Category Archives: What I believe

My Advice on Career Day: Believe in Your Own Voice

By Jeanne Corrigan

Last year, I started volunteering for a non-profit called GENaustin. It’s a great organization that supports girls in making good choices as they navigate through adolescence. One of the activities that GENaustin sponsors is Career Week, an open forum between professional women and middle school girls.

I’ve signed up to speak and I’ve been thinking about what I might cover in my 15 minutes. I love the work we do at On Your Mark and I will talk about that but I also want to share my thoughts on communication because I think it’s so important in career success. Three points I’ll hit on are:

1. Listening is important but so is talking.
There’s a great blog post by Whitney Johnson about how business women sometimes hesitate to speak up to share their experience or own their expertise. When women listen more than we talk, we don’t contribute as much of our own value to the discussion. I love her summary – When we listen, we acknowledge others’ experience and expertise. When we talk, we acknowledge our own. Success depends on learning to do both.

I will encourage the girls to find something they’re interested in, learn all they can about it then challenge themselves to find ways to share what they know.

2. When you talk, do it well and with confidence.
As part of my work, I present findings and recommendations all the time, often to large groups. I’m comfortable with that so my focus is on the message, not my own performance. My advice to the girls will be to think about ways they can speak with more confidence and strength. Just putting themselves in the situation where they speak in front of people – like a speech class or theater group – is good practice. It’s an investment that’s sure to pay off, whether they want to become a scientist, teacher, financial genius or even a market researcher.

3. Ask yourself first, and then seek the input of others.
Many women seem to figure out what they think about a certain subject or problem by talking it through with other people. I identify with this because when I’m faced with a question or a decision, my first impulse is to pull people in to talk about it. I’ve learned that, for me, I have a stronger voice in the conversation when I pause, take a minute to really consider what I think and what’s most important to me and then seek others’ opinions.

I’m excited to meet these girls and talk about my career. But I’m equally excited to explore their strengths today and the paths they might take tomorrow.

Merry Christmas to Me: Why consumers are spending more on themselves this shopping season

By Stephanie Milam

It’s that time of year again – the holiday shopping season. Many big name retailers have announced plans to top last year’s deals both in-store and online in an effort to meet the high expectations of budget-conscious consumers. But because Americans have become even more leery of the state of the US economy, there has been speculation around how much tighter they’ll keep the purse strings on their holiday spending.

Last month, researchers released the 2011 projections for holiday trends, and the numbers aren’t exactly blowing last year’s spending and sales figures out of the water. The most intriguing prediction is that, while shoppers will be spending a slightly lower total amount on gifts, they will be spending significantly more on non-gift items for themselves and their families. The survey from which these results were generated did not ask questions about what non-gift items they will buy, or why they are spending more on themselves this time of year, so I’ve made a few predictions of my own.  I believe shoppers are purchasing other items for themselves and their families during the holiday season because they are waiting to buy certain items until the end of the year when they can get the best sales and lowest prices. With this new trend, demand is put on hold until this enormous promotional period.

My prediction stems from one consumer priority: budget management. Consumers have gotten better and stricter about maintaining tight budgets, which has affected the way they shop. I believe shoppers are waiting until the end of the year to make non-gift purchases because they want to take advantage of what they expect to be the best deals of year. Waiting until the end of the year to buy requires discipline, patience, and planning. After three years of this recession, American consumers are now skilled enough at budgeting and bargain hunting that they can and will wait to make these extra purchases until the holiday shopping season.

But what exactly are they buying? In order to wait months for the purchase, the items can’t be immediate necessities. And based on the survey, the amount of money each shopper is spending on non-gift items is approximately $130.43, so we can assume they’re not buying a new car. My educated guess is that shoppers are making purchases on clothing, home goods, and other semi-necessities. These are the things we can live without buying or replacing until we know we are getting the absolute best deal.  For such goods, consumers are finally willing to spend during the big end-of-year and holiday sales; and after holding off and saving, shoppers feel they deserve these extras.

The 2011 holidays are sure to be filled with plenty of gift-giving, but this season will also see a surge in extra purchases to make the shopper feel a little extra retail love. In the coming years, it will be interesting to observe if and how such promotions-driven spending will affect the retail marketplace during the rest of the year as well as future holiday seasons.

His and Her Workload: Conflicts in Equality

By  Jeanne Corrigan

Time magazine ran a recent cover story called “Chore Wars” about the division of labor in married couples and how men may finally be matching up with women on workload hours.  The article cited multiple studies that have shown that when all hours of “work” (both paid work outside the home as well as housework and child care) are accounted for, the totals for men and women are nearly equal. This was true for couples with and without children, and it contradicts the conventional wisdom that women carry a significantly greater portion of the workload than their working husbands.

There are a few questions rolling around in my head after reading the article:

While it’s clear that both women and men work hard, does some of women’s belief that they do more stem from the fact that work hours at the office and work hours at home have different demands and rewards?

  • Moms with full-time jobs, particularly those with young children, do in fact have the largest total workloads. And women may perceive that they are doing more because they have the bigger share of hours doing chores and caring for the kids than their partners, in addition to paid hours at the office. While they probably feel it’s important that a parent be at home and spend that time with their kids, working moms often feel unappreciated and exhausted in the short run as a result.

Is it any wonder that many working dads feel like they just can’t win?

  • Studies are showing that men feel more and more conflicted in the role of provider and involved father.  A report from the Families and Work Institute speaks to the pressure men are experiencing, citing that 68% have experienced problems with their employer because of conflicts between their job and their duties as a parent, and 72% report that their income would decline if they worked fewer hours.
  • So while wives want their husbands to come home earlier and help on the home front, the husbands are concerned about the impact that could have on their career, and their ability to provide for the family.

Are these couples talking to each other clearly and realistically about how their family is going to manage work-life balance?

  • While it’s a complicated issue, I do think a lot of the conflict comes from unmet (or unstated) expectations. The bottom line seems to be that whoever is the primary financial provider for the family will likely spend more hours at work. Historically, this provider role has primarily been the husband’s but that is one more element in this equation that is in transition.

It’s clearly a complicated issue and the household dynamic continues to evolve and change. It’s important to look at the reality of the situation and appreciate each person’s contribution but it seems to me that there’s a lot more to reaching equality than just balancing total hours worked.