Ask Dr. Job’s chief contributor, Sandra Pesmen, is a member of the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and author of “DR. JOB’s Complete Career Guide.”

Winner of several journalism awards, Pesmen is a graduate of the University of Illinois Media College at Urbana, and is listed in several Who’s Who editions. She also has been Corporate Features Editor of Crain Communications Inc., founding Features Editor of Crain’s Chicago Business and a reporter/features writer for The Chicago Daily News.

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DR.JOB Q & A: Women Change Opinions

By Sandra Pesmen

(Q.1) I FEEL I MUST COMMENT on the arguments fueled by women CEOs who are successfully blending their careers with motherhood. and family life and telling other women how to do the same. This "kafuffle" makes me recall when I stopped out of my career to rear our two children many years ago. When they were 4 and 2, they played with two Catholic children the same ages. The difference being that those kids had a 3-year-old sister named Megan. One day the oldest asked, "Where's your Megan?" He couldn't understand why we had missed a year. We never did get a Megan, or Tommy, or Billy, or any others with the names of the seven younger siblings who later joined that lovely family. And while I was able to return to my career five years later when our children went full time to school, my neighbor had to wait much longer for that freedom. Still, when it came, she returned to school, earned both a bachelors and masters degree and enjoyed a long successful career too, even though it started later than most. .

(A)THANK YOU FOR SHARING that positive view of a topic that's causing so much discussion. Everyone would be better served to remember there is no one path to success for men or for women-- and there is no specified time to pursue it.  

(Q2) I DON'T MAKE A LOT OF money and I never really understood how to save for retirement but I thought it was taken care of as well as it could be with my company 401K. Now that's suddenly been discontinued. They're going to turn the money over to the employees and I don't know what to do. The stock market looks good one day, but who knows when that will crash, like the savings accounts and CDs I used to put money into long ago. Is there help for a little guy like me?

(A) FORTUNATELY, THERE ARE several options and most of them include letting someone who does understand investments help you. A new retirement planning report from GoBankingRates.com finds employees don't have to suffer as a result of changes like yours. It offers five 401(k) alternatives and helps clarify what the most popular forms of retirement savings are: The Traditional IRA. The simple appeal of saving money in a traditional IRA is that it’s tax deferred, meaning that you don’t pay taxes on what you deposit until after you withdraw your funds for retirement. You can contribute to an IRA until age 70, and start withdrawing money at age 59 1/2 — withdraw before and pay a penalty fee. This can be avoided in some cases, like using your IRA savings when buying a house. The Roth IRA. To recap — no taxes are paid on money invested in a traditional IRA until after withdrawal. With a Roth IRA, it’s the opposite. Here, you’ll be taxed first when depositing, but not when withdrawing. Another specific difference with the Roth version is that you won’t be penalized for the pre-59 1/2 withdrawal rule, but only for taking out contributions. Withdraw interest early, and there’s no fee. The Solo 401(k) The solo 401(k) is a good plan for people who freelance on the side and have little to no retirement plan options. Only self-employed people and their spouses are eligible for this solo savings option. According to Forbes, the contribution limits under a solo 401(k) are generous - up to $16,500 - and funds from a previous employer's 401(k) can be rolled over into your new solo plan. Annuities, generally issued through a life insurance provider, an annuity is another retirement savings alternative for you to consider. Here, you give the insurer money to invest and then you are paid back after that money builds interest. You can choose a lump sum payment or a series of fixed payments. Check that Web site.

(Q. 3) I'M MOVING UP IN MY COMPANY, BUT it's been very slow. How can I speed up this progress without resorting to the advice of Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg, which I find somewhat difficult to believe?

(A) THERE ARE MANY DIFFERENT paths women may follow to success. As each woman is different, so are the methods she will find comfortable. Vickie Milazzo, author of Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman offers these: Be a mentor. Not enough can be said of what we can learn from others who have encountered and surmounted problems that are similar to our own. That being the case, as they take on leadership roles and reach their goals women should become mentors and actively seek to pass on their skills to up and comers. Speak up. Most people and things are easy to obtain and easy to replace. That's certainly not how anyone wants to be perceived at a job, but that's exactly what happens to women who choose to lay low. Lead the way by being an outspoken part of your organization. Don't be afraid to make your voice heard. Teach the fine art of negotiating. Women who aren't used to negotiating are especially susceptible to being intimidated by a show of force. Teach your network of women not to be afraid to demand respect. Say no. Sometimes the best way to lean back is by simply modeling the right behavior. When women on the rise see you do (or not do) a certain thing, they'll see that it's ok for them to make that choice as well. One such behavior is avoiding over-commitment by saying no. Collaborate. Intelligent women know what they don't know and when to seek answers. Smart women appreciate that what works today won't necessarily work tomorrow, and that aggressive learning is a competitive advantage to achieving any desired goal. A key element to aggressive learning is collaboration.

(Q 4) WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE, I'm the one who had to quit my full- time job as a writer and stay home to take care of our kids for these next few years. I don't mind, since my husband made more money and I really love being here. But I now have time to free-lance, and I have no clue as to how to begin. I get lots of ideas for stories but don't know how or where to pitch them.

(A) YOU'RE NOT THE FIRST woman (or man) in this predicament, nor will you be the last. As in ANY profession, it's easier to do the work well, than it is to SELL. Writers in particular may find it even harder, since there are so many of you. But there is help in developing this career at American Writers and Artists Inc On Line: http://www.awaionline.com. Also remember your "stop out" may be shorter than you think. Before you know it the children will be in school and free-lancing can change to a better job either "in house" or, to Yahoo CEO Sheryl Sandberg's chagrin, through telecommuting.

 

 

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