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Be true to yourself when looking for a job.

March 29, 2011
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Work-life balance requires that work and personal life are each what you want them to be. So, let’s talk about the ‘work’ side of the ‘work-life balance’. Knowing who you are and what you really want are important because knowing these two things will help you conduct a more focused and effective job search. Once you find the right work for you, you’ll greatly increase the odds of establishing a work-life balance, and feel happy and comfortable in your work.

Know who you are

Do you live to work, or do you work to live? It’s an important question to answer.

Live to Work

Are you driven in everything you do, keen to accept challenges and to make any sacrifices necessary to climb the corporate (or professional) ladder? Healthcare careers don’t generally lend themselves to significant career advancement without stepping out of a clinical role and into related administrative or business roles. Additional education, like an MBA, might be on the horizon for you. If you are ambitious, then choose roles with career growth opportunities or choose employment settings in which there are opportunities for ongoing education and promotion. Before applying for a job, consider what kind of growth it offers, as well as what you can offer the company.

Work to Live

Do you want to master your professional skills, provide quality services, and make a good living while placing equal priority on your personal life? If you anticipate that your employment needs will change over time, does your career path offer the flexibility you may need in the future? For example, many corporate roles just aren’t available part-time, while many clinical roles and school board roles are available part-time.

Know what you really want in a job

Leadership and Management in the Workplace

It has been said that employees don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad managers. So, find out what the management style is, to whom you’ll be reporting, and how you will be evaluated and considered for promotion (if you care). Ask about these issues during interviews and in subsequent communication if necessary. A little behind-the-scenes networking might connect you with existing and former employees – find out what they think of management and the workplace culture, and then decide if it suits you.

Co-workers and Division of Duties

Would you be comfortable as the sole speech-language pathologist in your new job or do you prefer to have colleagues? How do the staff members interact? Do they work in teams? Do current staff members get along well, and how is the caseload divided? If you want to work with stroke patients but a long-term employee has exclusive, seemingly perpetual, ‘rights’ to those patients, then keep looking elsewhere. If there are clinical assistants or technicians who do all the direct therapy, does that mean you’ll only be doing the diagnostic work? Does that suit you? Some discreet social networking can be worth a fortune if you discover that your prospective colleagues fight like cats and dogs. On the other hand, discovering that there is a terrific professional climate at a workplace can sway your opinion in favor of that job. Have your questions ready for the interview(s), and don’t be afraid to ask them. Listen carefully to how they’re answered, if at all.

Time and Energy

Consider your natural energy levels, and the time you have available for work. Energetic people can be ideal as sales representatives for manufacturers, and are happy travel frequently, haul sample materials and laptops to meetings with clinicians, and manage their accounts. Other people are best suited for a 9 to 5 job in a hospital or clinic, or for a school board position, with shorter work days and long summer vacations. The salaries might differ greatly, but work-life balance is worth having, even at a somewhat lower salary.

The Commute and Company Travel

Is the commute reasonable and sustainable? Does the job require you to use your own car to travel off site and is there a car allowance to cover that expense? Employers can surprise you with travel not mentioned during interviews. Will you be able to accommodate those requests? If you absolutely cannot travel overnight, then you need to make that known from the start. How much overtime is typical in the job, and does it occur just during specific periods, such as before the ASHA or AAA conventions? Continuous overtime can cause burnout and can reflect poor management and understaffing.

The Compensation Package

You have done your homework and you know what your base pay should be, given your skills, experience, and the local salary scale. Are commissions a part of your compensation package? Do you think you can achieve the targets needed to get those commissions? On a personal/professional ethics note, will you feel comfortable working in that manner? Consider the benefit package offered, or the extra money in lieu of benefits, and any other sources of compensation such as bonus pay, a car allowance, 401K, maternity leave pay, or other desirable perks. Some corporate jobs reward excellence with all expenses paid trips to tourist destinations, for example.

Success!

When you’re true to who you are and what you really want from your work life, you’ll be able to achieve work-life balance and be a happier and more engaged employee to clients and co-workers alike. Find the jobs that suit you best, and then determine, through interviews, social networking, and consideration of the issues listed above, if those opportunities are worth pursuing. When you’ve found the right job, you’ll love getting up for work each day.