When I worked full time in the corporate world, I was blessed to work for a company that was family friendly in almost every sense of the term. Most everyone in our 30-person office was married. Most of our outside staff were also family men and women. We had company parties that included spouses and children. Many of those people are still my close friends. I realize that’s an unusual situation and probably not one I’ll ever find again.
I’m not saying that company was perfect. We had our personnel problems and management dilemmas and general workplace dissatisfaction. But our owners and the staff did enough right that it made a difference in how our workdays went.
First, our owners hired for character, not just talent or skill. They figured if you couldn’t get along with the team, skill was overrated. I, for example, had a communications degree and virtually no real computer experience. I was hired as a temp to document a software program for a client. That contract job turned into six years of employment, moving from technical documentation to installation and training of custom software to network manager. My computer training was all on the job, and everyone, mostly degreed engineers, pitched in to help, teach, and mentor me. The fruit of that experience has helped me develop my own successful computer network consulting company.
Takeaway: Look for a company/environment that hires to build a team, not to fill a position. Don’t rely on them to tell you if you fit. You need to make sure they fit for you. The time at work is time away from your family for the purpose of helping financially provide. You want to enjoy this time, not resent it.
Second, our owners expected us to earn our keep. We had a laid-back atmosphere, very typical in Austin, but we worked a full 40 hours a week. No more; no less. Everyone had a job and was expected to accomplish it. Everyone chipped in to cover emergencies or pull out a big project at the last minute. We were in to win it.
Takeaway: The success of the company translated to success for all of us. We had a sense of importance. We felt we mattered. It made going to work something worth doing. Look for a position that builds you up and enables you to grow as a person and develops a skill.
Third, effective communication was practiced. I admit, there were times I didn’t want to know some details of the business. I wanted to hide in my cubicle and do my job. But our owners insisted that everyone know the things they thought mattered. That’s not to say there weren’t need-to-know details which we didn’t need to know, but different departments shared information and collaborated on projects. Territorialism was discouraged. We were a little competitive when it mattered, but not at the expense of anyone else.
Takeaway: Doubt and insecurity breeds fear and ineffective job performance. Counter interview questions with your own interrogation. Unless you’re applying for something with security clearance, they should be somewhat transparent. Consider how the staff interacts and evaluate if that communication is open and honest.
Fourth, our schedules were somewhat flexible, but we were held responsible for showing up. This was an office environment, so some people worked 7-4. Others worked 9-6. When my baby was little, I worked two days a week at home for a few months while we were between sitters. Jobs that require certain shifts to be covered are not as flexible. Consider what works best for you: the same hours every week or the ability to come and go as needed.
Takeaway: Make sure whatever schedule you get works for you. You don’t want to be that employee that calls in every other week because your sitter didn’t show up or you would rather go on a field trip with your child’s school. If you’re going to work, make it work.
If you NEED to work, then be a committed and dependable employee. Show up. Do your job.
If you just WANT to work for extra money or to add some perceived value to your life, reconsider your priorities. I totally understand wanting the freedom to go to the bathroom by myself (I’m still waiting on it, as a matter of fact). On the other hand, a job will never give you hand-picked dandelion bouquets, slurpy kisses smeared with peanut butter, or hand-drawn murals on your walls. It will also not give you grandchildren to make up for your own sleepless nights, a topic of conversation with other parents who flaunt their children’s every job promotion, or choose your nursing care in your old age.
Kids cost money, and sometimes you need to work. It is a fact of life. But family comes first. Always.