Please note: this blog post is part three of a three part series. Read the first post on what it’s like bringing my baby to work with me here and the second post on starting your own business and working from home here.
Still pondering what it means to create and work in a nontraditional workplace, I reached out to, Julie Clancy, Head of Admissions at Emma Willard. Julie is an amazing YWCA-GCR board member, one of the smartest people I know, and by far the most organized. Emma Willard is uniquely situated as not only working to provide a flexible, progressive work environment for its employees, but also is helping to educate and prepare the next generation of women for their careers. In today’s global world, schools are preparing children for jobs that do not yet exist.
Julie says she see students preferring versatile workplaces, and more so than ever, employees need flexibility in what defines “office” and what defines “workday.” She also sees a trend with more and more organizations and companies recruiting candidates who can work remotely; who can join a meeting virtually; who can keep deadlines; and who can keep their own schedule all the while being productive. This saves companies money (less office-space) and these companies are finding their employees are happier, more productive, and more accessible.
Julie believes that skill sets are ever-changing, yet strong communication skills will always be the hallmark of a highly competitive candidate. That means speaking, digesting information, and responding articulately.
“We live in a world that is deeply inter-connected, so relationship cultivation and management is key. The workforce also needs to be prepared for jobs and careers that are cross-disciplinary, otherwise known as “wearing multiple hats.” Very few jobs exist in silos, so the workforce needs to be dynamic, brave, and nimble,” says Julie. These are some of the skills Emma Willard works to develop in their students.
When asked how Emma Willard is helping to prepare its students for the workplace of the future, Julie says,
“You can’t be what you can’t see. At Emma, we consistently expose our girls to examples, representations, and experiences that showcase what is possible. We cannot know what the workforce will look like in 20 years, let alone 40 years, but to leave Emma with a toolbox of the essential skills highlighted above, plus self-awareness, curiousness, and drive, these girls are able to see what kinds of life-paths are very possible. Also important to keep in mind is that humans are living longer than ever now and are staying in the workforce well into their 70s and 80s. This means that people are having multiple careers, multiple chapters of their lives, and even more experience under their belts. It is exciting to know that at 50 years young, one might embark on a new job opportunity and stretch themselves in ways that hadn’t happened in the first 25-30 years of working.”
Julie thinks one of the biggest challenges her students will face in these nontraditional settings is fear of the unknown, but she believes there are several tools that are hugely helpful in understanding unconventional or new experiences.
“First, of course, is an open mind. Soak in all that is happening; be sponge-like. Then, ask questions, and let them bubble up from a curious place instead of a place of judgment or fear. Consider asking your questions based on what you are observing- as if you are a journalist. Be ready to change course several times as you find your way. I also think everyone needs to be prepared to put on overalls from time to time and do the heavy lifting. Organizations are multi-layered and rely on the full participation of all employees to get small and big projects done well. Lastly, it’s important to be ready to feel very invested in your work. Career and work should be energizing and should light up the brain.”
As the above examples illustrated, we are all trying to Lean In in our own ways – trying to find that delicate work-life balance. Yet, for many of us the boundaries that used to exist between home, office, passion-projects, co-workers and friends aren’t as relevant anymore. And in workplaces where those formal barriers do exist, many of us are finding they no longer work for us. I think what’s important is to identify your priorities, whether that’s job stability, compensation, flexibility, etc. Once we know what’s important to us and our motivations, it can be easier to find a workplace that fits our needs. Many people ask me how I found a job that allows me to bring my baby to work, right at the exact time I needed it. I didn’t know an environment like that existed, but I did know that in order for a position to be right for me, it would have to allow for an extreme amount of flexibility. Knowing what I wanted (and more importantly what I didn’t) allowed me to focus my job search and to know when I had found the right place. But, as Julie tells us, it’s not just about finding the right fit for you, you have to possess the skills necessary to succeed in these new nontraditional workplaces.