Career Key

Author: Career Key's President and CEO, Juliet Wehr Jones, GCDF, J.D.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Work Life Balance? Be prepared to make your own rules

Using my own experience as a guide, I think many young people may underestimate the impact of having a family on their career. Given the amount of books, articles, and blogs I see about "work/life" balance, the same issue appears over and over again. How can I maintain a good career and enjoy a healthy family life? Here's my answer: get the best, most valuable skills you can in whatever career you choose, so that you can move jobs or become self-employed and make your own rules. Otherwise you will be forced onto someone else's treadmill.

I graduated from high school in 1989. Feminism of the 1970s and 1980s was supposed to have stamped out sexism and opened up job opportunities for women; in many respects it did. I can't recall ever thinking that there was any job/career not open to me. This was a gift - and I thank my parents and the women's movement for it. Having it all (great work, great family) seemed truly possible. And thankfully, the desire to spend time with family while having a good career has expanded to include more men. On average, fathers now spend more time with their children than their own fathers did. Good news for everyone.

But the reality is that the workplace, and particularly now in the U.S. with such long work hours expected in most jobs, is not family friendly. This isn't necessarily sexist, although it disproportionately impacts women since women continue to do the bulk of domestic work. But it impacts parents. Good childcare is hard to find and expensive, and some parents do not want to outsource 100% of their childcare. Flexible schedules are hard to negotiate and find.

To find part-time work, flexible schedules, or a work day that allows you to get home by 6:30 p.m. most nights, you must find the right employer. And some careers lend themselves to better work hours than others. So when you're looking at a career, work schedule and availability of contract work or self-employment may be important. See informational interviewing. I know researching that issue was important for me when I chose law. I knew I could "hang a shingle" and become self-employed if I needed to - and sure enough, I needed to and it worked out well.


Lori K. Long said...

Great post. I am always suprised at how little work/life or work/family balance is discussed with students as they select their careers.

I recently published a book providing guidance for parents on finding flexible work, and I dedicate a chapter to understanding the valuable of expertise. The more expertise you hold in your field, the more likely you will able to negotiate or find a more flexible work arrangement.

Lori Long

Kashif said...

Nice informative article. thanks for sharing and keep sharing such kind of articles, as these articles really helpful for experienced and new comers.
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Juliet Wehr Jones said...

Thanks Lori and Kashif for your comments.

Lori, I visited your site and it looks like the book you wrote provides a lot of great advice for parents looking at their job options. I encourage people to take a look at what your site offers.

Kashif, I appreciate the feedback. It helps encourage me in this new world of blogging I've entered...