Burned out mom seeks less demanding job

Dear Joan:
Help me, I'm desperate! I am a burnt-out, overworked professional as well as a guilt-ridden mother yearning to spend more time with her small children. My goal: to earn a "decent" and stable living with the ability to spend either more time with my children or at least better quality time with them during the evenings and weekends. (Quality time is difficult when you are overburdened with work demands.)

I have an undergraduate and graduate degree in business and work as a high-level project manager for a company with a very aggressive corporate culture. Over the last couple of years I have become fed up with the constant push to perform at higher and higher levels. I am very disappointed with corporate environments and I have come to realize that I would prefer to "scale down" the challenges on the job in order to reserve that energy for my children. (I have pre-school twins and a new baby.) My husband works a variety of shifts, which means I require the (super human) strength of two parents in the evening to wrestle all of them to bed.

Finally, my question...I would like to know how you construct a cover memo that indicates a desire for a less demanding job without sounding condescending or totally burnt out. I need to support my family and I enjoy challenges, I just have had it with the constant pressure and stress that comes from corporate professional work. In advance thanks for your help.

Any working parent who reads this can't help but empathize. According to a recent survey of 3400 workers by the Families and Work Institute, 40 percent said they're often tired when they awaken; 42 percent feel exhausted by the end of the day.

Women feel especially besieged, according to a Woman's Day Magazine article, " America's Energy Crisis: Why Are We So Tired?" (October 1995) They state that respondents to a Department of Labor survey of 250,000 working women ranked "too much stress" as their number-one problem. And working mothers spend nearly two hours more per work-day than fathers do on chores and child care, and nearly three hours more on their days off.

It's no wonder you want to scale back. And it's impractical to suggest that you find a job by networking. You simply don't have one spare second of time. Like a gerbil on a wheel, you need to keep running just to stay in the same place.

I suggest that you contact a number of employment agencies, temporary agencies who also do permanent placements, and executive search recruiters. Use them as your "marketing agents." Here's why: if you can show them how professional and qualified you are and explain your desire to work for a company that values and encourages more flexibility and balance, they can "sell" you. In other words, if a company asks, "Well, is she someone who doesn't want to work hard?" the representative is likely to say, "Not from what I can see...She is a big producer but she wants a more family friendly corporate culture."

At the same time, you need to construct a cover letter (and a rehearsed oral explanation) about why you are looking for a new job. For instance, you might say something such as, " My resume outlines my strong record of results and relentless drive to make value-added contributions. I seek a company that recognizes that contribution, and at the same time, supports my desire for balance between my personal and professional life."

Another alternative is to say nothing in the cover letter at all and discuss it at the interview. Of course, you run the risk of wasting a lot of time on interviews for jobs in corporate cultures that aren't a good match.

You may have to adjust your definition of "decent" living. If you are in a large company with rich benefits and a high salary, you may need to reassess and determine what salary you could live with. In an interview for a job that pays less, explain that you are willing to trade compensation for a more balanced life. You may even decide to work part-time or as a freelancer.

Finally, before you leave your employer, you may want to approach your manager with your dilemma. If you are a great employee, the company may be willing to scale back your responsibilities, give you part-time hours or even hire you as a contract employee with specific projects. Don't be surprised, however, if they don't make any attempt to make an accommodation.

I think you'll find that there are many companies that would feel fortunate to have someone with your background. And many employers are very willing to give employees more control over their lives in exchange for a good 8 hours.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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