Strategies For Solving the Work/Life Dilemma (cont.)

Moderator: Is the work/life dilemma just an issue for working moms?

Sirull: Absolutely it's not a working mom's issue. It's become a "people" issue. In the group of women we spoke to, we spoke to moms, single women, married women without children, but who were still grappling with wanting that multifaceted life. Career that's satisfying, but not all consuming. What's also interesting is that in the 3 years we've worked on this project, the number of men who've contacted us or have begun to ask about these issues has just grown astronomically. It's been a surprise for us, and in fact, while we did interview women for this book, the tips and exercises in the book are useful regardless of gender, or whether you have children or not.

Moderator: I understand that nearly 1,000 women contributed to this book. What did you learn from these women?

Sirull: A few things -- the number one thing that we learned is that solutions to the work life dilemma abound. There are many solutions -- every one is a little different, but everyone has the ability to craft the solution that will work for her. We also learned that you don't solve the work life dilemma and then you're done, never to deal with the issue again. Rather, the women most happy with their solutions, were people who were continuously in the journey of solving the dilemma, that it's an ongoing issue and one of the reasons we speak of a "life collage", because you can manage the changes in the collage as your needs change. It evolves over time, as you change career, have elderly parents... so that's two of the things we learned. The third, also very important, is that changes are inherent in solving the work life dilemma. You do have to make tradeoffs, and the key is to identify the tradeoffs you make today, perhaps subconsciously, and instead of making choices that way, to think about the tradeoffs you want to make and will work best for you. When you make those choices consciously, you're more likely to have a solution that works for you. That's some of the things we learned form the 1000 women.

Moderator: What is the full title of the book again?

Sirull: Creating Your Life College: Strategies For Solving The Work-Life Dilemma.

Moderator: How does one go about creating a life collage?

Sirull: The first step is to get a sense of what your definitions of success and balance in order, and then we have a exercise to envision where people want to go. You want to really describe what you want your life collage to look like; in the first phase, you identify what you'd like your life to look like, and you're setting a sense of goal for you. In the beginning, many people encounter roadblocks, and we help them get past some of those fears. And then, it's important to understand the tradeoffs you are making versus the ones you want to make, and then we offer ways people to explore options, and there are numerous ones to make your work fit with your life. We spoke to people who worked full time but with boundaries, so that they weren't overwhelmed by their work. We talked to people who telecommute, out of the spotlight, to move from a firing line position to a more support position, for greater freedom. We talked to people who found career-enhancing part time, freelance, started their own businesses, moved from the private sector to the public sector or non-profits. At some point you do have to take action and make that life collage a reality.

Moderator: What are job-shares?

Sirull: A job share is a way of working part time, and I'm going to back up for a minute about part-time professional jobs. The biggest issue that people express about having a part time job, say 3 days a week, is that it tends to bleed into the days when they're supposed to be off. Particularly in the era of technology, people find that though they're off on Fridays, they're checking email, getting paged, etc. Job share is a way to work part time and prevent that bleeding -- two people share a full time job, and each work half time... sometimes with overlap. There are full communications and hand off from one person to another, but there are two people interchangeably handling that job, and some job share teams have been hired into new companies as a job-share team. People have been promoted, and both are promoted as a pair, continuing to work each person part-time carrying 50% of that job. It's very important that you have someone you can work well with, and communication is obviously very important, because one partner may go to a meeting on Monday, and the other partner may go to the follow up meeting on Thursday, and the communication between the two needs to be foolproof. But a job-share is a wonderful way to have a career enhancing job that's part time. Certain kinds of jobs don't lend themselves to part time -- if you're a trader, its hard to trade part time. Some jobs are better suited to job sharing then part time.

Moderator: What are the options for someone who needs a full-time job, but maybe make that job easier or cut down?

Sirull: We did speak to a number of women who were the sole support -- either single moms, or breadwinner married women, that felt they needed to work full time. The first option is what we call setting boundaries -- this is a way to work full time but not full-time plus. We offer a number of hints to help set those boundaries. The first is that sometimes it's important in a job to say "no." There are times when something happening in your life is more important, and you need to say no to an assignment, or a particular aspect of a problem or deadline. We offer the just say no formula, so when you need to say no, keep your boundaries, and think for a minute about what you're being asked to do and what your alternatives might be. Say, "how about if," and offer an alternative. It's important to have the confidence for when you do say no... many women we spoke to indicated a fear of saying no, and other people we spoke to indicated that they learned to say no and got applauded for it. There's one particular women whose story I'm thinking of, who worked in an advertising agency, and very consciously had been saying no and setting boundaries, and one morning, she came to work and her boss was in her office, and she thought that she'd been discovered and was going to get fired... and lo and behold, they promoted her that day, because they applauded her ability to understand what was very important and to hone in on that and do it. You can say no and set boundaries, and still be promoted.