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Finding Your Balance:


Laid off recently because her firm went out of business, Mary is searching for a position with a company where she hopes history won’t repeat itself. Not only is she looking for an employer with a solid financial footing, but she also would prefer a job that doesn’t require her to work both nights and weekends.

If you’re on a similar quest, don’t forget your long-term goals — both professional and personal — when weighing your employment options. Pay and benefits are only part of the equation; equally important is assessing your work/life balance and the effect a new position will have on it. With planning and effort, you can find a company with policies that are right for you.

Decide What You Want

Before you begin sending resumes, decide what is most important for you regarding a prospective employer’s corporate culture, benefits and policies. Think about previous jobs and elements of work/life balance that were a struggle. Write down the options you can’t live without – say, flexible scheduling – and the perks you would simply like to have – on-site employee services like dry cleaning and banking, for example. Keeping this information top of mind will allow you to better target companies and assess any offers.

Do Some Research
With these qualities in mind, start researching targeted businesses to discover which ones offer what you seek. You can use the Internet to read about firms that interest you. Along with job postings, many corporations describe some of the perks associated with working for them. Study recent press releases, online announcements and the annual report. In some cases, you may not find much information, which may be telling in itself — firms that place a high value on work/life balance are likely to be vocal in their support of it.

Talk to People

Of course, one of the best ways of learning about an organization’s approach to work/life issues is to talk to people who work there. If possible, tap your professional network to arrange informational interviews with current or former employees. Be specific in the questions you ask. Is anyone currently on a flexible schedule? How open is management to telecommuting options? The more people you speak with – and the more variety that exists among their positions – the more insight you’ll gain.

Take Advantage of the Interview
Once you’ve secured an interview with a prospective employer, you have another opportunity to learn about the company’s attitude toward work/life balance. While there, observe your surroundings and consider a few key questions. What’s the general atmosphere of the office like? Do people interact with each other in a formal or relaxed manner? If your meeting is late in the day, how many people are still working after hours? Your answers will help you decide if you mesh well with the company’s corporate culture.

During the interview, ask the number of hours employees are expected to work each week and other questions of interest. Don’t be afraid to bring these issues up if the interviewer doesn’t do so first. Just be sure these aren’t the only questions you pose, or you may seem one-sided in your interests.

Re-evaluate Your Options
Ultimately, you may find that no company meets all of your work/life requirements. Fulfilling one criterion may mean making a sacrifice in another area, such as a drop in pay. Looking at opportunities that exist outside your chosen field or geographic area could also prove helpful. Corporations located in small cities or rural areas sometimes offer additional benefits to attract top talent. Yet another option is temporary or project work. These arrangements allow you to schedule your assignments around your needs and to take on as much or as little work as you like.

At the very least, spend some time re-evaluating your professional goals and your notion of success. For example, if you’re a parent, are you comfortable accepting positions with less management responsibility to have more time with your family? Seek the advice and support of family and friends when making these decisions.

When searching for a new position and weighing prospective job offers, remember to take your work/life balance into account. Choosing a company that offers you the support you need to juggle your personal and professional responsibilities is key to being successful and satisfied in both areas of life.

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