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July 26, 2012

Careers Q&A: Advice for working parents, job-seekers

Career Coach columnist Joyce E.A. Russell, an industrial and organizational psychologist, discussed workplace issues in a recent online forum. Excerpts:

Q: I was surprised to hear that [new Yahoo chief executive] Marissa Mayer is only the first pregnant woman to be CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Why do you think it's taken us so long to get to this point? What strategies can working moms and dads employ to balance both home and career without sacrificing one or the other?

A: It seems that our models of work assume the traditional model from the past where someone is still home caring for our families while the other person is at work. Thus, our organizational models have not really changed to reflect the current workplace — that both men and women may want careers and families.

Of course, there are some exceptions to this rule — some smaller firms are much more family friendly, and some larger firms are making changes to be more family friendly. You can also check with published accounts of the "Best Places for Women to Work" as well as the "Best Companies to Work" and the most family-friendly firms. Then, you will see examples of companies that are really trying to make the workplace a place where people can manage both their families and careers. It is a tough struggle for people today.

For women in particular, since they still assume more responsibility for child care (in many situations), they almost need someone at home who can handle all those responsibilities. This is why we are now also seeing more men at home caring for families while their wives work. It is really hard for both to do everything.

Good Freelance Gigs

Q: I became a freelancer through someone else's choice when I moved to take a job, then was laid off. After struggling with being legitimately unemployed for about two years, I've come out the other side and now have so much work I have to turn it down sometimes. I'm happy to keep this lifestyle going for a while longer, but I'm sure I will be interested in a full-time, staff position at some time. But my resume will still say "freelancer," and I know potential employers (from my experience) don't love this. How can I make it say "freelancer who was in demand" so that I get the respect from potential employers I deserve?

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