Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Category: Reluctant Parents At Work

Reluctant Parents at Work: 6 Ways to Grow Your Career Without Growing Your Stress

The following guest post by Julia Merrill fits perfectly into my “Reluctant Parents at Work” series, which are posts that I write from time to time about how difficult it can be to go back to work after staying home with your kids and/or just being a parent and having a full-time job. Some of it comes from my own experience, and some of the posts will come from others, such as this post below. Jobs and careers can be full of stress, and so can parenting. So what I like about this article is that it gives you tips on how to improve your career while NOT creating more stress for yourself. If you have any tips to add to what Julia says below, please feel free in the comments. Also, check out Julia’s article on sleep here

6 Ways to Grow Your Career Without Growing Your Stress by Julia Merrill

If you are a busy business owner or professional, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and severely stressed out. High levels of stress, however, can negatively impact your ability to focus and achieve success. Stress can even be bad for your health. So how can you achieve your work goals without burning yourself out? Try adding these helpful tips to your work routine.   

Make Marketing Easy 

When it comes to marketing your business, try not to worry too much. Using social media is a simple way to drive more customers to your business. Many small business owners use Instagram to grow their client list and help their business gain exposure. If you have an Instagram profile, but don’t have a healthy following for your store, you can use these tips from Oberlo to go from 0 to 10,000 followers in around six months. Simple steps, like joining engagement groups and reposting photos from popular profiles, can net you the follows you need to grow your business with minimal stress.

Keep Yourself on Task     

A chaotic workday can make you feel chaotic all over. Staying on top of your to-do list and tackling one work task at a time is a good way to maximize your productivity. Try using productivity or task management apps to keep your work organized throughout the week. You can input your daily work list and set up reminders that will help you stay in control of your schedule. If you need a more visual method to track your work, try using a planner or, even better, a Kanban board to make the most of your productivity.

Declutter Your Workspace

 Having a disheveled desk can wreak havoc on your work and your mental health. Clutter can lead to increased stress levels and feelings of anxiety, so get your workspace in order. Clean up your desk and grab some organizational accessories to help you keep things tidy. If you have a ton of papers stacking up, try embracing the benefits of digital storage solutions. Breaking your paper habit is a good way to preserve your sanity and the environment at the same time.

Practice Healthy Habits 

When work has you working long hours, it can be challenging to leave room to take care of your health. But practicing wellness habits, such as eating whole foods and taking time to sleep and recharge, can actually help you ward off the negative effects of stress. According to Healthline, regular exercise boosts the production of endorphins, the chemicals that relieve stress, so leave time for workouts as well. By using these self-care steps to keep your body healthy, you can keep your mind clear and focused enough to achieve your business and career goals.

Avoid Overloading Your Schedule      

If you are just starting your career or business, you may find yourself taking on a lot of tasks. While success does take hard work, you have to know when it’s okay to say “no” to taking on additional responsibility. Saying “no” in your work and personal life can save you a lot of stress and preserve more time to make your business into a success. So don’t feel like you have to attend every party or take every appointment that may be offered to you. Leave some time to focus on your success and on keeping yourself happy and healthy.

Get Out and Get Some Fresh Air

No matter how busy your work gets, it’s important to take breaks — and even take time off — every now and then. Get out for a walk in the park during your lunch breaks or take a day off to spend hiking in nature. When things get really stressful, it may even be beneficial to take time to simply relax and do nothing. Inc.com suggests taking time off to rest and recharge actually makes workers more productive, so that vacation may just be the key to your career success.

Getting ahead in business shouldn’t have to mean getting in over your head with stress. You can boost your productivity and make your business successful by following these healthy business practices. So stay healthy, stay happy, and stay committed to your success.

There are still a few days left to enter the photo caption contest and win a prize! Go here for more information! 



Reluctant Parents At Work: 5 Reasons Why I Love Indeed.com To Find a Job

Everyone has their preference of job listing sites. It’s similar to dating sites or really any social media. I’ve been on most of the big ones: LinkedIn, Monster, Career Builder, and even the local newspaper online want ads. And by far my favorite, and the one I find most easy to use–and how I secured my current job–is Indeed.com.

Here are the top reasons why I love Indeed.com (by the way, they are not paying me to say this–this is coming from the heart and from my personal experience!):

  1. It’s Easy to Navigate! When you go to the home page, there are two blanks to fill in. You can create a profile and an account (and you should eventually), but if you’re just starting your search and want to see what’s out there, you can fill in these two blanks (see photo below) and get started. When I was looking for a job, I inserted keywords such as editor, proofreader, marketing specialist, and elementary teacher. For the where, I looked in St. Louis; but as you see from the example above, you can even choose “work from home”. Click Find Jobs, and several listings will pop up. Of course, you can also do an advanced search, so that you can find jobs more specifically tailored to your needs; but I like to start out with this general search and scan the listings that come up before I do a more targeted search, adding a minimum salary or experience, for example.
  2.  You can save your searches and have them emailed to you! This is how I found most of the jobs I applied for. Once I created a few searches, I saved them, and Indeed.com sent me emails every day with new listings. When I had a chance, I could go through these emails to find new jobs to apply for.
  3. You can save job listings on the site and come back to apply for them later. Once you create a profile on the site, along with a login and password, you can save job listings that you are interested in until you have time to apply. (But don’t wait too long–jobs go fast!) You can also organize job listings on the site by certain categories, such as: saved, applied, interviewing, archived, offered, and hired. I used this organization system constantly to keep track of where I applied and when I did.
  4. You can upload your resume to the site and use it to apply for many jobs.  In the job listings, the company will state if you should apply on its website (which Indeed.com will link to and guide you through) or if you should apply with your Indeed.com resume/profile (so make sure it’s up to date once you start applying). I found this system easy to navigate, and there was no question as to what I was supposed to do to apply for the job.
  5. It’s free. So many sites today offer a “free version”, but if you want to do something fancy or “more”, you may have to pay a monthly fee to go Pro or whatever that site calls it. I never ran into this on Indeed.com. Everything I wanted to do, I was able to accomplish without having to pay any money.

I can say that I may be partial to this site since it is where I found my job, but I do think you should give it a try if you’re thinking about getting back to the work force after staying home with your kids for a while, if you have been ill or injured, or if you want a career change!



Reluctant Parents At Work: What Tools Did I Use to Get a Job?

This is part two of my series about a common problem in the U. S. (not sure about other countries) for parents who have chosen to stay home and raise their kids, and then want to go back to work. You can read the first post with my personal story about getting a job here.

Today, I wanted to overview how I found a job. I needed a full-time job when I was going through a divorce, and I am one of the lucky ones–it only took me 8 months, and I had two different fields I could apply in: English-related (editing, writing) or elementary teaching.

Turns out, since the last time I looked for a full-time job in 2004, much had changed! Let’s start with elementary teaching in 2015. I decided it would be best to go back to teaching (instead of editing) since at the time, I had a 4-year-old daughter. Applying for a teaching job now took place on a website (of course!), and jobs opened and closed for elementary teachers before I could apply! So I learned to not wait around to submit my resume: but it turns out, elementary teachers are a dime a dozen in St. Louis,  and I hadn’t been in the classroom for 9 years. It didn’t take me long to realize that I wasn’t getting called for interviews, so I had to change my game plan.

That’s when I found Indeed.com. Now, there are several websites out there people use to find jobs: Linked In, Career Builder, and Monster; but I love Indeed.com, and it is where I found my job. Turns out, English majors with editing skills and experience and desperation (meaning I will work for less pay to get awesome benefits) are not a dime a dozen, and I finally received some calls for interviews.

I won’t say the phone was ringing off the hook because well, phones don’t ring off hooks anymore…BUT, I did start to feel some hope of securing a full-time position with benefits. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this post talking about why Indeed.com and LinkedIn are important because I’m saving that for its own post. But if you’re currently looking for a job, I highly recommend that you have an updated and professional profile on LinkedIn and Indeed.com. 

So my current job as an editorial assistant was posted on Indeed.com. I applied with my resume and targeted cover letter, and I received a call from the manager, (right before I had to go to the doctor for some illness, of course). But he interviewed me on the phone and said he was very interested in me, and I had high hopes that day because he even mentioned coming in for an in-person interview to meet the team. I did that! I then talked to him on the phone again about a week later; and lo and behold, I had a job offer.

People will tell you the only way to get a job from a job site is to know someone at the company. This is NOT true. I knew no one at Vance Publishing, and the manager offered me the job. What I think helped, and again I will address this more in my upcoming posts, is that I applied for the job almost as soon as it was posted; I tailored my cover letter and resume to the job description; and I was enthusiastic and friendly when the manager called me about the position. I still have my job today, and it has evolved into the perfect situation for me and Katie.

I share this story (and this entire series) because I know trying to find a job, after being out of work for whatever reason–raising kids, illness, poor job market–can be one of the most disheartening times in an adult’s life. You are not alone! It’s a time full of anxiety, rejection, and uncertainty. But know that somewhere out there, the perfect position is waiting for you. Hopefully, I can help you find it and land it.


Caution: Reluctant Parents At Work: A New Series About Going Back To Work

I’m starting a new series on Look to the Western Sky about going back to work after being a stay-at-home mom. I thought I’d start the series with my own story. Before I was married in 2006, I was an elementary school teacher in Missouri. I had worked for 12 years in public schools, and I quit when we moved to Champaign, IL. My dream was to be a writer, and I also had a 6-year-old stepson who came to visit quite often and still lived in Missouri. So one of us (me or my husband at the time) had to be available to pick him up and drive him the 4.5 hours back to our house. My husband’s job was not 9 to 5–he’s an air traffic controller, so it made the most sense that I found something more flexible.  I became a substitute teacher, freelancer, and columnist for the newspaper. I also tried to have a baby, which took 4 years!

Once I had KT,  we lived back in Missouri, and I was a stay-at-home mom, which is what I wanted more than anything. I could not imagine going back to work and letting someone else take care of her. But I still worked–I still freelanced and ran my editing business, Editor 911. I also published 3 books during this time. However, when KT’s dad and I separated, she was 4 1/2, with one more year of preschool left, and I had to get a full-time job in 2015.

Now many of you reading this may have had to go back to work for different reasons–you wanted to, you needed another income, or maybe, like me, you had a life change. Trying to find a job when I desperately needed one was excruciating. It took me almost 8 months; and when I finally secured one, the same one I have today, it was no longer in teaching, and I made $10,000 less than I did when I worked as a teacher full-time in 2006. And get this…I felt lucky to have any job at all with benefits. I also felt lucky that I did not had two degrees. This new job was going to use my English degree and my editing experience that I had acquired while staying home with Katie.

And that’s a good thing because without those qualifications, I would have been substitute teaching at a local school district because that was the only job I could get with my master’s degree in education from Truman State University, +30 extra master’s hours, +12 years of experience and glowing recommendations because…I hadn’t been in a classroom full-time for 9 years, and at all for almost 5. Nobody wanted to interview me. I had ONE interview at a private school, and I did not get the job. I was hired as a sub within 10 minutes of my interview, and the advice from the district admin professional was that I should work as much as I could in the same building, so the principals could get to know me. Then I could get a chance at a full-time job. He said, “I know you are overqualified to be a sub.”

My story is a dime a dozen. I hear from countless parents, men and women (and it might be even worse for men since it is less common for men to stay home), that their career was hurt because they decided to be a stay-at-home parent. Most of us don’t want to go back to work before our kids are in first grade anyway!  I was a reluctant mommy. I didn’t want to be away from her when she was only attending 2.5 hours of preschool every day. But I had to go back. And then for it to be so difficult to get an interview and then a job that paid me below what I was making 9 years earlier? It was depressing.

Would I go back and do it any differently? No. I would still give up my career to help out my stepson and then raise my daughter. Because I would regret missing those experiences much more than taking a cut in pay and having a stressful few months wondering if I would ever get a job.

This series, Caution: Reluctant Parents at Work, will have some how-to articles,  inspirational articles, stories from the trenches and more. If you have a question or something you need help with, please leave it below. If you want to be featured on this blog as a reluctant parent who had to go back to work and  your story, please email me at margolynndill (at) gmail.com . If you are dreading the day you have to go back to work, let us know because we are here for you!