Recently, we hosted a fireside chat with Joann Lublin, the former management news editor of The Wall Street Journal, and author of its career advice column for nearly 30 years. During her esteemed career, Joann won the Pulitzer Prize and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gerald Loeb Awards, the highest honor in business journalism. Her new book is Power Moms: How Executive Mothers Navigate Work and Life.
Julie Binder, Maven’s SVP, Brand Communications, talked to Lublin about the state of working mothers today and how they can take charge of their careers and time. Watch the recording here, and check out our key takeaways below:
1. How to Succeed Working Remotely with Children at Home
Lublin uncovered some valuable ideas from women who had experience working remotely but needed to set boundaries at work now that children were in the home 24/7.
- In one case, a woman told her employer that she wasn't available between 7:00-11:00 AM every day—this was her protected time. During this time, she gets what she needs to get done and ignores any Slack messages, Zoom calls, or anything else work-related., Her employer was okay with that.
- Another woman Lublin talked to also pointed out the importance of communicating with coworkers when it's most convenient for us. No one needs to be “on” for others at all times.
Lublin added, “When your kid interrupts you, don't give yourself a hard time about it. You deal with the issue that is the most pressing at the moment. And if it's your child, it's your child.”
2. How to Communicate Your Changing Needs as a Working Parent
Lublin stressed the importance of working parents updating bosses and peers on what they need to succeed at work when the responsibilities of raising kids consistently change your schedule. As children age, they require different activities and forms of attention, and their needs are constantly changing during the academic year and then into summer. So, Lublin recommends clarifying your changing needs and availability and knowing that it's okay to say "no" once in a while.
Lublin stresses that, especially in a time where everyone is working from home, “Now is the time for parents to be clearer than they ever have been about what they need.”
3. Why Successful Women Feel Comfortable Saying “No”
Lublin interviewed 86 executive women while gathering research for her book, and she found one commonality — they all felt comfortable in their skin. She notes that part of being comfortable in your skin is accepting your imperfections and recognizing that the “no” you give today means you can say “yes” more often tomorrow. And Lublin has discovered a more palatable way to say “no” via what she calls “the sandwich approach.”
The “sandwich approach” to saying no starts with a positive statement. For example, you can talk about how much you love your job, partner, or kids. Then, you introduce the reason why you're saying “no” right now. Lastly, you end with the other part of the “sandwich,” another positive statement that reinforces why you're saying no. You could say something like, “I appreciate you asking me to help out on this project. However, because I'm juggling other clients, I can't. But if my schedule frees up in the future, I can reach out.” She recommends this method to help everyone involved come away with an understanding that it’s just no, and it's not forever. Instead, it's a predecessor to tomorrow.
4. How to Prepare Your Career for Motherhood
When it comes to preparing for a future as a working mom, Lublin states how important it is to choose your partner wisely and make sure they share your ambitions and are committed to being a co-partner. While life circumstances change, devoting to the long-term and getting on the same page about whose career takes priority, who will alternate as a stay-at-home parent, or any other arrangement you might come up with is vital.
5. The Importance of Choosing an Employer that will Support Your Parenthood Plans
Choosing an employer that will support you as a working parent is essential, too. Lublin recommends anticipating how you can have a successful career while also being a parent by doing your research. Read up on the type of parent-focused benefits employers offer, such as maternity leave and extended family leave, and reach out to people working in your department. She even suggests extending your research to job review sites and social media to ask former employees questions about work-life balance for moms in the workplace.
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