“That’s sounds great, but it won’t work for me.” Too often, this line of reasoning prevents people from making changes that might positively impact their lives. Working parents in particular find themselves in situations that pull them away from their careers and families, causing stress and guilt. In the following guest post, Mom Corps CEO Allison O’Kelly explores the relationship between career choices and work/life alignment, as well as some of the flexibility blockers that may be more within our control than we realize.
Does Having It All Depend On Your Industry and Career Choice?
By Allison O’Kelly, founder and CEO of Mom Corps (www.momcorps.com)
As I settled into the rocking chair at 5 a.m. on a recent Saturday morning to feed my one-year-old, I came across a piece by Huffington Post blogger, Lisa Belkin. She wrote “Quitting, Because It’s Too Hard to be a Lawyer and a Mom” and quoted part of an exit email by a lawyer in D.C. who left her job because the demands of career and family were too great. It was remarkably reflective of my current state, so I read on.
Ms. Belkin addresses the fact this lawyer’s words “became the latest salvo in the Battle of Doing It All. …Like Ann Marie Slaughter before her, the writer is seen by some as a traitor to the cause of women in the workplace, and by others as its champion.” Really? Why can’t we just accept this woman for the personal choices she has made?
In my experience working with both professionals and companies on flexible work options, I have found that for better or worse, some industries and career paths lend themselves more readily to flexibility. Others just don’t as easily. But that’s not to say that women who have worked their way to the top can’t find what they are looking for in terms of work/life alignment. There are options for almost anyone; it’s largely a matter of understanding your priorities and needs, and working from there. Perhaps it requires a change.
I was in the position this lawyer is now about 10 years ago when I left a high-level corporate position after having my first child. The demands of my job didn’t suit the needs of my family; it’s the reason I started my company. Through Mom Corps, I have the opportunity and flexibility to work a meaningful job on my terms, as well as provide a similar level of alignment for high-level, talented professionals who have faced similar professional challenges. With all this in mind, I wanted to address a few points around finding a career with flexibility.
What types of jobs tend to have flexible scheduling options?
There are many ways to explore flexibility in almost any industry, because there are many variances to alternative work options. Professional services firms are likely the easiest to implement and perhaps the most common to date given the nature of those industries. There are all types of jobs available including senior level, highly skilled positions. A quick glance at the Mom Corps job board shows these positions available: director of operations, attorney, senior business analyst, parenting website publisher, network engineer, senior audit associate, marketing/creative director, and director of strategic planning.
There is not one approach to workplace flexibility, even within the same organization. First, the company needs to develop an overarching policy and specific parameters around flexible work options. Then both manager and employee need to determine what flexible setup best fits the particular work environment and responsibilities.
What is the best way to search for jobs that offer flexible schedules?
There are a select few specialized companies and staffing firms created to connect employers with job seekers looking for flexible work options. However, as interest in workplace alternatives continues to gain momentum, employees should first look at their current employer. Many companies offer flexible options, they just don’t advertise them.
Consult the HR department to see what is available or if there are ways to approach your manager about obtaining the flexibility you desire. If that approach doesn’t work, hiring managers often are open to the discussion of workplace flexibility if your skill set is especially right for the position. So ask for it during the interview process, or use it as a point of negotiation.
Working mothers who want to maintain alignment having both a fulfilling career and personal life can make it happen, but it rests largely on ourselves. Sometimes it comes with sacrifice, or at least some amount of change. And that’s okay, and oftentimes leads to something better. It did for me and so many women I talk with every day, because “having it all” came on our terms.
What choices have you had to make in your career to get what you wanted? Did those choices take on new meaning after having children? Your comments are always welcome.
Allison O'Kelly is the founder and CEO of Mom Corps (www.momcorps.com), a national flexible staffing firm dedicated to connecting progressive employers with professionals seeking flexible work options.