A blog about getting and keeping your next great job by Candace Moody. Candace has appeared in the media to address employment issues and has written for the Florida Times Union for several years. She is an expert in career recruitment, training, assessment, and in the human resources field. She is the vice president of CareerSource Northeast Florida.
Spring is my favorite time to purge and clean, and I’ve been working on my physical spaces since the New Year. It’s easy to see where you could make a difference in your office or closet, because you see the overcrowding and hate struggling to find important items. But your digital storage could probably benefit from a spring cleaning as well.
Digital clutter, on the other hand, can sneak up on you, taking up valuable computer storage space and making it harder to find important documents easily. Here are some tips for decluttering and becoming more organized in your digital filing.
First, make sure you have a great backup system. The only thing worse than having too many digital files is discovering some crucial documents are missing. Dropbox is a free system that stores files in the cloud and allows you to access them from anywhere (more robust pro plans start at $99 a year.) Carbonite is a cloud-based system that backs up your computer files every time you access the internet. Single computer backup plans start at $6 a month and multiple computer plans start at $24 a month.
Next, make sure your document naming and filing system is efficient and consistent. Name files using the unique part of the name first to make them easier to find. If you are storing multiple client invoices, for example, name them by month and year first. Name it 0319 client invoice, rather than client invoice 0319. Numbers appear first when files are sorted by name, so dated documents will always be easy to find.
Folders make it much easier to retrieve and organize your files. If you have everything jumbled all together on your drive, it’s time to organize them neatly in folders that make sense to you. This is one task you don’t want to delegate to anyone else – you must name the folders and file the documents yourself. If your storage system doesn’t allow you to intuitively look in the right places for the files you’re seeking, it will only result in frustration and lots of wasted time.
Organize files in large general groupings first: client invoices, draft articles, household budgets, etc. Then within the general folders, organize by year, by client, or by some other category that makes sense. You shouldn’t have to click more than a couple of times to get to an important file.
Decide how long you want to keep files. Sort files by date modified and make a decision on what you want to use as the cutoff date. If you’re worried about deleting documents, create a folder for them (like “2015 article drafts”) and file the documents there. You’ll dramatically reduce the visual clutter on your drive and will be able to delete them later (when you’re sure you don’t need them) with a single click.
Now that you have your files in order, it’s time to tackle email. Rule one: your inbox is not meant for long term storage. If you have more than one screen’s worth of emails in your inbox, you’re probably wasting valuable time searching for the ones that matter. Again, folders are your best tool for organization here. Create folders that allow you to slip important emails into a safe place and retrieve them easily.
You probably need to retain just a fraction of the emails you think you do. If an email has an important document attached, store the document rather than the email itself. If it’s the sender who’s important, create a contact and store their information there.
If you have replied to an important email, you probably don’t need to store it. Make sure your email settings allow you to keep sent items indefinitely so you can always retrieve them. Then you’ll have the full email chain whenever you need to refer to it. A quick “thanks” reply will guarantee the email stays around as long as it’s needed.
Take time weekly or monthly to delete emails that pertain to finished business. Trust me, deleting them gives you the same zing of pleasure you get when ticking something off your to-do list. I have a folder named “Trip Info” where I file emails related to my next business or pleasure trip (my airline and hotel reservation confirmations, for example, and e-receipts.) Once I finish the trip and file expense reports, I can delete the emails. Better yet, paste the important information like flight times, directions, and reservation confirmation numbers into a calendar appointment where they can be retrieved the day you need them.
Prevent email clutter before it accumulates by unsubscribing to emails you never read and subscriptions you just don’t care about any longer. Cleaning up digital clutter can give you a sense of accomplishment and save you hundreds of minutes a year you would have spent searching for files and emails. You’ll be able to focus more intensely and may even be more creative when your desktop is clutter free.
You won’t see any Instagram posts of gorgeous reorganized inboxes, but I bet Marie Kondo would still be proud.
The exclamation point may have originated from a Latin exclamation of joy (io).
According to Wikipedia, the modern exclamation point was introduced in the Middle Ages when copyists wrote the Latin word io at the end of a sentence to indicate joy. (An end of the sentence “hurray.”) Grammar manuals describe its function as “indicating strong feelings or high volume (shouting), or to show emphasis.” Most writers describe its function as annoying. F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote: “Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.”
I personally have a strict quota on the maligned mark: one per week. Or, it’s possible I’m just a mean person. It turns out that women in business need exclamation points to feel appreciated. Wall Street Journal editor Nikki Waller calls exclamation points “the emotional fabric softener of workplace interactions.”
She decided to spend a month communicating with zero exclamation points and wrote about the results. It wasn’t easy to kick the habit; she writes that women bosses find “routine emails can become complex calculations about warmth, likability and authority. Better to conclude an email with “Thanks!”? Or will “Thanks.” suffice? No human is that excited in real life, but it can be easier to write ‘Looking forward to getting that spreadsheet!’ rather than risk sounding cold or unfriendly.”
Waller had to work hard to fill the emotional gaps left by the lack of exclamation points. (She even resorted to a saccharine (she describes it as “heartbreaking”) “Grazie x1000.” She writes about the challenges other women have had with under-punctuated emails. One reported that she’d written an email to a female staff member that included “Good job.” With only a period at the end. The woman’s instant reply was: Are you mad at me?
If you’re a man reading this, you’re probably thinking I’m crazy. Men simply don’t worry about punctuation; they have no idea it’s full of emotional landmines. A 2006 academic study of exclamation points (really!) found that women use them much more than men (no kidding!) and that they were generally considered as “’markers of excitability,’ a phrase that implies instability and emotional randomness.” Ugh.
The study also points out that “the [use of exclamation points] might convey the writer’s lack of stature; that, in fact a confident person could “affirm their views by simply asserting them.”” Double ugh.
The academic study actually categorizes the various meanings “markers of excitability” can indicate. They include taking action (Working on it now!) implied or direct apology (Wish I hadn’t done that!) camaraderie or support (Jane’s right!) issuing a challenge (Prove it!) or to indicate anger (I knew she wouldn’t finish on time!)
Nikki Waller writes that it was a relief to be able to use exclamation marks again. She says women actually have an advantage in being able to communicate – and interpret – such a variety of emotions with a single keystroke. Tone matters, she says, and “leaders can deflate or empower someone in a sentence or two.” So if you’re hoping to be perceived as a warmer or more empathetic leader, try using more exclamation marks. It works!
“Probation” has a couple of meanings, including one from our criminal justice system. Its technical definition is “the release of an offender from detention, subject to a period of good behavior under supervision.” We also use it for newly hired employees, making their first few months feel like a presumption of incompetence until proven otherwise. It’s hard to reconcile that thinking with the supposed “honeymoon period” a new employee should be experiencing as he or she learns the ropes under a nurturing and supportive mentor.
During a probation period, workers generally don’t have health coverage, can’t take time off, and may be fired for any reason (even in states with laws that prevent at-will employment.) Probationary periods can last as long as six months, and can also be instated for employees who have been promoted to a new role. Job insecurity as a reward for proving you’re ready for more responsibility.
Ira Wolfe, writing for the online HR site ReWork, says “Hiring is a challenging process, but don’t take your frustration out on the candidate. By keeping your employees in limbo, you’re essentially saying: ‘Our managers suck at hiring, and we have little confidence in our screening and selection, so we’re going to put you on probation for the next 90 days to cover our butts.’ If you’ve decided to extend a job offer but have little confidence in the employee, a probation period probably won’t save you.”
It’s true; moving a new hire from probationary to permanent status could be construed to mean that the company can no longer discharge the employee without good cause. You may be creating the very situation you’re trying to eliminate. I suspect that the real reason companies cling to probationary periods is to see whether the new hire is going to fit in – they want to be able to opt out if they find that the new guy is rubbing people the wrong way.
The job insecurity that comes with probation actually makes it harder for workers to master their new roles, especially if they’re not given much training or feedback. They worry about asking “too many” questions. They fear that any small mistake may cost them their job, so they may bluff their way through new assignments or try to cover up their weaknesses. They meekly follow directions, even when they’re not sure it makes sense or they’ve understood what they’re being told. They don’t speak up if someone treats them badly. It’s a recipe for a miserable experience.
So what should we do instead? First, make sure managers have the tools they need to make good hires. In a tight labor market, you’re not always going to find a perfect fit for skills or experience, so you’ll need to focus more on personal qualities like persistence, flexibility and the ability to learn quickly.
Next, spend lots more energy and time on the onboarding process. In fact, let’s change the name of this critical time from probation to the onboarding period. During this first few months, we’re not watching you like a hawk waiting for you to slip up. Instead, we’re providing a combination of specific learning goals, training, and mentoring to make sure you succeed. We make sure you hit milestones by certain dates (within two months, for example, you should be able to produce an error-free case file.)
We bring you in for weekly check-ins, encouraging you to ask questions and let us know what you’re struggling with. We celebrate new tasks you take on, even when early efforts are less than perfect. We ask for feedback from your managers, your coworkers and your customers so we can help you improve. We tell you what you’re doing right along with what we’d like you to spend more time on.
We ask you how you’re feeling.
We prove to you that we’re on your team. Your success is our goal – and our responsibility. We put the “human” back into Human Resources.
Or we do it the way we’ve always done it and wonder why good people are so hard to find and keep.
Even the word “negotiate” can spark panic and anxiety. We place a lot of pressure on ourselves when it comes to getting what we feel we deserve. When it comes to being compensated, sometimes we let fear of negotiating or the sheer excitement of a job offer hold us back from asking for more.
Luckily, negotiating is a skill that improves as your career goes on, after you gain more confidence in your abilities and stronger communication skills. This infographic from Self Lender highlights 11 things (non-salary related) you can negotiate to bring more value to your life.
You can also make your salary go farther by negotiating with the companies that provide service to you every day. Cut down on monthly expenses like car insurance rates or credit card interest by making a simple phone call to customer service. Add some benefits to your work-life balance by asking your employer for work from home flexibility or a flexible work schedule. Whatever it is, don’t be afraid to ask for something you deserve.
I’ve written many times that interviewing is very much like dating. You go through the same phases: attraction, flirtation, getting-to-know-you meetings, and finally, a proposal and moving in together. And as in dating, the early days of the hiring process are when recruiters and applicants are on their best behavior. That’s why red flags during the recruiting process should send you running in the opposite direction.
Building a connection and trust with the candidate should be a primary goal of any recruiter, so if you find communication is spotty or frustrating during the hiring process, it should give you pause. Ghosting applicants is more than rude; it’s a sign that the company views people as commodities. You should not have to wonder if you’re still in the game after you’ve met with an interviewer; you deserve to hear back from the company promptly unless they’ve given you a clear schedule of how the interviewing process will go. Not returning your calls is a way to make sure you know who has the power in the relationship. And it’s not you.
One way to judge a prospective beau is by seeing what his exes have to say about him. Glassdoor reviews can reveal problems and let you know about the how long the hiring process will take. You can also reach out through LinkedIn to former employees who might provide insight on the company culture. Asking the right questions will help people open up. What did you like most about working there? If you could go back for an attractive position, would you work there again? What advice would you give me before I accept an offer?
Trust your instincts when you visit the company and meet with staff. How do the workers interact with each other? Are they smiling? Does the interviewer come out on time or make sure to send someone to apologize that they’re running late from a previous meeting? Are you greeted warmly? Does he appear prepared for the interview and genuinely interested in what you have to say? Does she answer your questions openly and in sufficient detail? If you get a bad feeling during this early phase, when the company is presumably on its best behavior, you’re probably not going to feel valued when you’re part of the workforce they take for granted.
If you’re getting mixed signals about key issues like salary, start date, or job duties, it’s a clear signal that you shouldn’t give up your current position without a detailed written job offer in hand. I’ve met many candidates who thought they had accepted a great job, only to find out the interviewer had been less than honest about the realities of the position. Promised reviews for raises never materialized, job duties changed, training and support resources were not sufficient to ensure success. Workers can be stuck for months in a miserable job while they look for something else and regret leaving the job they had.
Especially if you’ve been looking for a job for a while, it can be easy to talk over the tiny voice in your gut that tells you to move on. We rationalize decisions and ignore the subconscious signals that this is not the right move right now. There will always be another opportunity somewhere in a company that will treat you right. “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” ~Maya Angelou
2019 update: Welcome to Jacksonville, Nick Foles! We’re so proud to have you wear number 7 for the Jags. Here’s a reprint of the post I wrote about you after your Super Bowl victory. You’re an inspiration.
Nick Foles is the man of the hour. A second string quarterback who took down the best quarterback and the best team of the decade in a Super Bowl shootout that was fun to watch. Plus, he’s an adoring father of an adorable baby girl. Who wouldn’t want to be him this week? But what I admire about him was who he was a couple of years ago. In many ways, he’s all of us.
Like almost all NFL players, Foles was an early phenom. As a high school player in Austin Texas, Foles threw for 5,658 yards and 56 touchdowns, breaking most school records previously held by Drew Brees. He also started on the school’s basketball team for three years, and winning MVP two of those years. He was recruited to play hoops for Georgetown, Baylor, and Texas. A Golden Boy. A winner. Drafted by the Eagles in the third round in 2012.
But time and luck weren’t kind. An Atlantic article by Alex Putterman written in late January describes him as a very long shot to lead the Eagles to victory against the Patriots. “Nick Foles, the quarterback who in 2013 carried the Eagles to the playoffs, then collapsed the next year, lost his job, and bounced to two other teams before quietly returning to Philly this season, mainly to hold a clipboard on the sideline. The Eagles were entrusting a playoff-bound team to someone who had thrown almost as many interceptions (20) as touchdowns (23) over the past four years.”
Foles had had a good year in Philly before the team decided to go in another direction and drafted their quarterback of the future, Carson Wentz. Being thrust unwillingly into free agency (in the real world, we call it ‘getting fired’) is a blow to your confidence, and Foles struggled in his next two seasons. He questioned himself, and it showed in his performance.
Putterman writes about Foles’ low points ruthlessly: “…this is the guy representing the conference in the Super Bowl? The guy who was benched by the lowly Rams in 2015 and could barely escape the sideline with the Chiefs in 2016? The guy who weighed retirement only 18 months ago? The guy who played so poorly in a Christmas-night win over the Raiders that home fans began to boo?”
Foles considered retirement. He took some time to think about what he really wanted and what would be best for his family. In an interview with ESPN, he said, “I had to take a week off when I was a free agent just to think about it, and it was the best thing that ever happened because I think people are fearful of feeling that way because they feel like they’re the only ones that feel that way, but everyone, we’re professional athletes and we have moments where we step back and think and assess everything in our life.”
Foles prayed and talked it through with his wife before deciding that he would come back, serving as a backup to the man who had replaced him on the team that had let him go. It was surely a humbling experience, in a role that has always fascinated me. Backup quarterbacks have to keep all their skills sharp. They practice and study just as much as anyone on the team. All in the hope that they never take a snap. In fact, all 65,000 fans in the stadium are hoping and praying he remains firmly on the bench. What must that do to someone’s ego?
During the Eagle’s great 2017 season and Nick Foles’ dark night of the soul, Carson Wentz tore his ACL , ending his season in week 10. Foles was thrust back into a starting role. He played; he wobbled; pundits predicted the Eagles had lost their chance at the playoffs.
An old sports adage says that competition doesn’t build character; it reveals it. And this crucible was what forged Foles’ true character. The Eagles, embracing their underdog status, made it into the NFC championship, dispatched the Vikings, and found themselves headed to the Super Bowl, heavy underdogs to the Perennial Patriots. And Foles and the Eagles pulled it off – a win for the ages.
After the game, Nick Foles said something that showed not only grace under fire, but also what all that humbling history had taught him. “I think the big thing that helped me was knowing that I didn’t have to be Superman. I have amazing teammates, amazing coaches around me. And all I had to do was just go play as hard as I could, and play for one another, and play for those guys.”
This is what humility sounds like. He understood that he was human; he’d failed. He’d been booed. He was able to give up the idea of being Super Man and could simply be a guy doing his best and working together with – and for – his team. Golden Boy shows us he’s grown into Golden Man.
Lily is one lucky lady to have a dad like that. She didn’t look all that impressed with his Super Bowl Victory, but I bet she’ll learn a lot over her lifetime from her Dad’s grace and character.
Let’s face it; after you’ve been job searching for a while, your confidence takes a beating. You may feel invisible; especially if your job search is mostly online, you may feel like no one knows you’re there. It may be tempting to go for comfort over style when you do venture out. After all, who cares what you wear to the grocery store, right?
You might be right, but I still advise against letting your outer appearance reflect your inner discouragement. When you’re in a job search, especially if you’re in a smaller town, you are always “on.” Your appearance – clothes, grooming and general energy level – are all a part of how people perceive you at first glance. And that first glance will also be a part of how they size you up for success. Even if you’re a bit discouraged about how your search is going, you want to look like a confident winner. A shabby, disheveled appearance can broadcast your discouragement from blocks away before you ever say a word.
How can you dress comfortably, but still look professional and confident? Here are a few tips.
Take a moment to make sure your hair is in order – clean and neat. We love to joke about Bad Hair Days, but they’re actually a pretty spot on metaphor for being a mess on the inside as well. If your hair just isn’t ready for prime time, find a flattering baseball cap or scarf that will cover the problem with style.
Ditch the tee shirts in favor of casual collared shirts. This is a unisex piece of advice. There are plenty of casual styles that are cool and comfortable and present a more professional appearance. Keep one or two clean and pressed as your go-to outfit for running errands where you might be noticed.
Wear colors that flatter you and make you feel good. (When in doubt, ask a friend.) Everyone has a shirt or an outfit that gets you compliments every time you wear it. You probably also have something that makes people think you had a bad night every time you wear it. It’s simple; given a choice, wear the colors that work.
Speaking of colors, bold classics like red and navy blue and neutrals like black, white and khaki look polished and professional, even in casual clothes. When worn in solid blocks of color, they are also more slimming than patterns and prints.
Invest in great accessories if you can. A bag or knapsack that holds your gear and paperwork in style doesn’t have to cost that much, but it will make you seem pulled together when you’re out running errands. You’ll feel more in control and confident when you can find what you need easily. Make sure you pack your personal business cards whenever you go out; you never know when you may meet someone you’d like to get back in touch with.
Stylish sunglasses are not just cool; they also provide cover for tired eyes and no-makeup days. A quick hit of lip gloss or lipstick also brightens your whole face and draws attention away from dark circles or other evidence that you’[re not at your best.
Taking just a few minutes to look better will also make you feel better. And feeling better is a first step to making good things happen. Take a moment before going out to be grateful for one of the blessings in your life: friends or family, having a safe place to stay at night, even the weather. When you find something to smile about, you’ll find people notice you and smile back. Your more positive attitude may even be contagious – you never know the effect you may be having on someone whose troubles outweigh your own.
And remember that tomorrow’s a new day. It might be the day everything changes for the better.
I’m already nervous. It’s my first time speaking to a statewide audience and this is the first time I’ve delivered this material. I’ve prepared hard, and I think I’m ready. But after about five minutes, I see a couple of members of the audience start checking their phones. I’m humiliated; I couldn’t even hold their attention for 10 minutes.
Miraculously, while I deliver my material to the audience, I’m able to have another whole conversation inside my head.
“They hate it. No – they hate me. I’ve lost them; they’re bored and they’re going to tell everyone not to bother going to my other workshop. “
It’s a compelling story I’m telling myself. The problem is it’s all made up.
It turns out that the two audience members were from the same office and had both received an urgent text from their manager. They actually stayed through the presentation and came up to tell me how much they enjoyed it after.
If I had let my story take over my brain, my presentation would have suffered. We tell ourselves stories like this every day, and sometimes we damage more than a presentation; we can damage relationships.
One of her great actionable takeaways is the phrase: “The story I’m telling myself is…” She introduces the concept with a story about a time she was completely overwhelmed with work. Here’s how she tells it:
“I was sitting in the dining room, on the brink of collapsing in tears, when I heard the back door open and [her husband] Steve come in. He walked down the hall, headed into the kitchen, set his bag down on the breakfast room table, and opened the refrigerator. The first thing I heard him say was “We don’t even have any damn lunch meat in this house.”
Brown came close to melting down and starting one of those epic fights that couples remember for years. In fact, she confronted Steve by the refrigerator with a sarcastic comment about where he might find lunchmeat if he needed it so badly. Steve, to his credit, didn’t take the bait. He reminded her that, since he buys the groceries for the family, the lack of lunchmeat was on him. Finally, Brown writes, “still calm and more curious than pissed, he said, “Right. I get the groceries. So what’s going on?”
Brown again: “I looked at Steve and said, “Look, the story I’m telling myself right now is this: I am a half-ass leader, a half-ass mom, a half-ass wife, and a half-ass daughter. I am currently disappointing every single person in my life. Not because I’m not good at what I do, but because I’m doing so many different things that I cannot do a single one of them well. What I’m making up in my head right now is that you want to make sure that I know that you know how bad things suck right now. It’s like you need to announce how sucky things are in our house on the off chance that I—the purveyor of everything that’s currently sucking—happen not to know.”
And because her husband stayed present and really listened, he could comfort her. He assured her that the kids could eat Chick Fil-A one more night and survive, and that he was there for her. “We’ll figure this out together.”
Brown writes that when you have the courage to tell someone what you’re thinking, in a way that allows for the fact that you might be mistaken (“the story I’m telling myself” is very different from “what you’re doing that’s so wrong is…”) we allow the other person space to really listen. Brown says these kind of conversations can be game changers if we can find a way to “to listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard.”
Next time you’re angry, hurt, or disappointed, try telling the other person about the story you’re telling yourself. “The story I’m telling myself about you interrupting me in the meeting this morning is that you think my ideas are less valid than yours. I’m thinking that you don’t respect the work I put into this idea and you want to show everyone I’m not prepared to lead this project. Can you help me understand what you were really thinking?”
You may get a remarkable answer and change the course of your relationship forever. Or not; you can’t control the other person’s reaction or their willingness to own up to how they think or act. But that’s the essence of vulnerability, says Brown: “Vulnerability is not winning or losing . It’s having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome.”
If you feel a little groggy as you’re reading this, Dr. Michael Breus, who bills himself as “The Sleep Doctor,” feels your pain. His Los Angeles-based clinical psychology practice is dedicated to helping people understand their chronotypes and learn to manage them better. Your chronotype is your biological predisposition to be a morning person, an evening person, or somewhere in between.
We’ve used the terms “lark” for morning people and “night owl” for night people for years. Dr. Breus has identified four distinct chronotypes: Lions, Bears, Wolves and Dolphins. You can take the quiz here to find your own type.
Dr. Breus says that when you understand how your body is programmed for optimal performance, you can start to work with it instead of against it, increasing your effectives, productivity, and well-being. His book The Power of When, helps you determine the best times of day for you to work out, eat, have difficult conversations, work on complex tasks, even – er – mate. According to his research, changing your daily schedule if you’ve been out of synch can transform your life.
When I took the quiz, I came out as a Lion (along with an estimated 15 percent of the general population.) Lions are morning-oriented driven optimists with medium sleep drive, often hard-charging, get-it-done leaders. It’s true that I’ve been a morning person since I was a young child; I rise with the sunlight and feel at my best first thing in the morning. I’m usually at my desk by 6:30 AM, since that’s when I do my best thinking and planning. By mid-afternoon, my concentration falters, so I save routine, repetitive work for that time. Dr. Breus says I should also work out then, to get my energy up for the evening. That explains why early morning workouts just don’t work for me, even though I’m up and alert.
According to Breus, most people are Bears. Fifty percent of the population are “go-with-the-flow ramblers, good sleepers, and anytime hunters. This name fits fun-loving, outgoing people who prefer a solar-based schedule and have a high sleep drive.” Normal daytime work hours suit Bears fine, and their dominance in the population explains why the business world is built around a 9 to 5 schedule.
Pity the Dolphins. Breus writes about them: “Actual dolphins (the marine species, not the human chronotype) sleep ‘unihemispherically.’ This leaves one side of the brain functioning at all times, keeping them alert for predators. Dr. Breus used this animal to represent the 10 percent of humans who struggle with insomnia and other sleep disorders.” Dolphins are often Type As who simply can’t turn off their minds in order to get the rest they need.
Wolf Chronotypes make up 15 percent of the population. “They’re the night-owls who stand guard like sentries while the rest of sleep.” They tend to be creative types, including authors, artists, entrepreneurs, musicians, and bartenders; also security guards, sentries, and other people who literally take the night shift. Many are introverts. You know who you are, if this is you. Mornings just don’t work for you; you come awake, alive, and alert just as the sun starts to set. Day jobs are for other people.
Here’s a great graphic (courtesy of naturalstacks.com) that helps you schedule your most productive day by chronotype.
(This article originally appeared in my Jacksonville Business Journal column “The Careerist.”)
From 1960 to the early 1970s the entry of married women workers accounted for almost half of the increase in the total labor force. Now, women make up 47 percent of the U.S. workforce, and match the numbers of men in occupations requiring four-year degrees and serious career commitment. Much has changed since the women’s movement in the 1970s, but one factor remains the same: women still work two shifts. One paid one at the office, and the other unpaid, performing most of the household and childcare tasks at home.
In 1989, Arlie Hochschild’s book called The Second Shift explored what Hochschild called “the leisure gap” between working husbands and wives. A 1989 New York Times review of the book said Hochschild called the women’s movement “a ‘stalled revolution,’ one that got wives out of the home and into the first shift of paid employment but resulted in surprisingly meager change during the domestic second shift. … In most marriages, the woman’s paid work is still considered a mere job, in contrast to the man’s career. Thus the woman’s first shift – her employment – is likely to be devalued, thereby rationalizing her continuing responsibility for the second shift.”
It has been almost thirty years since The Second Shift was published, and not much has changed. For four years, a survey of work and life issues has been published by the Modern Family Index (MFI) series, commissioned by childcare provider Bright Horizons. In part because of the growing number of women as single heads of households, 40 percent of U.S. households now have a mom as the primary breadwinner. The poll consisted of 2,082 American workers with at least one child under the age of 18.
The 2017 numbers don’t look very different than you would have expected in 1970, when women were more likely to take part time jobs to earn extra pocket money. Workers reported that working women were primarily responsible for managing children’s schedules (76 percent of working women versus 22 percent of working men.) They were three times more likely to volunteer at school (63 percent compared to 19 percent.) Seventy-one percent of working women said they were responsible for making sure “all family responsibilities” were managed.
According to the Pew Research Center, 37 percent of families where women are the primary earners consist of mothers who earn more than her working spouse does, yet these women also do most of the household management. Many report feeling guilt when they fail to keep an impeccable house or fulfill all their soccer mom obligations. “If my mother-in-law drops by when the house is a mess, I’ll be the one she judges, not my husband” one working mother told me.
Pew research confirms that public opinion favors traditional family roles. About half (51 percent) of respondents to a 2013 survey said that children are better off if a mother is home and doesn’t hold a job, while just 8 percent said the same about a father.
The Modern Family Index findings report that 69 percent of working moms report stress related to their home responsibilities and 52 percent describe themselves as “burned out.” One bright spot in the research: 32 percent of men said they’d trade a 10 percent raise for more time with family. I can only hope they’d spend some of that time doing laundry.