Seeking Balance in Flux

A lot has changed since this time last year when I wrote a blog about how to balance work and life as preview to a panel discussion I was part of at the Nonprofit Technology Conference in Austin. To start with, I got married over the summer. Then recently, I learned that the public partnership where I work, MAMA, lost its core funding—we’ll be closing up shop at the end of the year, and I need to find a new job.

We all have life events that need attention. Perhaps you’ve been hit with an unexpected illness or the loss of a loved one. Maybe you’re moving across town or welcoming a baby into your life. Whatever may be happening in your life, the deadlines and responsibilities at the office don’t stop. Managing priorities and expectations— ours and our colleagues’—get tested all the time.

As I search for my next position, I think about all of the things I’ve traditionally considered:

  • Am I passionate about the organization’s mission?
  • Do my skills match what they need?
  • Can I grow while also contributing to the growth of the team?

But I’m also thinking a bit more about some of the things that were further down on my list during my last job search:

  • What is the commute time?
  • Is the culture one of flexibility as long as the work gets done?
  • Are they comfortable setting priorities?

That’s not to say that if I were still single I’d still be a workaholic. In fact, more and more people in or out of a relationship, with or without kids, and of all generations want a balanced life. We’ve learned that enriching lives outside of work nurtures our creativity and enriches our work product. Even so, it’s one thing to say you want to achieve work/life balance; it’s another to actively seek that out when looking for a new position on a fixed timeframe.

Fortunately, many nonprofit leaders are actively trying to avoid burnout, retain good employees, and have lives of their own while also making a positive impact in the world. They know that building a strong team with deep institutional knowledge is important to the social bottom line. They also know that their brand is closely tied to their organizational culture. I’ve seen more organizations actively tying their world view to the benefits they offer employees. Also, with the growing popularity of sites like Glassdoor, where you can read anonymous reviews from employees, it’s becoming increasingly in an organization’s best interest to actively match their external brand with the internal reality of the workplace.

Whatever you are looking for—whether it’s work/life balance, an environment that is more formal, or one in which you can wear jeans every day—it’s important to fully understand the organizational culture of a workplace before accepting the job. Here’s a great list of interview questions to help you uncover just what that culture is and find a great match for you and your future employer.

What tips do you have for either balancing your current job and life responsibilities, or finding a new job that allows for the ebbs and flows of life outside of work? Have you recently gone through something—in life or work—that others might learn from? Share your thoughts and ideas, because no matter what is going on in life or work, one thing is true: We all learn better when we learn from each other.

Stephanie Bowen
Senior Communications Manager
Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action
Stephanie Bowen is Senior Communications Manager for Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA). Stephanie is responsible for developing and implementing the overarching communications and PR strategy for MAMA. Stephanie brings a decade of experience as a non-profit communications and marketing professional working to improve the lives of women and children with organizations that include Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, KaBOOM! and International Medical Corps. You can find her on Twitter @TweetSteph.