How to Balance Work and a Sick Child

When the inevitable happens, i.e. an up-all-night sick kiddo or a phone call from the school requesting a pick up, the dread and anxiety set in…. are they ok? What is my plan? What will my boss say? Working parents have all been there – balancing work demands with mommy/daddy demands. How do we balance it all?

Family Comes First

For me, family always comes first. I tell that to myself and to my employees. If you have to go, go. If you have to stay home, stay home. Work will be there tomorrow.

Family Communication

When my fiancé and I first started on this co-parenting journey together a few years ago, we made sure we laid out an action plan of what to do when these sick days came. Our particular situation relies heavier on me to be the emergency contact parent and the one to stay home as I have a much more flexible and supportive job (I can work from home if need be and I get a ton of sick days). Its not that Chris doesn’t have a supportive job but he is required to travel for work and often is unable to answer his phone or is out of range.

Employer Communication 

I make it a point to communicate with my supervisor initially about what our child care plan is. As a supervisor I appreciate when my staff tell me what their demands are. It helps me to know what is a legitimate issue versus what could be perceived as abuse of PTO.

Work Backup Plan

If I have to leave early, I hand off projects to those who are familiar with them and can do the basic things to get us through the remainder of the day. If I have to miss an entire day, I log in from home and delegate any work I am unable to complete to those who are in the office. Most of the time one day isn’t going to be a catastrophe but making sure key players can complete needed tasks is key.

Backup Babysitters

Once we moved away from our hometown we didn’t have Grammy or Pop Pop nearby to act as a backup babysitter. Most of the responsibility fell on me and I was fine with that and communicated it to my supervisors. As we settled into new areas and befriended others, I asked them if they would be willing to be a backup pending there was an emergency as I could not get there fast enough. Everyone we encountered agreed and fortunately we never had to use them. Look to someone you trust your children with to be this person if it is only for emergencies. For a more constant on-call babysitter, do background and reference checks on potential sitters so you don’t experience a surprise down the road.

Finding a work/life balance is difficult at baseline, but throw ill children into the mix and the anxiety level rises exponentially. Employers should be supportive of family responsibilities and can hopefully work with you to make stressful times as smooth as possible.

 

 

 

Helping Others to Grow

Today I had a conversation with one of my new supervisees that I wish someone would have had with me when I started out on my professional journey. Although I have only known Kim for a short period of time and my interaction with her has been limited, I can tell she has is struggling. She is struggling to find her place in a world that insists on shoving square pegs into round holes, a world where “good” is never enough.

Kim is a young, intelligent, unmarried female with no children who just completed her Masters last winter and wants desperately to promote to a level she feels she deserves. While some might argue that is the stereotypical Millennial mindset of entitlement – I totally get where she is coming from. I, too, was once that girl fresh out of school and full of energetic drive to conquer the world. And then reality slapped me in the face.. hard.

But Kim’s story is more complicated than mine as she has the added pressure of cultural demands of success from her Asian family. Her exact words to me today were, “I come from a very Chinese family, where success is measured by salary”. Although I am a Caucasian female born and raised in an Irish-German city, I can appreciate the cultural pressure that is very real in modern society.

Our conversation began when I attempted to do what I can only describe as “damage control”. Kim recently interviewed for a promotion that is also supervised by me but was not selected. She wasn’t selected on anything she did wrong – there was just a more qualified candidate who presented as a better fit for the position. I learned that Kim was notified on Friday that she was not selected and I felt it was my due diligence to follow up with her on the why behind my selection – not because I have to (because I don’t) but because I wanted to (and wished someone would have done for me years ago).

My leadership style can best be described as a desire to set others up for success. when my team succeeds, I succeed. So I asked Kim to come to my office and I dove right into it by letting her know I was aware she had been informed she was not selected for the position, but I wanted to let her know it was not because she performed poorly during the interview. In fact, as I informed her, she had done exceptionally well, but the truth was that someone else had done better. A harsh reality in a world of participation trophies for everyone.

The conversation led into what she was doing well in her current role – taking on additional responsibilities, self-initiating directive, demonstrating a performance improvement mentality, etc.  I also touched (gently) on things she could improve upon – having tact in sensitive situations, remaining professional when dealing with difficult co-workers, and self-awareness. The key part of constructive criticism is delivering the message in a way that doesn’t make your employee hate themselves, you, or the organization, and that is something that takes time and experience.

I then asked Kim what her future goals were… what did she want to be when she grew up? She didn’t know, so we started to discuss some things she was interested in – data analytics, management, etc. I reminded her that she was young and that her next job was not her end all, she didn’t have to do that for the rest of her life. We also discussed the possibility of leaving our organization to find a better fit elsewhere. Now, this is tricky water to navigate, but I believe I did so successfully. I flat out told Kim that while I do not want her to leave our organization, I also support personal and professional growth and that it’s important to recognize that what may be a good fit for one person is not for another. I also reiterated that I didn’t think she was a bad fit for her current position (she isn’t) but she has a lot of talent that can be used elsewhere – and that is what I want her to explore.

I encouraged her to explore other options within our organization and together we looked online at fellowship opportunities. I forwarded her some useful links and some info that I have amassed over the years. I also let her know that other organizations within our industry offer the same thing, and that she shouldn’t limit herself. I also squashed any false hope that she may have been given. What I mean by this is that people have good intentions when they would tell her “you should do this” or “I heard this can help you” but have no real experience or knowledge in what they are talking about. I have been interviewing, hiring, and disciplining people for a few years now and I know the ropes, loopholes, and what’s possible v. what’s not. I let Kim down easy by telling her what was bad information coupled with what was an actual possibility in her situation.

One of the things I stressed to her was to not make an emotional decision! I told her she will have days when she leaves the office pissed off at the world, when she tells herself she isn’t coming back the next day and that this is it! we all have those days, but I reminded her that is not the time to go home and apply for 50 jobs on Indeed.com. instead, I encouraged her to apply for internal positions, apply for external positions, interview and ASK QUESTIONS! The grass is not always greener on the other side. She may find out the reality of another organization is not what she thought it was and that she is better off here. But she won’t know unless she seeks out that information. I also let her know that building relationships is everything in business. I encouraged her to talk to others who worked for other companies, who used to do other jobs and find out what they have to say. We all have our own story, our own path. Life is not a one size fits all.

I felt like I was talking to myself years ago, reminding her that this is not her end all but that she must work her way up. That these other little silly jobs (as she may see them) are actually preparing her for jobs that carry the burden of responsibility. That us hiring officials see the type of jobs that she is currently working through as stepping stones that build the foundation of knowledge that those at the top have. I told her that we hire for skill – we see talent and teach you how to use it. That is our job as managers.

I also told her I would delegate to her what I could so she could build her skillset and get a better glimpse of the 30,000 foot perspective. How can we as managers expect our people to grow if we don’t plant the seed? It took me a long time to lay down roots, and I want to provide the knowledge I have gained along the way to the next generation.

Who knows, maybe one day Kim will be hiring me.

10 Tips For Acing A Job Interview

So you wrote a great resume and landed a job interview, congrats! Now what? Now it’s prep time to sell yourself in the interview and show your potential future boss why are exactly what their company is looking for.

10 Tips for Acing A Job Interview

  1. Research the organization
    1. Know the company so you can ask thoughtful questions about its mission, goals, culture, etc
  2. Make sure you ask questions either throughout or at the end of the interview
    1. As a hiring official, if I ask someone if they have questions and they say they do not, I wonder what their investment in the job is
  3. Take a notepad and pen with you
    1. Write down questions as they ask them. This is especially helpful if they ask multi-part questions so you can ensure you answer all parts of it
    2. Take notes on what the job entails and what is expected of you in that role
    3. Write down questions as you think of them so you can ask them when the opportunity arises
  4. Dress professionally
    1. No jeans!
    2. Dress to impress (check back soon for a separate post on tips for dressing the part)
  5. Be early
  6. Be courteous to the secretary or whoever else you speak to before the interview
    1. You are being graded by everyone
    2. Most managers trust the opinions of their secretaries because they see things as they really are
  7. Watch your body language before and during the interview
    1. If you sit in my chair like you are at home on your couch, I’ll take note
  8. Research interview questions ahead of time so you can be prepared for what they ask (check back soon for a separate post on sample interview questions)
  9. Come prepared with solid, concrete examples
    1. One example may provide a solid answer to two or three questions. This is OK, but still be sure to vary your responses
  10. Sell yourself! The interview is the time to show your prospective employer what you are made of

10 Tips For Building A Great Resume

My friend Ashley over at Ashley Clark, Professional Writing Services provided the following 10 tips for building a great resume .(If you need help from a professional, contact her and mentioned The Gypsy Professional for a discounted rate!)

 

How To Build A Great Resume

  1. Make a list of what you do daily, weekly, monthly and go from there
  2. Think “bigger picture” of what your job is. Instead of “filter spreadsheets”, think “compile statistical data”
  3. Any time you can use concrete figures- do so! Examples include “increased sales by 10% annually”, “decreased costs by 3% during first quarter”, “responsible for the recruitment of 10 new advertising partners within 6 months of hire”
  4. Write clearly & concisely without company specific jargon. Industry specific jargon may be OK if you are staying within the same industry
  5. Include only pertinent info. Not every day of your day should be put on paper
  6. Limit the length. A good rule of thumb is 10 years of experience per page. Recruiters don’t want to read a 5 page resume. There are very few exceptions to this, but a federal resume is one of them
  7. Spellcheck, spellcheck, spellcheck! Also, walk away for a bit then come back and review it or have a different set of eyes review it for grammatical and spelling errors
  8. Create an easy to read resume format. Unless you are a graphic designer, your resume should not be a work of art. The recruitment software companies use does not support designs and it will alter your format, making your resume illegible
  9. Use a professional looking font – no comic sans!
  10. Be honest! if you lie on your resume and land an interview, your future employer will be able to tell. Hiring officials are experienced in interviewing and can easily spot discrepancies between what’s on paper and what is delivered verbally

Remember: a resume is intended to get you noticed by a recruiter, the next step is to sell yourself in the interview. Check out my post 10 Tips For Acing A Job Interview

What Keeps You Up At Night?

My organization asks its leaders this question a lot in an attempt to help prioritize and allocate resources. But what about at home? What keeps YOU up at night?

For me, it’s an overarching fear of failure. Am I doing a good job at work? Am I a good enough (step)mother? Is my spouse happy? Do we have enough money in case there is an emergency?

My SO thinks I worry too much, and I probably do. But I am my own worst critic in that I want to do well in all I do. And when you want to do well, you worry. If I put on my psychologist hat for a moment, I can admit that I want to please others. I want to be known as a competent person who always delivers. With great respect comes great responsibility, and with great responsibility comes great stress. I know I need to cut myself some slack, and sometimes I do. But sometimes… it keeps me up at night.

Take Advantage of Employer Sponsored Enrichment Opportunities

 

I spent the past 4 days at a work conference soaking up a ton of information to tske back to my colleagues with plans for future strategic growth. Although this particular conference was mandated and with a direct impact on my job, it got me thinking about what I’ve learned about employer sponsored trainings…

Take Advantage of Opportunities

Now that I’ve put that out there, let me follow up with this – be strategic in what you take advantage of. Employer sponsored training opportunities are time, labor, and mentally intensive periods of time. They are designed to be that way. Remember, someone had to present and prove to upper leadership that time spent away from your duties would be cost-effective and result in a positive impact on both your role and the organization.

Be strategic in your selections. 

Participate in trainings that you will benefit from either professionally, personally, or both. Don’t sign up for every training, educational, or leadership opportunity that is available – that wouldn’t make sense. Pick ones that challenge you as a subject matter expert, as a supervisor, as an emerging leader, or that teach you something you would like to know more about.

Two of the most effective trainings I participated in were:

  • Six Sigma Yellow Belt
  • Servant Leadership

They challenged me to change the way I think. They challenged me to consider if I was completing tasks in the most efficient and effective manner. They challenged me to question if my leadership style was meeting the needs of my staff and my organization. Opportunities such as these are designed to have a long-term impact on strategic planning.

Tips for choosing that opportunity to participate in:

  1. Think about the topics/strategies/skills being presented. How will they impact you? How will they impact your organization?
  2. Think about your role in your organization. What purpose does your role serve? What long-term impact does your role have on the organizational mission?
  3. Ask others for input. Reach out to colleagues in similar roles, or have participated in the training previously. Was it beneficial to their career? Would they recommend it?

Be strategic in your decisions to maximize the benefit of employer sponsored training opportunities.

Work Life: Changing a Culture of Blame

I recently relocated my family to Denver from the East Coast for a pretty significant promotion – significant enough for us to pack u and move 2,000 miles! While I fully expected a learning curve in my new position, I was not prepared for the “culture of blame” I was about to be submerged in.

I should start with what my leadership style is:

  • I believe in setting people up for success
    • Give them the tools they need to succeed
    • Show them how to do what is expected of them
    • Be available to answer questions and provide guidance (aka know how to do the job you expect them to do)
  • I believe in holding people accountable
    • Don’t let people continue to do something wrong or incorrectly. Provide constructive feedback so they can take corrective action
    • Set attainable goals
    • Monitor progress
  • Give praise
    • People like to know what they are doing well. Don’t bombard someone with only constructive feedback. Give praise when deserved
  • Don’t expect overnight change
    • If you step into a role where process and procedures have been not up to standard for quite some time, don’t expect to fix it all overnight
    • Set realistic goals
  • Communicate
    • Provide status updates to all involved
    • Manage up and down
    • Everyone likes to know what is going on, not just upper leadership

That, in a nutshell, is my personal leadership style. That is how I spent the prior 2 years leading people. What I walked into at my new gig was “so-and-so has no experience doing XYZ, they might not be good for that task”. “I don’t think so-and-so understands what they are doing”. “I’m tired of doing their work for them.”

OK….so teach them.

An almost uncomfortable conversation was had in the middle of the hallway in which I had to defend my new staff that I barely know against someone that was barraging them with negativity. I stood my ground on my leadership style and said (in my most professional way), “I believe that I can teach others how to excel in in their role in a way that will guide them to future success. I believe in giving people the tools they need to succeed, and I will do just that with this staff. I have been down this road before, it is not something that is unattainable.”

My philosophy was not appreciated but honestly, I didn’t care. I realized then that I now work in a culture of blame and I need to do what I can to change that culture. Some of my ideas for attaining this goal is:

  • Rounding
  • Sitting down with each individual and going over what their role is
  • Identify strengths and areas for improvement
  • Be available
  • Set standards and raise the bar over time
  • BE FRIENDLY!

I have to be realistic that things won’t change overnight, but I’m optimistic for the future.

What are some of your ideas for improving a culture of blame?