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Dream Jobs | Do They Really Exist?

Recently when discussing some frustrations surrounding a work place indiscretion and how it was handled (or more aptly how it was not handled) by the powers-that-be, my friend and colleague remarked, “I don’t go to work to have my needs met.”  Cue my existential crisis in response.

As I’ve continued to replay the conversation, I realize that now I could care less about the indiscretion or its lack of “public relations finessing”, instead I’m left in a mixed state of cognitive dissonance facing both the impending doom of the unknown and the refreshing optimism surrounding my career path. In one well-timed quip, my entire approach to my career progression, my work history and education, and my identity were called into question: who am I if the title I chased and achieved isn’t a cornerstone to my significance? As it turns out, on the heels of the pandemic, many of us are grappling with the same question: does a dream job actually exist?  And, if it doesn’t can we free ourselves by working to live rather than living to work, and stop relying on our work to meet our soul’s needs?


According to psychologists at Stanford University and Yale-NUS College, there is a reason so many of us are shaken when we recognize that the ‘dream job’ is just as fleeting, and just as much of a well constructed rhetorical gimmick as the ‘American Dream’.   We are thrown into the depths of existential despair in large part due to the years of planning, financial investment, and time spent (all, now perceived as lost) because we have hung our soul’s hopes and dreams on the ‘fixed’ hook of our dream career.  Instead, the report’s findings espouse a ‘growth’ mentality as the key to fulfillment; this mentality, combined with our resilience, allows us to adapt to an ever-changing work force and to “think innovatively about [our] industry.” When we become “overly narrow and committed to one area, that could prevent [us] from developing interests and expertise that [we] need” to bring different fields together.

But, the silver linings in abandoning the notion of “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” (you’ll also never have healthy boundaries, or an identity beyond your work either) abound.

Instead of holding a dream that centers upon our labor for someone else’s financial gain, we should be shaping our dream life, and pursuing a job that is the right fit for our current needs in that pursuit.  In short, our job should support and fund our dream life, instead of our ‘dream job’ becoming the origination and determinant of every aspect of our life beyond the boardroom.

When we can let our idealized perceptions of ‘the one’ go, we begin to recognize that finding fulfillment beyond our career, allows us to pursue benefits we may have never thought to consider —like working remotely, a flexible schedule, a better salary, an easier commute— the list is only limited by our own ‘need’ to have a job be paramount.  If we can view ourselves, and our contribution to the world as separate from our work, we can invest our passion in our soul’s desire and let work, be well, work.

Rather than shape our life around accommodating our dream job, what would happen if we turned the tables, and instead pursued a job that allowed us to attain our dream life?  Take note from the Career Contessa, and pursue your next step in your career like you would any other physiological need in your life (e.g. a house hunt): make a list of your negotiables, non-negotiables, and everything in between.  Address your wants, and needs, and determine your required and ideal salary (do your research!); consider the day-to-day of your job and what constitutes a must-have versus a nice-to-have.  And finally, begin making your list of ideal companies and industries that feel like the right fit for your life’s dream.


Our fulfillment of our soul’s desire and our significance in the world are not reliant on our job title.  When we pursue fulfillment beyond our work, when we work to live rather than live to work, we can grow professionally, and personally toward our life’s dream.  There is freedom in knowing we are in the driver’s seat, and that we can decide to change directions at any point.  Our colleagues may be talking about us around the water cooler one day, for our audacious pursuit of happiness beyond our ‘dream job’.

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Your Emotional Intelligence Quotient is Key to Your Success Equation

Inspired by this week’s episode of the Moms Making Six Figures Podcast with Brenda Lee, Emotional Intelligence Expert, who believes in the power of identifying our perspective and pushing through our conditional gaps to tap into our mind’s subconscious.


Part of the human experience is suffering.  And sadly many of us have experienced that suffering at the hands of another person in our lives, whether it’s the negative comments made by our father-in-law brushed off as ‘just his personality’, a boss who always asks us to stay late making our work-life balance that much harder to attain, or a poorly timed “friendly reminder” from the HOA about the state of our lawn, all of this suffering is imposed by and met with an Emotional Intelligence Quotient (or in the case of suffering’s worst offenders, the lack thereof).  And while we all know the old adage rings uncomfortably true, that we can’t control others, only ourselves, by improving our own EI (Emotional Intelligence) we will change our own perceptions of, and approaches to suffering, and model, for the less emotionally intelligent, the common denominator in the happiness and success equation.


The theory of EI was brought to the forefront of American psychology by Daniel Goleman in the 1990s.  While the concept was widely accepted in the field of psychology, employers were reluctant to embrace EI in the workplace.  Now, however, research has found that emotional intelligence is not only foundational to achieving personal happiness and success, but that it is also the strongest predictor of workplace effectiveness.

Here are the five key components of Emotional Intelligence, how to improve your skill set in each, and how each component, when put into practice, can benefit your personal and professional life.

Self-awareness

Individuals who are self-aware can identify their emotions and the impact of those emotions on their thoughts and behavior; they know their strengths and weaknesses and have self-confidence.

  • Keep a journal— Journals help to improve your self-awareness. Spending just a few minutes each day recording your thoughts can begin to move you toward greater self-awareness.
  • + The pay-off: Your mental health. Uncontrolled and unaddressed emotions and stress can take a toll on your mental health.  Learning to understand, identify and get comfortable with your emotions in order to manage them will help you to improve both your relationship with yourself and others, thereby leaving you feeling less lonely and isolated.

Self-regulation

Individuals who are able to self-regulate can manage their emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments and adapt to changing circumstances; they can control impulsive feelings and behaviors.

  • Hold yourself accountable— Easier said than done, but if you have a tendency to blame shift, it’s time to take some ownership. Make a commitment to, and a habit of, admitting your mistakes, and accepting the consequences.  You will have more respect for yourself, and quickly earn the respect of those around you.
  • + The pay-off: When you understand your emotions and you are capable of controlling them, you’re better able to express how you feel and to understand how others are feeling. This improves your communication and will allow you to establish stronger relationships both at work and at home.

Motivation

Individuals who are self-motivated work consistently toward their goals and have extremely high standards for the quality of their work.

Empathy

Individuals who have a strong capacity for empathy understand the emotions, needs, and concerns of others; they pick up on emotional cues.

  • Pay attention to your body language— An often underrated, but hugely important facet of how others perceive us, perceiving them, is our body language. Learn to control your own body language to prove you are someone who is truly empathetic and open, and learn to read others’ body language to get an accurate read of how someone truly feels.
  • + The pay-off: By investing time and effort to really pay attention to others, you’ll actually gain insight into your own emotional state as well as your values and beliefs. When we pay attention to others, their needs, and their overall well-being, we foster safety and establish trust in our relationship.

Social Skills

Individuals who possess strong social skills can maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team and manage conflict; they recognize the power dynamics in a group or organization.

  • Learn conflict resolution— No one likes conflict, but it is inevitable. Knowing how to manage conflict and to successfully resolve it is essential to honing your social skills and finding success in both your personal and professional endeavors.
  • + The pay-off: When you are in tune with your emotions you are better able to connect to other people and the world around you. Your emotional intelligence directly correlates to your social intelligence; the greater your social intelligence the more your stress will be reduced and the more balanced your nervous system will be through social communication leaving you feeling loved and happy.

While suffering is a part of the human experience, it doesn’t have to define it.  When we take the time to invest in our own emotional intelligence, we benefit not only our own happiness and success, but we also become a multiplier in the lives of those around us.  By taking ownership over our own progress at home and in the workplace, we can reduce our own suffering and the suffering experienced and imposed by others.  The work is worth putting in for the reward, as psychologist Travis Bradberry notes, when M.B.A. students received emotional intelligence training (not a usual part of the M.B.A. program), “even after graduating from the program [they] had raised their [emotional intelligence] scores 40 percent.  They had trained their brains.  Practice doesn’t make perfect, but practice make things habitual.”

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Manage Your Mind

Inspired by this week’s episode of the Moms Making Six Figures Podcast with Brooke Paulin who believes in the practice of managing your mind and the small daily habits that lead to great success over time.


 In a world where we are inundated with more information and more access to it than ever before, we are faced with new challenges like ‘consumer fatigue’, information overwhelm and digital burnout.  The media and social media industries are designed to be addictive in nature, releasing dopamine or cortisol dependent on the nature of the content, that keeps us coming back for more and ultimately conditions our behavior.  Information, and the way in which we access it is not the enemy, instead it is our passive consumption of that content that can wreak havoc, particularly when we are bombarded with negativity, click-bait headlines, and divisive rhetoric.  Just as we fuel our bodies and health with nutrition and exercise, we must manage our mind and the information we choose to fill it with.

With nearly 69% of adults and 81% of teens in the US using social media, it is time for us to become active participants in managing our minds, our mental states, and our mental health.  Here are a few small changes you can make to be better prepared and intentional with the information and inputs you choose.


Reality Check

We would never let our children sit for hours on end, absent-mindedly in front of screens and we shouldn’t allow it for ourselves either.  While it may not seem like you’re spending that much time on devices outside of necessity, your Weekly Activity Report likely shows something different.

Start by taking an inventory of the current time you spend consuming content intentionally vs. out of habit or boredom.  Once you have begun to inventory your passive or active consumption tendencies, track for a day (or longer) every piece of information you digest with a “+” if it is beneficial to your personal life, work life, or overall well being, a ”–“ if it negatively impacted or took away from your personal life, work life, or overall well being, and an “=” for no impact other than time lost.

Seeing our habits in black and white allows us to see where our own struggles actually exist.  It takes five positive interactions to offset each negative interaction; is it any wonder we are more anxious, depressed, and lonely than ever before?

Schedule (and plan) Your Screen time

Self-monitoring and scheduling your consumption habits can change not only your perception of the information you digest, but also, your behaviors.  In 2018 the University of Pennsylvania conducted a study that observed the behaviors of 143 undergraduates.  One group was asked to limit all social media activity to only 10 minutes per platform, per day, while the second was allowed to use their social media as usual for three weeks.   The group that limited their scrolling “showed significant reductions in loneliness and depression during those three weeks over the group that continued using social media.”

As Brooke pointed out in this week’s podcast, “I don’t think that some of the top CEO’s, and, you know, multi-million dollar female business owners … I don’t think that they’re scrolling through social media that’s not feeding their mind. There’s no room for that.”  What would you be able to accomplish in a week of limiting your scrolling habits?

Empty the Junk Folder

Once you’ve taken inventory of the information and input you’re allowing in, and you’ve refined your mindless scrolling by replacing it with intentionally scheduled time for content consumption, get rid of anything that isn’t serving you, your mental health, your professional life, or your personal life.

Once you’ve emptied the Junk Folder, take note from some of the most successful people and follow suit by replacing what wasn’t serving you with content that does.  According to research, what makes highly successful people less stressed, happier, and more productive is scheduling their personal priorities before tending to other people’s priorities.  That goes for what you’re consuming too.  Instead of starting your day by checking email, dedicate an hour of your morning hour to be your Power Hour where you replenish your motivation with podcasts, books and curated content that supports your goals, challenges you, and leaves you feeling ready to tackle the day.  Ask your mentors what they listen to, what they read, and who they follow on social media to begin refining your palate.


In order to be successful in managing our mind, our mental state and our mental health, we must be intentional about what we consume and prepare our daily activity and schedules with discernment.  Just as nutrition is fundamental to achieving our health and wellness goals, so is the information we consume.  We avoid pitfalls of hunger by meal planning and preparation, and we can avoid the pitfalls of media and social media by planning and being thoughtful consumers.

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” –Alexander Graham Bell

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Where Have All the Women Gone?

Inspired by the NBC News coverage of recent report findings published by Deloitte, in “Women @ Work: A global outlook”.


With viewership of Hulu’s most-watched original title, The Handmaid’s Tale, achieving record numbers following its season 4 premier nearly a month ago, it should come as no surprise that women are seeking an escape from their own overwhelming workloads –at home and on the job— via entertainment.  And yet, that ‘escape’ to a dystopian television series based on Atwood’s 1985 prophetic novel, that so closely mirrors the current state-of-affairs for women in the workforce, seems to be more cathartic than entertaining; the show and its themes giving voice to the ‘perfect storm’ awaiting women following the COVID-19 pandemic.  And while America is still a far cry from the fictional Gilead, the disappearance of women from the workforce is nothing short of distressing.


The Findings

Deloitte’s survey of over 5,000 women from 10 countries from November of 2020 to March of 2021, confirmed what any working mother has already endured throughout the pandemic: an increase in responsibilities at work and at home, taking a devastating toll on mental health and leading to burn out.

  • 8 in 10 women surveyed said their workloads had increased since the pandemic began, but so did their responsibilities at home.
  • Job satisfaction dropped by 29 points over the pandemic, “with women considering opting out of their workplaces –or the workforce entirely— in troublingly large numbers.”
  • More than half of the women surveyed are less optimistic about their careers than they were before the pandemic.
  • Overall, 57 percent of women plan to leave their workplaces in the next two years or less, while 21 percent say they will eave sooner than that, all citing lack of work-life balance.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 women are considering leaving the workforce altogether.

The Cost

The contribution of the female labor market over the past 125 years has been a major factor in America’s prosperity.  In fact, a recent study “estimates that increasing the female participation rate [in the American workforce] to that of men would raise our gross domestic product by 5 percent.”

However, women face significant obstacles in achieving their professional goals, made even more insurmountable by the pandemic.

  • The gap in earnings between women and men is still significant.
  • Women continue to be underrepresented in certain industries and occupations.
  • Too many women struggle to combine aspirations for work and family.
  • Further advancement has been hampered by barriers to equal opportunity and workplace rules and norms that fail to support a reasonable work-life balance.

According to Janet Yellen, a Distinguished Fellow in Residence with the Economic Studies Program at the Brookings Institution, “If these obstacles persist, we will squander the potential of many of our citizens and incur a substantial loss to the productive capacity of our economy at a time when the aging of the population and weak productivity growth are already weighing on economic growth.”

The Next Step

We cannot continue the devastating path we are on; the pandemic has wiped out the job gains women made over the past decade. Women now have an unemployment rate in the double digits, for the first time since data began being reported by gender in 1948, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Women’s unemployment in April of 2020 was nearly three points higher than men’s according to Labor Department rates reported by The Washington Post.

Kimberly Churches, CEO of the American Association of University Women believes we should focus our attention on bills and legislation that are focused on: pay equity, practices in the workplace on flexibility and on access to care—like the Paycheck Fairness Act and the FAMILY Act.

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation believes we should focus our attention on the caregiving crisis, beginning with a national paid family and medical leave policy.  “We’re the only industrialized nation without one [a paid family and medical leave policy].  We also need federal action to stabilize the teetering childcare industry and to direct additional resources to long-term-care services and supports so that ill and aging adults have options besides relying on a mother or a daughter.”

Rachel Thomas, co-founder and CEO of LeanIn.org believes that remote work, as long as it is embraced correctly, will be key in maintaining the presence of women in the workforce while legislation and cultural norms catch up to the disproportionate caregiving responsibilities falling on the shoulders of women, one of the major factors in nearly 2.2 million women completely dropping out of the workforce.


While the US is a far cry from Gilead, our workforce may not be.  With women leaving reluctantly to be “stuck at home mom’s”, employers must take action to preserve an essential asset to our economy.  And the solutions don’t require a revolution; nearly a quarter of the women surveyed by Deloitte say, “better child care/caregiving support, short-term sabbaticals and better resources to support their mental health are the top three things companies can do to keep them.”  It’s time to get American women back to work, with the proper supports to stay there.

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With Spring Showers Comes the ‘She-Cession’: Keeping the Plates of Working Motherhood Spinning in the Midst of a Pandemic

Inspired by Maria Shriver’s investigative report for 3rd Hour Today, The State of Women: She-Cession.

The month of March typically fills our calendars with the return of spring weather, spring-cleaning, spring training and spring break, but this year, March also marks one year since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus pandemic.  While we typically welcome the renewal and recharging that comes with spring, this year, many of us are instead reflecting on the insurmountable challenges and changes presented by the last year, and by the pandemic.  One of these challenges and changes has even coined a new name –the ‘She-cession’—plaguing American women, mothers, and caregivers and costing the United States an estimated “64.5 billion a year in lost wages and related economic activity” according to the Center for American Progress (CAP).  As we prepare spring break plans, however different they may look, we continue spinning our countless caregiving and career plates but to what end?  The pandemic’s effects are taking both economic and personal tolls, and they are hitting women the hardest.

In a recent report conducted by the CAP, findings show that women have lost a net of 5.4 million jobs as a result of the pandemic-induced recession, nearly 1 million more jobs than their male counterparts, and Black and Latina women have experienced a 50% higher unemployment rate than the national average according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  While women are experiencing the benefits of workforce trends that have emerged in the last year like working remotely, they continue to shoulder the majority of domestic duties.  In fact, working moms are 1.5 times more likely to report an additional 3 hours a day on domestic ‘chores’ like supervising their children’s remote learning –practically another part-time job, and an unpaid one at that. As a result, the most recent Women in the Workplace report found that for the first time, 1 in 4 women are considering stepping out of the workforce or downshifting their careers.  The outcomes of the ‘She-cession’ are nothing short of disastrous—jeopardizing huge strides made toward gender equity in the workplace, lifelong effects on skills and earnings potential, and a significant impact on women’s mental and emotional health.

So what do we do? How do we solve problems as great as women living in their cars to afford care for their aging parents after losing their job? How do we pay the estimated $1 trillion bill of unpaid labor performed by women in the home? Girls Who Code CEO Reshma Saujani is proposing a “Marshall Plan for Moms” that would ask Congress and the White House to support working mothers by implementing multiple policies that would address problematic parental leave plans, stabilize the child care industry and pay $2400 monthly to mothers to for their unpaid labor.  Issues like these, according to Saujani, who has garnered the attention and support of many working moms including celebrities, are forcing the hand of working women and mothers, “We aren’t choosing to leave the workforce, we’re being pushed out”.  There is hope.  The Biden administration is already reviewing the “Marshall Plan for Moms” and has already backed several of its initiatives such as family leave and subsidized childcare.

As working mothers, we embody empathy, compassion, interpersonal skills and the ingenuity required to care for, teach, and respond to the ever-growing needs of our children and our families.  Let’s come together and take action to utilize these talents and advocate for ourselves, our families, our world and our place in the workforce.

Find valuable resources, support, and action steps toward advocacy at the California Work and Family Coalition.

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Putting the “We” in Team: The Value of Teamwork

The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is in the team.” – Phil Jackson

You’ve heard it before, no (wo)man is an island. From the workplace to life in general, the truth is that if you have an “only I can fix it” attitude, you’re just making life more difficult for yourself.

When it comes to solving life’s problems, we as moms may sometimes (ok, most of the time) feel like we can solve everything, but we can solve our problems more quickly and with less stress when we accept others’ help. As hard as it may be to give up total control, you and everyone else around you will be better off if you work as a team.

So, if you have a partner (in business or in life), then you have someone on your team. While building a team may be easy, maintaining it is a whole other story. Here are some skills that are key to putting the “we” in team.

The 3 Cs: Skills for Successful Teamwork

1. Communication

Since you’ll be working together—at work, in business, or in your household—effective communication is the most important skill to master for successful teamwork. Listening to each other helps show support and lets everyone know what page you’re on (hopefully the same one!).

For example, if your husband has an important meeting the following morning, pay attention to his request for help and come up with a solution together. You may have to drop the kids off in the morning, but perhaps your partner can pick them up in the afternoon. If one team member doesn’t listen to the other, there will likely be serious miscommunication, which can lead to unintended mistakes (like leaving the kids stranded at school!).

How you communicate matters just as much. According to an article by Harvard Business Review, how we communicate is the most important factor in determining team success. So, be aware not just of the words you’re using, but also of your body language and the tone of your speech when you’re communicating.

2. Compromise

As long as more than one person is involved in problem-solving, there are bound to be a few conflicts along the way. Compromise in most situations isn’t a bad thing, it’s a necessity—it demonstrates that you’re putting the good of the team ahead of your own wants. So, how do you compromise?

Start by understanding what the other person is trying to say. Put yourself in their shoes and make an effort to understand their point of view. Oftentimes we are simply listening to answer—impatient to get our point across—rather than listening to understand.

For example, when hunting for a new office location, your business partner may want to stay closer to the highway because it’s more convenient for her drive from home; in contrast, you may want your office to be located in the heart of downtown because it’s closer to the business district and better for client meetings. Although there are obvious benefits to both locations, the compromise here could be to choose an office location somewhere that’s not too far of a drive from each of your homes but remains convenient for most of your clients.

3. Cooperation

Don’t you just hate it when you’re in a team at work and there’s that one person who doesn’t pull their weight? Don’t be that person—even with your spouse at home! Actively participate in decision-making and performing tasks, even if it’s just deciding who will take out the trash or run to pick-up the pizza for dinner (yes, we all occasionally revert to pizza night when life is hectic!). This makes you a more valuable team member and earns your partner’s respect.

Even when you’re super busy with work, don’t use it as an excuse to completely tune out at home. Letting your spouse do all the “heavy lifting” at home will only result in resentment, and we all know it’s pretty much downhill from there!

Cooperation may also mean taking turns. For example, you may decide to work full-time while your significant other pursues their education, and then switch when it’s your turn. This way, everyone feels respected.

The Value of Teamwork: Succeed Together

Teamwork is about problem-solving together for the benefit of the team. No one has to lose in order for each individual to win. So, rather than shutting out or excluding other people’s ideas or opinions, be open to other ways of doing things. Try to think positive: Being part of a team means more great ideas, which equal more solutions!

With these 3 skills, you and your team will be well on your way to success together—whatever that looks like for you.