I work with so many interesting people! Recently I began to work with Jeanne Murray and of course we spoke about work-life where I discovered she was a long-term part-timer at IBM. In this guest post, she shares her views on having a balanced perspective across her career accomplishments and her need for a rich life:
In my 25 years of professional life, I've worked part-time for 16. I didn't start out thinking I would work part-time for this long; I thought it a temporary state while my kids were young. And, I assess all the time whether it is time to move to a different arrangement as we move through different stages of life. As time goes on, however, I see that the number of hours I work isn’t the key to balance. Nor is work-life balance about work vs. home, women vs. men, career tracks vs. career ceilings. Rather, having a balanced perspective on work and life is about having good definitions of success, a flexible attitude, and a clear sense of what keeps me feeling creative and happy.
Defining success. Definitions of success are often in conflict, because they come from so many sources: personal ambition, corporate career paths, family roles, faith traditions. Rather than fight the conflicts, I try to use these structures as guidelines from which I can forge definitions of excellence that work for me, and can shift with time. I can, and have, redefined success at various times in my life as a promotion, as a successful fund-raiser at school, as a remodeling project at home. An expansive and long-term definition of success helps me keep a balanced perspective on success.
Staying flexible. Balance doesn't mean equal. We all have day-to-day fluctuations in intensity, where work is all-consuming or sudden events at home take precedence. But the flexibility applies long-term, too. I may not move to a new assignment as quickly I'd hoped. I may take my Girl Scout troop camping in the Fall instead of the Spring. We may postpone a project at home. I’m not flexible about what my priorities are; I’m flexible about my perspective on achieving my goals.
Fostering creativity. I have learned to listen to the voice inside that tells me I'm not functioning on all cylinders, and it has been the most important thing I've done to maintain perspective and balance. I've come to understand that my balance comes from restoring the creativity that gets zapped by stress of all kinds – physical, emotional, and mental. The restoration can be as basic as a long run to release tension or a date with my husband to reconnect. But it can be as complex as realizing my work assignment is no longer challenging me, or that lack of volunteer work is making me feel spiritually empty. I am most productive at work and at home when I am feeling creative and strong. Fostering creativity in all parts of my life is the best way for me to keep a balanced perspective.
It isn't always easy to have perspective, especially amid deadlines, distractions, or disappointment. I am not perfect (or perfectly accomplished), nor do I represent all working women, all mothers, all professional and personal situations. And so I share my story as a work-in-progress, and as one that works for me. What’s your perspective?
Jeanne Murray has spent most of her IBM career working part-time, taking advantage of IBM's flexible work programs while navigating careers, participating in community life, and raising two teenagers with her husband Brian. She's currently a program manager in IBM Software Group, where she leads team-based adoption of social software in the enterprise. Jeanne has held technical, marketing, and business strategy positions in her 21 years at IBM in Research Triangle Park, NC.
These views are the view of Jeanne Murray and do not necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinion.