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Category Archives: Transitions

Working from home can be a tricky balancing act for anyone. You have to create a routine to stay focused and motivated, set up an office space, and try to create healthy boundaries between work and home. Add parenting into the mix and your balancing act turns into something more like a flying trapeze show that involves juggling fireballs while singing the national anthem. It’s beyond tricky. Sometimes, it feels downright impossible.

But that’s been the story for millions of parents during this pandemic era. For many, having their children return to school last fall was a godsend. It created some semblance of normalcy, some reprieve from the constant need to guide home schooling, provide snacks, breakup spats between siblings, or offer (sometimes much-needed) attention. But things are dicey again, and school district policies are all over the place. Some schools have closed their doors once more, which means parents have to once again split their time between working and babysitting their kids’ Zoom sessions.

I’m well aware that the unpredictability is maddening for working parents. Though my kids are long grown, I’ve talked to many parents of young kids and have read poignant articles about the difficulty of this time. What’s more, women are disproportionately affected by the WFH/parenting balancing act. A McKinsey study found that moms were three times more likely to perform most of the household labor during the pandemic (and 1.5 times more likely to spend 3+ hours on housework or child care EACH day).

So, what’s a working parent to do? I have three main suggestions. These may not be cure-alls, but hopefully they will provide a small amount of relief and sanity to parents who are juggling WFH with child care.

1. Forgive Yourself

Too many of us are perfectionists. In this uncertain time, it’s a good idea to let those perfectionist tendencies slide a bit. You’re not going to win every day, or even most days. Just keeping your head above water is sometimes enough. Maybe you have to eat frozen pizza three nights in a row because you’ve run out of steam to cook a healthy meal. Maybe you have to bribe your kids with more “screen time” than usual.

That’s okay.

Sometimes you have to simply survive until next week and try again. Maybe you’ll have a little more free time or resources then, and you can do a bit better. Or maybe not. Whatever the case, let it go and forgive yourself. We all make mistakes or have bad weeks. Forgive your flaws, be kind to yourself, and instead of dwelling on mistakes, plan for the future.

2. Partner with Others

Though being a WFH parent can feel awfully lonely at times, it doesn’t have to be. Believe it or not, there are many parents all over the nation in a similar position and, guess what, most of them feel isolated and alone too! So, why not partner up?

Reach out to parent friends or connect with parents who live in your neighborhood/apartment building and form a pod. When doing this, it’s helpful to partner with those who are like-minded about pandemic policies; otherwise, a partnership will be difficult. BUT, if you are able to find another family or two to partner with and support each other, that is worth more than gold. You can begin trading responsibilities such as driving the kids to activities, babysitting, tutoring, or even swapping meals. It may not “take a village to raise a child,” but it certainly does help.

3. Schedule “Me Time”

If you’re working at home with kids in the house, you are well aware that it can be extremely difficult to concentrate. Somebody always needs something, and you’re usually the one that hears about it. To help mitigate some of this, it’s helpful to set aside blocks of “me time” in your schedule. This technique likely won’t work with very young children, but it should work with most.

Explain to your kid(s) that when you declare “me time,” that means you need an undisturbed block of time for an hour (or two, if your kids are older or fairly quiet). They should hold off requests, keep noise to a minimum, and respect your boundaries during this time. If you have a door (and your kids are older), you might want to close it to help with your concentration. Then, get to work! Focus on one or two tasks during this block of time and do whatever you can.

If you and your partner are working from home, you might approach “me time” in a different way. Instead of relying on the kids to stay quiet and unattended, you can trade work/parenting duties with your partner. Let the kids know which parent is “on duty” and which parent is working, so they know who to go to in a crisis (or if they need more apple juice!). Regardless of your approach, communication is crucial when it comes to setting aside “me time.”

Parenting during a pandemic is a challenge we’re still trying to wrap our heads around. Things will eventually get better, but for now, simply do your best, communicate clearly, and don’t be too hard on yourself.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE. 

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Are you one of several million people who has recently left your job? Or, are you thinking about making a career change? Or are you, perhaps, hoping to switch roles or responsibilities in your current workplace? Whatever the case, it’s crucial to start thinking about and preparing for the transition ahead. Smooth transitions are usually not accidental. They take a good deal of reflection, forethought, strategy, and adaptability. Today, I’d like to discuss three keys to a successful transition.

Before we dig in, I need to give credit where credit is due. Dr. Jean Davidson, an experienced coach and consultant, is the originator of the “Three Keys” concept. She founded Davidson Consulting and Coaching in 2004, and has helped many individuals and teams step into the best versions of themselves. Dr. Davidson’s eBook, 3 Keys to Finding Hidden Treasures in a Difficult Transition, discusses transitions from a unique angle, and in this blog post I’m going to paraphrase some of that information. (If you find this information helpful, I highly encourage you to download Dr. Davidson’s complimentary eBook from her website!)

Let’s dig in to the “3 Keys.”

1. Notice where you are in the journey

There is power in observation. It pays to slow down, reflect, and think about where you are in your transition journey. Do you think you’re close to the beginning of your journey? Toward the end? Or somewhere in the middle? What roadblocks are you facing now, and which ones do you anticipate in the future?

This intentional reflecting is important, as it helps us identify our current state, where we’d like to go, and what might be standing in the way of us getting there.

2. Look for treasures and use them

Though you might not realize it in the moment, there are valuable lessons to be learned during a transition. Oftentimes, we’re too busy trying to get through the transition that we don’t absorb the life lessons and wisdom we gain from experiencing it. And this attitude makes sense—transitions can be difficult and uncomfortable. The last thing most of us want to do is dwell on them!

But that’s precisely where you’ll find the lessons, the “treasures,” buried in the folds of uncertainty and stress. What types of lessons?

Perhaps you’ve learned about your personal resiliency. Maybe you’ve shifted to a career that pays less but grants you more time off, thus teaching you how to appreciate personal time. Or maybe your transition has taught you something about your support network—those important family members and friends who have your back (and, conversely, maybe you’ve learned who doesn’t have your back and who you might need to distance yourself from).

All of these lessons are true treasures. We simply have to look for them. (Dr. Davidson goes into more detail on how to do this in her eBook.)

3. Identify what to let go of

As you move forward in your transition journey, you will likely discover that some things no longer serve you. Some of your habits, tendencies, attitudes, or even relationships may no longer fit into this new chapter of your life. Reflect on your new path forward and consider what you need to leave behind. Some of your decisions about what to reject might be relatively easy (ditching your habit of overworking, for instance, or ridding yourself of the tendency to be too much of a people pleaser). But other decisions may be more difficult (Do you let go of that harmful friendship, or do you attempt to repair it? Are you really ready to put an end to certain bad habits?).

I challenge you to be frank and honest with yourself. What do you need, going forward? And what will inhibit your progress or, worse, drag you back to square one? Cut the things from your life that will only weigh you down—the self-expectations, the harmful relationships, the toxic beliefs, the bad habits.

After you determine what to let go of in your life, follow through! Make a plan for how to rid yourself of these things and take action. Communication and honesty will go a long way in this process.

Transitions can be tough, but they can also open new doors and provide an opportunity for you to reinvent or rejuvenate yourself. Take your time, learn from your journey, and let go of anything that is harmful or holding you back. Walk forward on your new path with clarity and confidence.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE. 

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Business woman and building

One of the sad and disappointing effects of the COVID pandemic (aside from the tragic loss of life) is that a disproportionate number of women have had to leave their jobs, either temporarily or permanently. Time Magazine reports, “Between August and September, 865,000 women dropped out of the labor force, according to a National Women’s Law Center analysis of the Bureau of Labor Statistics September jobs report. In the same time period, just 216,000 men exited the workforce.”

Why is this happening?

It could be any number of reasons. For one, industries that are female-dominated (education, service industry jobs, child care, etc.) have been hardest hit by the pandemic. Also, due to at-home schooling and daycare centers shutting their doors, there’s becoming a greater need for parents to stay home with children. And, guess what? The lowest wage earner is inevitably the one who will stay home, which is typically the woman (As of 2020 women make an average of $.81 for every $1.00 a man brings in).

We can’t solve the gender pay gap in one blog post. Nor can we give women all the safety nets they need (affordable childcare, paid maternity leave, etc.). However, we CAN focus on one key question to attempt to turn around this grim situation:

How can women re-enter the workforce once they are able to come back?

I’ll be frank. Once you leave the workforce for an extended period of time, the cards are stacked against you. Resume gaps never look good, and you may fall behind on industry advancements and new skillsets. However, there ARE a few steps you can take to make yourself a more enticing candidate to future employers. Here are four steps you can take:

1. Never Stop Working

This may sound counter-intuitive, but it IS possible to avoid resume gaps by doing very part-time work at home. If you’re a graphic designer, for instance, you might take on the occasional freelance project. If you’re a writer, you could volunteer for your neighborhood newspaper. If you specialize in social media marketing, you could put in some hours volunteering for a friend’s business. If you have a finance background, you could consider becoming a virtual financial assistant (typically a very part-time gig).

Yes, not every job is conducive to part-time, at-home work. If you used to work in healthcare, for instance, you can’t exactly care for patients in your free time at home! Instead, consider volunteering in a relevant area or skip ahead to tip #2:

2. Stay Relevant

When you leave a job, it’s a good idea to keep tabs on your industry and refresh your skills, when you can. Sign up for newsletters, read articles, or listen to podcasts related to your industry.

If you have the time and bandwidth, consider taking an online class or pursuing relevant certification. You might even connect with a local college or university to see if they’re offering any useful classes for people who are not full-time students.

3. Network

Never stop networking. According to Diane Flynn, co-founder and CEO of Reboot Accel, “About 85 percent of women returning to work find jobs through their network.”

Even if you’re temporarily working as a homemaker, you can still continue to keep in touch with your network. Send the occasional email or LinkedIn message to former co-workers, join an online women’s networking group, or check out Toastmasters.

Once you’re ready to start looking for work again, don’t be afraid to make your job hunt public. Post about it on social media, send emails to friends who could possibly assist you, and drop your former co-workers a line. You never know who might say, “Yes! I know of a job opening that would suit you perfectly!”

4. Tap Into Resources

Believe it or not, there’s an entire industry set up to help people re-enter the workplace after a long break. Firms such as iRelaunch or companies offering reentry programs (sometimes called “returnships”) are actively seeking to hire people who have been out of a job for an extended period of time.

You might also contact your alma mater’s career center for guidance or work with a career coach who specializes in worker reentry.

5. Don’t Sell Yourself Short

If you are trying to re-enter the workforce after a significant break, there is absolutely no need to feel shame or embarrassment. Push those feelings aside and concentrate on your enthusiasm and your relevant skills and expertise. Demonstrate that you are ready to hit the ground running and willing to put in the legwork to do the best work possible.

If an interviewer asks about a gap on your resume, don’t shy away from the question. Instead, be honest! Tell them you had to temporarily stay home to care for your school-aged children, but you’re now ready, enthusiastic, and as prepared to work.

Remember: Your volunteering experience, memberships, and online classes/certifications count! If, for example, you sat on the PTA or organized an annual fundraiser for your church, be sure to tout that experience and demonstrate its relevance. For example:

“For three years I spearheaded my church’s annual walk to end hunger fundraiser. As chair of the committee, I was in charge of 30 volunteers, organized all the event logistics, and tracked over $10,000 in donations.”

In sum: Don’t sell yourself or your experience short!

Re-entering the workforce after an extended break is often not an easy task. However, with a little foresight, some planning, and the tenacity to seek resources and lean on your network, you CAN make a successful workplace reentry. The right job is waiting for you; be bold enough to seek it out and seize it!


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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