Friday, September 30, 2011

What my Rock Star friends taught me

A little while ago, while I was ruminating on the demands of family & career, my husband sent me this blog post on 10 things happy people do differently.

It's a great little list and I was happy to see that I am doing a lot of it - but #3 -comparing yourself to others- that is my poison. I was reminded of this today when I finally got to connect with a fabulous friend on the phone and it came up again. We laughed that just when you decide to streamline your life and smell the roses a little more, you see someone you know being profiled in major media and you want to gag on your fresh, homemade banana bread, which suddenly doesn't taste as great anymore. We have complex feelings about our peers, colleagues, friends, who are rocking the world with their accomplishments when they also happen to be moms like us.

The key is not to compare, because of course you never really can. But an even better bet is to be inspired. I have a lot of successful friends and I'm really proud of each of them. I also learn from them - and through their example, and my own experience, these are the golden rules of holding down a Big Job as a parent. And you can't start the list without recognizing that if you've got even part of this list down, you are lucky indeed.

1. Love what you do - or at least like it A LOT. As one of my leaders once said to me (herself a working mom) - "if you don't love what you do you can't do it - the trade off is too great."

2. You need the A Team at home. This a Sheryl Sandberg point, to make sure your partner is a partner. So true - but beyond the spouse, there is a whole team of grandparents, babysitters, daycare providers, neighbors who help you. You will only ever be as good as this team. Parents committed to their careers put a ton of time, money and effort into getting this right.

3. You need the A Team at work. This means a boss that gets it, and a team you can count on.

4. Time and Money. These may seem like aggravating factors but I think they are actually core to success. In a highly informal survey of my rock star friends I found that the length of their commute and the size of their salary had a direct correlation to their commitment to the job.

5. Company culture - swimming against a company culture that doesn't really walk the walk when it comes to working parents can be a real drain. I've been lucky to have had flexible work options, but so many of my friends haven't. Working Mother has a great list of companies that get it, right here.

6. A working mom mentor or support group. I could not have survived hiring our first nanny, pumping at work, my first 4 day business trip or evaluating any number of career decisions without my ladies. And I have never hung up the phone with any of them without feeling better.

When you see a mom rocking her career, how does it make you feel? Inspired, or defeated?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

On the playground, with a foot in the door

A week ago, I read a blog post on Forbes Woman about not abandoning your career when you leave the workforce, and the importance of staying engaged so you can re-enter. As someone who has twice left and returned to full time work I thought it was great advice. But for a week I've been thinking about how much easier that is said than done.

But then, yesterday, there was this follow up on ways to stay engaged by the same author, Samantha Ettus, and there it was, a damn good list of things you can do. Not only are they smart moves for keeping you professionally relevant, but they can help temper the identity crisis that hits parents when they step away from a career.

In my experience the biggest single thing is growing and maintaining your network - twice it was my network that pulled me back into great jobs. This is cost free and easy to do. It is also great advice for moms who are working now and thinking of taking time off - invest now in connections that can help you later.

I also think making a financial investment in your career while you aren't working is well worth considering - but tough to do when you are not generating income. It's another thing that parents mulling a break might want to plan ahead for. Look at it as a true investment that can pay dividends later on. It starts with some degree of childcare so you can do the following things, which also bring cost: conferences, coursework and yes, cocktails, for networking. Non-profit boards are excellent ways to flex professional muscle for a good cause, and can also extend your network considerably. While most boards require some degree of financial support from members, the investment is in far more than your career options, it is also in a mission that hopefully you care deeply about.

Flexible, short term paid work is the holy grail for the opt-out mom, especially if it leverages and deepens your skill set. If you can find it, it is a gift horse.

Have you taken a career break to parent? If so, what helps you stay in the game?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The terrifying, inspiring future for non-profits

Conferences are all the rage these days - we all endure the tweets. I finally went to one last week, the Board Source Leadership Forum about Governing Towards the Future (1 tweet and two retweets). It was great.

The first day scared the crap out of me and the second day inspired me, which I suppose was by design. I understand now in technicolor the ongoing funding issues we will have - probably for the next 15 years - at a time when our services, throughout the entire sector, will be in escalating demand. Add that to the already difficult task of operating a non-profit and delivering the mission and I was left thinking that I would never have the patience to undertake a full career move into the space.

But the second day fired me up. We can do this. Individual giving is bigger and better than I ever appreciated (thank you to everyone who supports non profits! You make amazing things happen!), strategic partnerships have huge potential to help deliver the mission in new extra-organizational ways, and new ventures are changing the way we approach, fund and deliver our missions. I left the second day thinking that I would never not participate in the non-profit sector, either as a donor, a volunteer or a board member - or all three. It's taken me a while to really absorb the full picture, but as I finally "get it" I realize how incredibly rewarding (and yes, exhausting) it can be to serve on a board, and help to steward an organization through tough times.

Aside from churches and universities (where most of the money goes), what organizations do you support? What makes you give? What would make you give more?

Friday, September 16, 2011

An idle mind...

An idle mind... is a terrible thing to unleash in a blog. But here I am with no car, two kids in school and grumpy about my prospects of ever finding a job that lets me sometimes, just sometimes, be home in time for dinner.

The truth is I've been curious about blogging for a while. I love the idea of a creative outlet, and who knows when I'll ever have this kind of free time again. However, I am about to engage in the aforementioned job search, and I'm not sure now is the time to be posting random sh..tuff.

So it's fair to say I am ambivalent about this. I delete half my tweets, so how will I have the stomach for blogging? And in a true sign one is not ready to blog, I was stymied for AT LEAST 20 minutes on a name (no, time off has not made me more patient).

Blether is the Scottish word for Blather. And Blethering Heights is just the kind of crappy play on words that I tortured my copywriters with for 17 years.

And here we are.