I Might Screw Up, But No One's Going to Die

Even in the best job I've had, Directing the Washington, D.C. office of Momentum Resources, I have bad days. I make mistakes. I forget to return calls or am late getting in a contract, but at the end of the day, no one's going to die. As stressful as life as a working mother can be, imagine if your professional life held other people's life in the balance?

I considered this after reading Parenting Squad's "Work Life Balance Tips from a Heart Surgeon." The article details tips from Dr. Kathy Magliato, a world-renown cardio-thoracic surgeon. Dr. Magliato believes that there's never really a balance, and rather than compartmentalize the two parts of our lives (which- let's be honest- women are just not good at doing!) we should integrate the two.

Dr. Magliato advocates involving your children in your day-to-day work. Whether it's occasionally bringing her children on rounds or having them make artwork for her patients, she's found a way to bring what she does while she's away from her family into her family.

It sounds easy enough, but for many of us, do our kids even care? I tried to talk to my 8-year old boys about what I do and although they were somewhat interested in me helping other parents find jobs that allowed them to spend more time with their families, they really wanted to know when we could go to the pool. Any my 3-year-old? Forget it.

Do you talk to your children about your day job? Have you found unique ways to incorporate your children into your daily work life? Are your kids even remotely interested? Share with the crowd!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

You CAN Have It All, Just Not All At Once

Today the Wall Street Journal covered interesting new data on the success of women in the workplace, so long as they don't have children, in "Women Near Equal in the Workplace, Mother's Fall Behind." The article, like so many in recent months, recommends policy changes for increasing flexibility in the workplace and admonishes the United States for falling behind so many of our peers in this department.

Sure there are many, many things our government, Corporate leaders and non-profit advocates can do to improve the lives of American families, but I think it's important to remember that you can have it all, just not all at once.

If you scale back your hours and work responsibilities to spend more time with your family, that's more than ok, but you're probably going to lose a promotion to your non-parent co-worker who's putting in 50-60 hours each week. Maybe that used to be you, maybe that will be you in a few years, but right now, you're dialing back. Good for you, enjoy it. The smartest moves companies can make to attract and retain top talent is grant flexibility to dial up and down on the career track as family requirements mandate.

One of the things the Momentum Resources family is most proud of in the Great Recession is that we're finding win-win situations for both our candidates seeking a balanced professional life and our clients seeking the best bang for their bucks. We're matching Brand Managers that want to work 30 hours per week with employers who only have 3/4 of a role's budget and accompanying pipeline. We're putting Project Managers to work at firms whose project lifecycle works around school schedules. Rather than mandating policy changes, we're showing every day that this works to everyone's benefit.