Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Staying Home, Staying Connected: Keeping networks and skills active while at home full time

This is a loose compilation of thoughts and ideas from women who were involved in the Women in Business conference who have stayed home and been deliberate about keeping an active network and résumé and skill set along the way -- even in simple and small ways.

Ideas for Keeping an Active Network

- Create and/or maintain a LinkedIn profile (update at least once a year, even if you only alter a line or
two to reflect volunteer/service opportunities). Try to connect with people you know from school, from
former jobs, and from other settings.

- Keep business cards in your purse (or diaper bag!) with your contact information (e.g., email and LinkedIn information).

- Find joy in learning about others -- at church, at the park, at the school, at the store. Practice getting out of your comfort zone. Where appropriate, ask for business cards and/or how to connect with them through social media. Spend a little bit of time occasionally reaching out to a person or two with whom you have connected in this way.

- Look for ways to connect people you have met with others who might benefit from knowing them. Networking can be as much about helping others as about helping yourself.

- Look for online groups in LinkedIn, on Facebook, on blogs, etc. with people with similar interests/
backgrounds. Read discussions occasionally; have a goal to comment as well.

- If possible, allocate the time and financial resources to attend a conference (or two) every year (or

- Get involved with your local Management Society chapter.

- See if there is a professional organization in your area that meets together. Attend a meeting on

- Connect deliberately with other women who are in your similar stage of motherhood. It’s important to build that kind of support network, too. (As you do, you may also find other women interested in business/ professional development!)

- Practice talking in positive terms about yourself, your motherhood, your choice to stay home, and your
interests in business. Be prepared with what you want to say when people ask, “What do you do?”

Ideas for Keeping Skills and Résumé Current

- If you haven’t finished your degree, keep that goal in your sights. It’s often easier to finish earlier than later. But later is better than never. And timing is always best guided by God.

- Define what skill set you have developed through education and past experience (your own “core competency”) as well as what skills you are using in church callings or other service opportunities (e.g., volunteering at schools). Ponder what talents and skills you feel God may want you to develop or use.

- Practice talking about your skills with others. (OR, decide what kind of skill set you want to build and try to do some of the below with that goal in mind.)

- As you network with others, look for simple opportunities to offer your skills or time (even a couple of
hours once a month/quarter/year volunteering to help with a defined project, fundraiser, activity, etc. can
give you some experience and exposure). This can also be to create opportunities to associate with those
from whom you may want to learn some skills.

- Consider finding a mentor in your area of professional competency/interest. (BYU's Alumni Database
is a possible resource, as is the Advisory Board list on the Marriott School Website.)

- Shadow someone for a few hours who is in your area of professional competency/interest.

- Subscribe to (or regularly read) relevant industry publications, even if only online. There are also many groups on LinkedIn, on Facebook, on blogs, etc.

- If you don't already have one, consider a subscription to The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, or other reputable news/business magazine or newspaper. (Or read from such sources online.)

- If relevant for your profession, keep up continuing education credits or licenses (or at least know how to do that if the need arises).

- Consider resources like TED or Khan Academy for resources for skill- and knowledge-building.

- Again, if possible, allocate time and resources to attend an occasional conference as part of your family calendaring and financial planning. (Or if you can’t attend, read conference proceedings, etc.)

- Include your mothering skills and needs in your efforts to “keep skills sharp.” There are a multitude of resources available (books, free online networks and resources, conferences, etc).

- Take a class (one-time class, a college class, an online class).

- Teach a class or mini-class (e.g., community education, church activity, classroom presentation)

- Find ways to include your children in volunteer or other efforts, and/or focus “on the side” endeavors in ways that correspond with and support them in their current stages of life.

- Enjoy learning with your children, and teach them things you may be learning along the way.

- Look for ways your family might be able to share some experiences that could also build up your résumé (e.g., family service project to support a local non-profit).

- Write regularly, whether in your journal, on a blog, in a family letter update, or just on your computer in a word processing program about topics that interest you. When you send emails, look for opportunities to practice using good business communication skills.

- Look for opportunities to also practice oral presentation skills at home and elsewhere. (e.g, Teach your children how to use PowerPoint and practice giving presentations to each other.)

- Attend an occasional LDS Employment Services seminar on topics such as résumé building or interviewing skills.

General Thoughts

- You’ll be more effective at staying connected if you are first effective and deliberate about your choice to stay home. Honor this season; be bold and positive about your motherhood (and be patient with the process of learning that goes along with this role). The confidence that comes from being grounded and focused with regard to your eternal roles will show in everything else you may do, and can prevent doing things for the wrong reasons (think of Sister Beck’s recent comment about the risk of doing things to “escape” covenant responsibilities).

- Consult often with God and with your spouse. Ponder words of the prophets, scriptures, and your patriarchal blessing for guidance as you consider what gifts and talents to develop/use, and how/when/where to use them, and as you consider how goals to skills and networks active may play a role in your family’s emergency preparedness plans.

- Embrace the concept of times and seasons. There may be significant periods throughout your mothering where you feel all your time and energy needs to be spent focused on your family. There may be other times when you feel prompted to give some attention to education or professional development. Sometimes there may be a mixture of the two. (Again, personal revelation is key.)

- Be willing to revisit decisions and time/energy allocations frequently. Life and family dynamics can and do change regularly. Also, remember that children often can't (or won’t) vocalize their needs; be sensitive to how your decisions create much of their reality.

- Be aware, brutally self-honest, and deliberate about how you spend your time. It’s easy to waste time when bored, tired, stressed, etc. Be precise about personal and family priorities (scripture study, prayer,
FHE, date night, recreational activities), and tighten your own at-home time usage. Even short spurts of focused time on a regular basis (whether that be weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc.) could help toward a goal of keeping some professional skills, knowledge, and connections active.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Tips for Successful Networking

Jennifer Armitstead spoke about best networking practices at our first North Texas Women in Business of the BYU Management Society event. I thought the handout was so good that I asked her for permission to reprint it here. I hope you find it as useful as I have!

Tips for Successful Networking

1. Don't network unless you first know who you are.

2. Before attending an event, know why you want to go.

3. Do your research on the guest speaker. What question would you ask them if you had 3 minutes alone to talk with him/her?

4. ALWAYS have business cards. Include: name, phone number, email, website, picture if it's a professional headshot. www.vistaprint.com is a great site for nice cards at a reasonable rate.

5. Dress the part. Think of the event and dress appropriately. Find a way to dress authentically to your style and brand. Is there something you can wear that showcases your personality?

6. Show up 15-30 minutes early. People who arrive early know that networking is the key to success, those are the people you want to know.

7. Get involved in the group - join a committee, get on the board, etc. There are simple ways to help ou that don't require a lot of your time, but the exposure in the group will be helpful to you!

8. Schedule the event. As soon as you get an email announcing an event, put it on your calendar. Don't wait, because other things will always take your time if you haven't planned for networking.

9. Have a plan of who you want to meet at the event. Examples: Meet 3 new people in the accounting industry. Meet someone who needs help with job search and introduce them to someone who might be able to help.

10. Keep going back. It does you no good to attend one meeting and then never go back. Unless the group doesn't meet your interests, attend as often as possible.

11. Use social media to connect with people after the event. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter are all great ways to continue developing your relationships.

Jennifer Armitstead is a Career Coach and Corporate Talent Consultant. She has coached 1000s of people on how to improve their careers and consulted with dozens of companies to attract and retain the right employees She is the Executive Producer and Host of Job Club Radio.

For more information: www.MovingForwardSolutions.com

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Toward a More Family-Friendly Workplace

This post was submitted by Kaylie Astin who recently launched www.familyfriendlywork.org - a website aimed at improving family-friendly benefits in the workplace. I hope you'll visit her site and contribute your own story!

When I heard Quentin L. Cook’s conference talk in April 2011, I did something I don’t usually do when I’m listening to General Conference: I stood up and cheered. “I would hope that Latter-day Saints would be at the forefront in creating an environment in the workplace that is more receptive and accommodating to both women and men in their responsibilities as parents,” he said. Over the next couple of days, I couldn’t stop thinking about his words. This was an invitation for LDS people to actively get involved in the fight for family-friendly workplaces. That conference weekend, I suddenly knew that’s what I was supposed to do.

Before his talk, I’d been thinking about these issues for a while. Like many women, I quit my job when my first baby was born. Actually, I quit everything. I thought I wouldn’t need any of my interests anymore because I was going to dedicate my life to my children. I’d forgotten to calculate that beneath the loads of laundry and baby blankets, my personality was still buried in there.

I was ambitious and smart. I liked to try new things. Money was scarce.

But I was nursing my baby and wanted to spend as much time with him as possible. My previous job didn’t offer any kind of maternity leave, except for the accrued vacation time I’d already cashed out. If I worked again, how would I find part-time work when most part-time positions would barely cover child care? And speaking of child care, what would I do with the baby while I worked? Could I ever leave my baby without soul-crushing guilt?

I wasn’t ever able to answer these questions to my satisfaction, so I spent the next few years making my way through a variety of at-home endeavors while taking care of the three children that eventually became part of the family. Sometimes I was successful, sometimes not, but never well enough to dispel the desperation constantly haunting my brain.

So when Elder Cook spoke those words, I was already passionate about change, but I didn’t know what to do to help workplaces become more family-friendly. I didn’t have a conventional job where I could make a difference within the organization. Write a book? Become a career coach? Buy a plane ticket to Washington, D.C. and lobby Congress? There were many possibilities, but I was unsure about what direction to go, especially since I knew very little about business and didn’t have the credentials for most people to take me seriously.

I started by gathering all the information I could. I lived in the library, looking for books and perusing magazine articles. I found newspaper articles, reports, and research online. By the time I went to BYU’s Women in Business Conference in 2011, I’d been studying family-friendly workplaces for six months. Our keynote speakers focused their remarks on work/life issues. They cited studies and talked about how women could ask for the balance they sought. Throughout the conference, many women spoke about making decisions, finding mentors, feeling guilt, being criticized, and fighting against inflexible workplaces.

I realized what the world was missing—a place online for LDS working women to get information and to talk about these issues. How do you deal with guilt when you have to work even though you’ve always believed you were supposed to stay home? How do you go back to work if you’ve been home for several years? How do you ask your workplace for maternity leave or a flexible schedule if they’ve never given it to anyone else before?

I poured my research into the website. I wrote about issues such as sick leave, parental leave, flexibility, child care, and elder care in the workplace. I also included some issues specifically important to women—single motherhood, breastfeeding, re-entry, discrimination, and culture. I included a section about how employees, citizens, and employers can make changes. I also added a blog, a forum, and stories from real women in the workplace.

Then, in February 2012, www.familyfriendlywork.org was born! And I’m far from finished. I hope this site can become a place for LDS working women to learn how to make family-friendly changes in their workplaces, and I also hope working women can talk to others about the issues they face every day. This is one dream I felt inspired to pursue, and I hope my site helps working families everywhere.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

New Year's Resolution Ideas for Women in Business

It has been gratifying to talk with and hear from women who attended the BYU Women in Business Conference last fall. I still find myself thinking about topics that were discussed, and hope the conference continues to have an impact as we consider our personal and professional goals for 2012.

A conversation with one attendee has stuck with me. I spoke with her just days after the conference. It was clear that the work/life balance discussions had had an impact on her; she went home and immediately began having discussions, both on the personal and the professional front, about the topic. She talked with her husband about concrete ways they could balance their work and family life better. (They are empty-nesters, both working full-time.) She also went right to work that next Monday, opening up dialogue with her colleagues about how she, as a manager, and they, working together, could help make their workplace more sensitive to and supportive of the issues surrounding work/life balance. (This topic has so much potential, on so many fronts, for resolution ideas.)

Another person whose clear goals have impressed me is Chrysula Winegar. She continues her work in the sphere of family and work life balance by taking a stand for stay-at-home motherhood, opening up conversations in multiple contexts about how to have motherhood be more respected, less punished, in the professional sphere...so that women who do choose to stay home can someday, if they then choose, have the ability to re-enter the workforce. (Resolution idea: Read articles that not only support women in the workplace, but talk about how to support professional women who choose to stay at home. Spoiler alert: Solutions lie not only in the professional sphere, but with those of us who are mothers. We have to deliberately and visibly value our motherhood if we want it valued in the professional sphere.)

I've loved seeing discussions on our Facebook page about these topics as well. Kudos to the women who are reaching out in our Facebook group for help and ideas with their new ventures (non-profit and for-profit). (If you are interested in the panel from the conference on starting your own business, you can listen to it here.) 

Speaking of Facebook, I'd love to see more discussions, on more topics, with more networking on Facebook. (Have you joined our Facebook group yet? There's a simple resolution idea -- to join and participate in our Women in Business Facebook discussions.)

Another example of real action that took place as a result of the conference was summed up in Stephanie's last post, Starting a Women's Group. (Resolution ideas: Join your local BYU Management Society chapter, and/or help start a women's group within your chapter. Listen to the panel discussion on this topic if you haven't already (or review it if you have). Connect with other women, like Stephanie and the panelists she mentions in her post. Brainstorm and share more ideas for helping facilitate networking and mentoring for women in business.)

Whitney Johnson's HBR and Dare to Dream posts contain great advice on the topic of mentoring. You can listen to her conference presentation here. (Resolution ideas are present in Whitney's ideas for both mentor and mentee. Also, have you signed up to be a mentor of business students? You can sign up to volunteer here. Read other great mentoring tips at the Marriott School website.)

For me, as a stay-at-home mom who values highly the notion of staying professionally connected and current, I left the conference both with a renewed determination to be focused in my efforts to keep my professional self alive, but to also be more focused, more centered, regarding home life. The combination of the work/life balance discussions, the mentoring equation advice (time and energy really are limited!), and the spiritual undercurrents of many of the talks (especially by Cathy Chamberlain) combined to have a significant impact on me.

I'll be exploring more of my own takeaways in a future post, so for now, I'd like to ask you: What professional goals are you focusing on this year? What talks/panels/discussions/contacts/experiences from the conference have had an impact on your goal-setting? Comment here or on our Facebook page, or write about it on your personal/business blog and let us know where to find your post!

[This post has been edited slightly from the original.]

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Starting a Women in Business Group

One of the panels I attended at the Women in Business Conference was "Building Women's Networking Groups". As a panel organizer, this particular panel was my idea after reading this article in the Marriott School alumni magazine called "Women's Groups Growing for Management Society" (scroll to bottom of page). I have the task of starting the women's group for my local BYU Management Society chapter, so I was really interested to hear how the women on the panel suggested I get started.

The panelists were Jennifer Armitstead, head (and founder) of the Salt Lake Women's Group, Maria Pribyl, President of the Silicon Valley Women and President-Elect of the Silicon Valley chapter of the BYU Management Society, and Pat Bluth, who organized a women's group within a corporation she worked at. The panel was moderated by Rixa Oman, Executive Director of the BYU Management Society.

You can listen to a recording of the entire panel here on the Women in Business Conference website. The purpose of this blog post is to share some of my notes from the panel and how I have put them into action in starting my local group.

I summarized my notes into this action plan:

1. Just do it. If you decide you want a women's group, start it!

2. Send out a survey to women you think might be interested (you could start with all the women in your local chapter of the BYU Management Society). Ask them what they want from a networking group. What are their needs? When is most convenient for them to meet? Would they be interested in serving on the board?

3. Establish a purpose - Why are you going to get together? You could develop a motto or mission for the group. (Silicon Valley Women has one: Silicon Valley Women provides opportunities for all women to develop LEADERSHIP capabilities by...fostering mentoring relationships, creating educational experiences, and increasing networking skills and contacts.)

4. Set up a board (so you don't have to do everything!)

5. Don't reinvent the wheel. Piggyback on the BYU Management Society as much as possible.

6. Create a social media network so relationships can be developed online. The panelists suggested Linked-In.

7. Write a regular column in your local BYU Management Society's newsletter about the group.

8. Reach out to women one-on-one. But don't limit membership to women! Include men who care about women's issues.

9. Be okay with simple. It is easy to make it too complicated. One group had everyone bring soup and talk.

10. Make sure it is very professional. Some people think women's groups are an extension of Relief Society, so keep it professional.

11. Keep it inexpensive.

I took these notes (and help from Jennifer and Maria, who graciously offered their mentorship in getting me started) and went to work. I first approached the President-elect of my local chapter and suggested we start a women's group. She said, "Great" and put me on the Executive Committee of the chapter with the task of starting the group. Step 1 accomplished!

I then sent out a survey to all the women in the chapter and other women I know personally to ask for their feedback. The survey was very helpful. I was picturing meetings over lunch, but the feedback I received was that the women prefer to meet in the evenings at an event with little or no cost, so I adjusted the plan.

We are naming our group after the precedent established by the Silicon Valley and Salt Lake groups. Our name is the Dallas - Fort Worth Women of the BYU Management Society. Our focus will be on networking and discussing professional skills topics unique to women.

Our first event will be on Tuesday, January 31 at 7 p.m. Jennifer Armitstead (also a career coach!) will speak to us about networking and then lead us in a speed networking activity.

We have three more events planned throughout the year and plan to stay connected via our Linked-In group.

I hope this group will be a strength to women in any life stage who are interested in "ethical and moral leadership" in the DFW area. And I hope that any of you who are reading this and thinking, "Hmmm. I'd like to be a part of a women in business group in my area" will take the initiative and start with step 1 - just do it!

(If you would like help or assistance in starting your own women's group, please leave a comment. We'll get you in contact with people who can help!)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Developing a Career Path Despite Uncertainty - Casey Hurley

Casey Hurley, faculty member of Law and Communications in the BYU-Idaho Business School, was on the "Develop (and Determine) a Career Path Despite Uncertainty" Panel of the Women in Business Conference. Casey shared her Career/Life story on our blog in October. Part of the impetus for asking Casey to be on this panel was a fantastic article she wrote called "What if 'Plan A' Doesn't Work? Helping Female Students Navigate an Uncertain Life Course". For this post, we asked Casey to summarize her remarks on the panel as an introduction to her article.

I started thinking about the uncertainties of planning a career path particular to LDS women a few years ago when I noticed there were seldom many women in my business classes. Conversations with colleagues, students, and other women led me to conclude that many young LDS sisters continue to assume that traditional female careers are the most appropriate or "mom-friendly," and they make educational and career decisions based on that assumption, which is often false. I was shocked to hear about some of our married BYU-Idaho students dropping out of school because they "didn't need a degree anymore."

We all know women whose educational choices have either opened a range of possibilities for them or have limited their options. I think of a friend with a degree in information technology who married in her late 20s after working hard at her career during her single years. When she married, she had the option to transfer, then telecommute when her kids were born. Her education gave her flexibility at different stages of life. Now she is at home with her kids. On the other hand, I know a woman with a large family who did not have similar educational opportunities who went to work as a restaurant hostess when work got scarce for her husband.

I stared to lie awake at night worrying about our BYU-Idaho students faced with the difficulty of making important decisions that would either expand or limit their opportunities. Clearly some of the difficulty for them lies in addressing the uncertainty about when and how their training will be put to use in their future roles as wives and mothers. The difficulty and significance of the problem weighed on me until I decided to write something about the need to provide our students the type of guidance I wish I'd had as a student. When this article was published in our faculty journal, Perspective, I hoped it would ignite discussion and encourage better minds than mine to invent new ways to help our students. The article has had some circulation beyond Rexburg--in fact it connected me to some of the fabulous women behind the BYU Women in Business Conference. This conference is exactly the sort of exposure students need to examples of faithful LDS women applying their education in a variety of ways. There remains work to be done on this front--even at our Church schools we just don't do a good enough job of appropriately prioritizing, even sanctifying, motherhood while helping our female students prepare for a breadth of life possibilities.

"What If 'Plan A' Doesnt Work? Helping Female Students Navigate an Uncertain Life Course," Perspective, Volume 7 Number 2, Autumn 2007

Monday, November 14, 2011

Doing Our Part to Champion Family-Friendly Workplaces

Elise Jones was one of the participants in the conference and has a particular interest in helping create family-friendly workplacesShe is a work/life consultant and founder and president of E Jones Consulting.  Most recently Elise led the diversity effort for Microsoft’s Mobile Communications Business and served as a workplace flexibility advisor to several Microsoft executives. During her seven years at the company Elise founded a flexwork-focused employee affinity group and was instrumental in establishing flexwork initiatives in several business units companywide. Elise is the 2005 recipient of Microsoft's Business Empowered by Diversity Award.

In April 2011 General Conference, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve addressed the decision facing many mothers of whether to work outside the home. Having confronted that choice under various conditions in my own life, I appreciated his urging to stand confident in decisions made under the influence of counsel, study, and prayer, whether they result in taking time away from paid work or whether they lead us into the workplace full or part time.

One comment Elder Cook made struck me with particular force: “I would hope that Latter-day Saints would be at the forefront in creating an environment in the workplace that is more receptive and accommodating to both women and men in their responsibilities as parents.”

All members of the Church have an opportunity to stand up for a workplace that honors the role of parents and caregivers. Whether that means joining with others to lobby for more flexible work options or simply stating our needs when tensions between work and family mount, each of us can make a difference in building a family-friendly workplace.

As part of my efforts to help employers build family-supportive environments, I’m conducting a study looking at factors that influence whether mothers and prospective mothers take advantage of work/life supports provided by their employers, and with what effects. The results will contribute to a text aimed at organizations wanting to support mothers as part of a multicultural workforce.

If you’ve been in the workplace while pregnant, caring for a child under age 18, or while undergoing fertility treatments or seeking adoption, I hope you’ll take my online survey and share your insights on how employers can positively influence mothers’ experiences in the workplace. If this profile doesn’t fit you, please consider passing the invitation on to someone who might appreciate the chance to participate. The survey takes 15-20 minutes to complete, and all qualifying participants will be entered to win a $25 Amazon.com gift card.

Having worked with groups to build and implement work/life supports, I have seen firsthand the impact workplace flexibility, part-time work, and other offerings can have on workgroups and on individual employees and their families. Such progress requires vision, dedication, and hard work from not only company leaders, but also each individual within the organization. If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll consider what your part might be in this important effort.

What are you or the people around you doing to create or support a family-friendly environment at work? How are those efforts received?