Recently, we went out for dinner and drinks with two other couples. We're all in our late fifties, and most of us are at slightly different places in our careers; the executive is still going full throttle, two of us retired about three years ago, one guy retired and is now jumping back into a demanding position after some time off, one woman left an executive position years ago to raise her children and takes on big projects from time to time, and the other hasn't worked outside the home since becoming a mother (many years ago).
I don't remember what we were talking about, but I distinctly remember when the executive said, "Women have a tough time with careers because they have to deal with that "pull" once they become moms. We men just don't have to deal with that." I was taken aback by his words. So of course I asked some questions. I asked how he came to that conclusion. I asked if he'd always felt like he'd given his children and his family all of the attention they deserved. I asked if he ever felt guilty as he had to make decisions about his time that pit his career interests against his family's interests. I suggested that maybe society's expectations of women and men played a bigger role in his perception than any inert "pull". I told him I just didn't buy it.
It's worth noting that these people are not old-school, stuck in their ways, traditional types. In many ways, maybe even most ways, they're very progressive. And yet, this high-level exec appears to have drawn some pretty significant conclusions based on a data point of one; his wife. And I think it's worth noting that even though their kids are grown and gone, she still isn't pursuing a career, so I'm not exactly sure what "pull" prevents her from pursuing a career now.
This is why we continue to advocate for women staying in the workforce - even when it's easier to walk away. Until men truly understand what it takes to be part of a dual career couple and manage personal responsibilities as an equal partner, the women who pursue careers with as much commitment as men will continue to face perspectives that are faulty at best and down right troublesome and hindering at times.
If we want our daughters to have the same career opportunities as our sons, we have to do the hard work of creating an environment that enables that.
Submitted by Ray Blessman
As a guy looking to make a career change and a parent of 20-somethings, the topic of job search techniques regularly pops up around our dinner table. Well as regularly as is possible given that the kids aren't actually at the dinner table all that often anymore.
As I mentioned in a previous story, Maybe the Kids Can Help, I'm at a stage in my career where I can pause and look around before landing my next gig. I've spent most of my career (so far) working for an employment firm, so I'm very familiar with the idea that finding your next position is all about networking. I'm also aware that fundamental shifts are occuring that may cause "old style" networking activties to play less of a role in future job searches as online networking opportunities become more sophisticated. Some recent trends are outlined in a a Fast Company article called "This is how you'll look for a job in 2019".
With this in mind, I set out see just how far I could get in my own job search by focusing exclusively on online processes. Had I needed to move fast, I'd have integrated traditional networking activities up-front, but I've got the luxury of time, a strong resume, and years of executive-level experience, and I wanted to see how far all that would take me ... online. I figured I might even land a great position in the process.
I set out on my quest to find a great position by completing the following activties:
Step 1: Update resume
Step 2: Submit scores of resumes and applications via online processes
(i.e. via company web sites, job boards, and email aggregators)
Step 3: Relax and wait for the interview opportunities to roll in (or may just sift through the offers?)
It's been a few months, so this seems like a good time to report on the intial results which are listed as follows:
While job search techniques may be shifting, they haven't shifted that much. Not long ago I read that about 85% of jobs are landed via networking. I could imagine that rate may be even higher for an experienced professional looking for an executive-level position (like me). As I look for opportunities to add value by integrating economic data based on market factors into business decisions, it's clearly going to take live conversations for a company to truly understand how these skills will drive business results.
I also know that a lot of these online processes exist to simply process applicants identified via traditional networking processes and to protect companies legally as they hire. Maybe they'll offer more than this someday, but they're not there yet.
So while my online job search experiment was entertaining and informative, I expect to be talking with a lot of friends and former colleagues over the next weeks and months. I know I have a lot to offer and a burning desire to add value in significant ways. At the same time, I'm reminded that not everyone has my network and not everyone may be lucky enough to have a network like yours. That's why I believe each of us has an obligation to seek out people who need a helping hand; a link into a network that could change their lives. (More about this is in the story Key Takeaway.)
In the meantime, I'll continue to advise my kids; it's all about the networking.
Those who want to dig deeper into my story may be interested to know ...
Pointer to an NPR story and video by Domenico Montanaro
Dual income couples are usually pretty good at juggling multiple roles. Couples who observed their parents doing the same thing may have a bit of an advantage over those who feel like they're breaking new ground.
This is why we're so impressed with Marty Ginsburg, the late husband of supreme court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. By all accounts, he was extremely supportive of his wife's career before it was the cool thing to do.
Last weekend NPR ran a story and posted a related video about Ruth and Marty, and the many unique ways Marty supported Ruth over the years. What a great example he set for those of us who want to be supportive spouses.
Reproduced with permission from Amanda Rose Adams
Some working parents spend most of their annual Paid Time Off in children’s hospitals, specialty clinics, and/or caring for medically fragile children.
To have a “day off” with your child and spend it in a children’s hospital the way others might visit a zoo or museum is still a paradox for me after more than sixteen years. It's a bit surreal.
This is a life where gratitude always outweighs resentment because what one has to lose is so substantial in contrast to what one must surrender. And yet, one does surrender certain experiences, expectations, and small hopes in exchange for the most extraordinary hope of all.
My son was in an MRI machine when I started typing this into my phone. While I sipped Chai tea I ran into his orthopedic surgeon who has been treating him since he was two years old. I also evaded eye contact with his former cardiologist.
In my working career, I strive to be the kind of person people WANT to work with. I can’t imagine coworkers would brand me difficult. As an increasingly senior employee, I mentor daily. I coach, and I work hard to help my junior co-workers grow and thrive. As a mother, my standards are higher, my patience shorter.
I was difficult for one doctor, asking too many questions, doing too much research. I was too much for him, and our communication wasn’t enough for me, so I found a new cardiologist for the second time in my son’s life. The first cardiologist we left was ill-suited to be supportive in light of the odds we faced in the beginning. Those odds were not in our favor, and neither was his bedside manner.
Sometimes the stakes and the decisions on our shoulders demand being difficult. As a woman, I have avoided being difficult in the workplace as such a label can stick in a bad way. As a mother, I don't care about my reputation, only the quality of care and outcome for my child and all other children who will pass his way.
I know caregivers of elderly parents can also relate to this. Siblings take care of disabled siblings. We are not alone. I see you too.
Submitted by Ray Blessman
For over 30 years I've been intensely pursuing my career. The good news is that I've enjoyed the work for the most part. And I've become somewhat of an expert when it comes to managing remote teams, retaining customers, and helping others grow their careers and thrive. At the same time, I've been an adjunct professor and really enjoy interacting with college students virtually. Things are different now than they were when I was in school, and the students are different too. If I didn't know this from my teaching experiences, I know this as a dad to two 20-something kids.
These experiences and attitudes have led me to a point where I'm able to pause and look around as I think about how I want to contribute during the next stage of my career. Toward this end, and as a learning experience, I recently decided to pursue some part time employment figuring it will enable me exerience current trends in recruiting, hiring, etc. As a former vice president for a recruiting company, this topic fascinates me.
So, cell phone and laptop in hand, I set out to experience various hiring processes like a boss. One opportunity that caught my attention was with Shipt, an online delivery company. This seemed like an interesting option given that I'm the family grocery shopper, we live close to a grocery store, they offer a flexible work schedule, and their services heavily rely on technology.
Step one was to apply; online, of course. That process was easy and successful. (And an improvement over another experience with another company.) I was immediately ushered to the next step: a request to verbally answer three questions which were recorded using my laptop. The process was timed. Already I was learning. My previous employer had not incorporated this much technology into hiring processes.
One of the questions I was asked to answer was: "What would you do if an item on a customer's shopping list was not available?’ I played out the scenario in my head: If I was the customer and shopping in-store for a 12-ounce package of Kraft shredded cheese and couldn't find it, I would either purchase a different brand, pick up a larger size, or perhaps substitute with a different product like a three cheese blend. In the end though, to answer the application question, I said, "I would follow the proceedure outlined in the Shipt training provided as part of this application process."
The next morning I received an email stating that my services are not needed at this time. I was invited to reapply in six months. And apparently that wasn’t the correct answer!
The good news is that I achieved my objective to learn more about hiring processes in 2019. I also found myself wondering if the applications are processed outside the US given the overnight turnaround. But most importantly, I think I learned that I may need to consult with my own kids as I embark upon this adventure. I've been helping them navigate the world for over 20 years. Now I need them to give me a hand.
When I entered the workforce in 1985, the concept of a full-time "working mother" was mostly untested. The suggestion that mothers who worked "too much" would experinece loads of guilt if they missed any of their children's firsts (e.g. steps, words, smiles) was widespread. In fact, it was suggested we'd experience guilt if we missed anything. I often wondered how men managed to weather these losses, but nobody ever seemed to write or talk about that subject.
Most of us who decided to take the risk and work full-time while raising our kids thought about the guilt consistently, if not constantly. Friends, relatives, the media, and even schools helped keep the concern alive with comments like "Thankfully I don't need to work", "I don't know how you do it", "Let us at least consider the possibility that many women, deliberately rejecting the values of male careerists, are discriminating against the job 'rat race' and in favor of their families", and/or "Can you be at the school at 10:30 am on Tuesday?" For me, that last comment was the worst.
It seemed like all of us dual-career couples ran ourselves ragged attempting to be sure that neither our kids nor our employers would be short-changed when it came to our time. We carved out time for the kids, we burned the midnight oil for our companies, and once in a while we took time to talk with each other about it. (It's probably worth mentioning that it wasn't always pretty either.)
Imagine my surprise when my kids left for college and I wasn't overcome with guilt (as I wrote in the story "Surprise Contentment"). I was also surprised when I read a recent New York Times article, "How Parents Are Robbing Their Children of Adulthood" which stated, "Today's working mothers spend as much time doing hands-on activities with their children as stay-at-home mothers did in the 1970s."
This left me wondering: Is guilt still a thing for working parents? I'd seriously like to know. Please comment below.
When our kids were ten and 15 we took a family trip to Europe. It felt like a big deal at the time, and looking back on the trip now it was a big deal. At least for us. It was the first time the kids had been outside the US, and we'd all spent months planning and talking about the trip. My husband and I had done a fair amount of international travel for business, and we thought it was important for the kids to have some of those experiences too.
Our adventure started in Rome. After flying all night, we landed at the airport where we were to board a train into the city so we could check into our hotel. After retrieving our luggage (another funny story) we went in search of the train. Still a bit groggy and disoriented, we pointed out airport "differences" to our kids, as we all took in the sights and sounds of our surroundings.
After only a few minutes we had to stop and regroup. We just couldn't seem to find the train station that the guidebook assured us was right in the airport. This was in 2006, so pre-smart phones, which meant we had translation books and hard copy guidebooks. My husband and I engaged in a bit of intense debate as we tried to determine the best way to find the elusive train station.
At this point, our ten year old son, who is never afraid to speak up, suggested that maybe we should head in the direction of the train icon posted on some of the airport signage. My husband and I looked at each other and laughed as we told him, "Good idea!" We then wondered how we'd managed to miss that very obvious clue ourselves. Our belief was that we were the European travel "experts", and we hadn't left much space for the kids to become experts themselves. We hadn't even recognized them as valued members of the "team".
That experience, combined with the recognition and observation that many parents (ourselves included) insist on being the experts, leaders, and sometimes even saviors when they interact with their kids, changed the way we traveled as a family from that point on. We recognized that the kids were often as capable as we were, and we gave them opportunities to prove it.
We all seem to want our kids to excel in so many areas ... unless we're around. If we're around, we often reserve the role of "expert" for ourselves. It feels so darn good. For us. But what does it do for them?
Pointer to a podcast
I recently accepted an invitation from a financial planner to discuss how we managed our finances, and you can listen to the conversation. Lucas Casarez, the financial planner and a working parent with two small children, interviewed me, and the conversation is now available via a podcast called "Early Retirement as a Working Parent". We talked about various aspects of being a working parent; especially topics related to money management including ways to cope with unexpected career twists, enjoying life, being a supportive spouse, and more.
If you want to gain greater control over your financial future, take a listen. Maybe you'll hear something you can use. As Lucas says at the end, "It's important to learn from your own mistakes, but it's even more valuable to learn from other people's mistakes." Maybe you'll learn something from ours.
A lesson from from David Letterman's Netflix interview with Melinda Gates
Melinda Gates is interviewed by David Letterman in season 2 of his popular Netflix series "Our Next Guest Needs No Introduction". During the interview, she talks about her work in the developing world, the roles of women there, and the realization that even in the US women have not achieved equality in many places. So she asked herself many questions including, "How can we be sure we get equality in our homes? In our community? In our places of work?"
David Letterman asked her, "How can we? What is the key there?" Her reply: "I think you have to start in your home." She went on to say that sometimes you have to have uncomfortable conversations in your marriage to make sure that you have equality there.
She then goes on to provide an example. When their oldest daughter started preschool, Bill suggested that he should drive their daughter to school two days a week, and he did. Suddenly, a lot more fathers started taking their kids to school too. Apparently when some of the mothers saw that Bill was driving the little girl to school, they went home and said to their husbands, "If Bill Gates can drive his kid, so can you."
Never underestimate the power of your actions. You may not be Bill or Melinda Gates, but people notice what you do (and don't) do. You can make a difference.
Submitted by Ray Blessman
As summer rolls around, articles about the shortage of lifeguards start blooming along with the lilacs. My son is well qualified for one of these positions; he's an Eagle Scout with a Red Cross certification and is currently swimming competitively at the college level. But again this summer, he won't be applying for one of the many positions that are available.
My work experience is deeply rooted in accounting and economics, and it appears that somewhere along the line, my kids learned how to determine the value of their time. At the core of a lifeguarding certificaton, there is a requirement to put your own safety at risk when that's necessary to save the life of another. For outdoor lifeguards there are additional risks associated with so much sun exposure. And to top if off, given fickle weather conditions and the hourly nature of the pay for most lifeguards (which is only provided when the weather conditions are right), few employers are offering them 40 consistent hours of work each week.
Given this high level of responsibility and the risk, you'd think that lifeguards could command wage premiums over many other jobs available to college students in the summer and certainly you'd expect them to earn a higher hourly rate than those paid to fast food workers. But apparently, as of the summer of 2019, they don't. And because my son has spent a lot of time listening to me, and he can do the math, he'll be seeking other work opportunities during this break.
It occurs to me that teenagers working as lifeguards serve as a bellwether for the way many first responders are feeling right now. These feelings probably explain why the country faces shortages of police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and other first reponders. Compensation for these roles just doesn't align with the risks, and I can't help but wonder how bad things need to get before we start paying them more.
I'm glad that my work helped my son understand the value of his time and skills, but I worry about what will happen if I ever need a first responder.