Feature: Rethinking Work-Life Balance

Feature: Rethinking Work-Life Balance

Feature: Rethinking Work-Life Balance

The essence of a healthy career is work that fulfills and rewards you. Such work is possible, however, only if and when you are employed at what you most like to do and do best. It must involve the development and expression of the inherent capability-the special skill-which all of us possess. I call it your Natural because it is an intrinsic part of your persona and the key to being the best you can be.

Unfortunately, many maybe even most of us don’t even know what our Natural is. That’s why there has been so much focus, in recent years, on helping people achieve a “work-life balance.” The term implies that work is a negative activity that has no personal value other than a paycheck which is almost always less than what we want or need. Our jobs cannot lift us up, but they can drag us down, so we must find a way to counteract them. We must balance our day-to-day experience in the workplace with activities that occur someplace else and do have enduring value. And sadly, survey after survey confirms that balance is exactly what a growing number of Americans are struggling to achieve in their lives.

Why is this so? Why are so many American workers determined to spend less of their waking day at work?

  • For some, of course, it is a reaction to the bullying of their employers. They have been asked to do too much and to work too long. They seek balance in their careers so they can still have a life and enjoy their relationships with family and friends.
  • For others, on the other hand, the push for balance is caused by what’s missing from their work. They are investing a third or more of their lives in their career, and that endeavor lacks any sense of purpose or meaning for them. They seek balance in their careers so their employment experience is both appropriately engaging and consistently satisfying.
  • For the first group, work-life balance is a benefit that employers provide at their option. It is controlled by employers and subject to fluctuations in their fortunes. This kind of balance is important to have, to be sure, but in the 21st Century workplace, it is fast becoming an anomaly.

  • When times are good, the benefit is hard to get because employers want to pull every penny of profit possible out of the strong market.
  • When times are bad, the benefit is hard to get because employers are cutting costs to preserve every penny of profit possible in the weak market.
  • The net effect is that employers talk incessantly about work-life balance-they even promise to provide it-but more often than not, the words aren’t balanced with action.

    For the second group, in contrast, work-life balance is self-created. It is controlled by the individual and is largely unaffected by the fortunes of any employer. The individual seeks and accepts only those jobs where they can be their personal best. They transform their work from a negative to a positive experience by structuring their employment so that it has enduring value for them. In essence, they achieve balance by assigning their interests in the workplace as much priority as those of their employers. They do that by focusing their career on the development and expression of their Natural.

    This kind of work-life balance is much more resilient and far healthier for us. We are able to do what’s best for us, at work as well as in the rest of our lives. We get rid of the daily grind and, instead, commit ourselves to the daily greatness we are all capable of achieving. And, now, more than ever before, it is possible to create such an individually inspired work-life balance.

    Why is that so? What makes today different from yesterday? The labor market. Employers now find themselves engaged in a War for Talent. It’s not a War for Any Talent, however; it’s a War for the Best Talent. There aren’t enough people who are skilled in critical fields or are superior performers or both to go around so employers are competing desperately to hire them. This situation is your Emancipation Proclamation … if you know how to realize your freedom.

    The key to achieving a work-life balance that you control is being the best you can be at what you most like to do and do best. In essence, you must make a personal commitment to working at developing and expressing your natural talent-to performing at the top of your game each and every day on-the-job. If you do that, you’ll not only find employment that fulfills and rewards you, but you’ll have your choice of employers that will balance their expectations with what’s best for you. That puts life in your work as well as work in your life.

    Thanks for reading,


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    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    Men’s Journal explored the impact of our “fight or flight” response on the modern worker’s health. Most of us, of course, can’t execute either one of those two natural reactions when we face a threatening situation in the workplace; basically, we’re forced to stay and passively submit to whatever it is that confronts us. So, what happens? Our stress levels soar and our health is placed at risk. What can we do about this situation? The magazine suggests the following:

  • Don’t think in absolutes. All or nothing thinking can blow a problem way out of proportion and unnecessarily increase your stress level.
  • Take deep, slow breaths. That will reset your stress response in a situation and give yourself a chance to think more rationally about its implications.
  • Relax your body. That will help your mind to relax, as well. Simply roll a tennis ball under the reflex points located on each foot and you’ll reduce the tension in your back and shoulders and also your head.
  • Take a walkabout. Spending as little as two minutes in physical activity will burn off a lot of your stress and help to clear your mind.
  • Current research indicates that stress, more than any other single factor, forces us to miss days of work and perform below our peak. Learning simple but effective ways to control stress, therefore, can not only save your life; it can save your career, as well.

    The MIT Sloan Management Review published an article which argued that your intuition can actually be improved. The conventional view, of course, is that intuition is a faculty with which you’re born. It’s a form of insight that everyone has, whether they choose to use it or not. The article’s authors, on the other hand, believe that intuition is “not a magical sixth sense” but an acquired capability. They describe it as “a highly developed form of reasoning that is based on years of experience and learning and on facts, patterns, concepts, procedures and abstractions stored in one’s head.” And if that’s what intuition is, then you can improve it. How? The authors suggest three strategies:

  • Gain lots of experience so you’ll recognize more patterns, concepts, procedures and so on;
  • Learn to control your emotions so you respond rationally rather than emotionally to new situations; and
  • Be curious as that will expose you to new ideas and hence additional patterns, concepts procedures and the like.
  • The authors admit that intuition isn’t always the best guide so you “should reflect on your intuitive decisions before you execute them.” I like the advice, but it’s hardly ground breaking research. Whether you call it intuition or something else, the combination of real world experience, rational decision-making and an open mind have long been viewed as the building blocks of effective workplace behavior. Honing those attributes will not only enhance your success on-the-job, they will invigorate and advance your career.

    The Three Signs of a Miserable Job is a new “fable for managers” by Patrick Lencioni, the president of a consulting firm that specializes in team development for executives. It tells the story of a successful executive who finds himself unemployed when his company is sold. After a ski injury sidelines his recreational retirement, he decides to fill his time by helping to turn around Gene and Joe’s, a local Italian restaurant where the employees are unmotivated, unhappy and unpleasant to customers and each other. How does he get the team to reengage? Lencioni believes it is the responsibility of managers who should, as he puts it, “view their work as a ministry.” He explains, “By helping people find fulfillment in their work, and helping them succeed in whatever they’re doing, a manager can have a profound impact on the emotional, financial, physical and spiritual health of workers and their families.” I agree with that, but I think it lets the rest of us off the hook too easily. Ultimately, it’s the individual’s responsibility to find, successfully apply for and perform work that engages and rewards them. Certainly, our supervisors can turn what should be a positive situation into an unpleasant or untenable one. But that’s all they can do. They can’t force us to stay in a demeaning or dispiriting job. Only we can do that. They can’t prevent us from finding an employer and work that challenges and rewards us. Only we can do that. In short, only we have the power to care for our careers. Either we are in charge of them or we toss them to the wind. We make the choice.

    If you’re in transition and/or looking for a little extra income during the Holiday season, Simply Hired may have the answer. It announced employment trends for the season, and retailers seem to be getting into the spirit. This year, the number of openings the site classifies as “holiday jobs” is up fifty percent over that of last year. What are some of the more interesting opportunities? Consider these:

  • Bell ringer,
  • Cookie baker,
  • Caroler,
  • Snowman, and
  • Turkey.
  • If you want to be a snowman, you’d better hurry; the site has only 10 openings posted for such a role. However, if you’re qualified to be a turkey, you’ve probably got nothing to worry about. There are 1,141 jobs for which you can apply.

    WEDDLE’s publications are a smart way to give yourself a competitive advantage in the race for a new or better job. They include:

  • WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet. Called the “Zagat of the online employment industry” by the American Staffing Association, it provides full-page profiles of 350 of the best job boards in a range of occupations, industries and locations;
  • WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Directory of Employment Related Internet Sites. The “address book of the online employment industry,” it lists over 9,000 sites and organizes them by the occupational fields, industries and geographies on which they focus; and
  • WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Guide to Association Web Sites. The key to the “hidden job market” online, it details the recruiting resources and capabilities that are provided at the Web-sites of over 1,900 associations and societies.
  • WEDDLE’s WIZNotes: Finding a Job on the Web. Called the “CliffsNotes to career success on the Internet,” this short publication is jam packed with the secrets to effective job searching and career advancement online.
  • So, make sure you’re at the top of your game; get your WEDDLE’s books today. Click on the appropriate link to your left or call WEDDLE’s at 317.598.9768.

    Section Three: Site Profiles

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Guides and Directories

    There are 40,000 job boards now in operation in North America and an equal number operating elsewhere around the world. The key to recruiting top talent online, therefore, is knowing where to find and how to select the best sites for each of your requirements. WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Guide identifies 350 of the top sites worldwide and provides the information you need to determine which job boards will deliver the optimum yield for you. For example:



    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: Yes-Consulting, Internships

    Distribution of jobs: International

    Number of jobs: 3,500+

    Salary levels of jobs: Up to $200K+/yr

    Offer a job agent: Yes

    Resume database: Yes

    How long are resumes stored: 1 year

    Restrictions on who can post: In the industry

    Other services for job seekers: Discussion forums for networking, Assessment instruments, Career information, Links to other sites with job search/career resources

    Member, International Association of Employment Web Sites: Yes