Transcript: One Mom’s Pandemic Resignation Letter: Lessons Learned for Women Now

Karen Browning

KAREN BROWNING: I am one of the thousands of women leaving the workplace this year because of burnout. If leadership had reached out to me and said, “I know things are hard, would you like the opportunity to go part-time while we get through this and share your job with another person?” I would have leapt at that opportunity to keep my job and my health.


INTRO: Welcome to Job Share Revolution. The show about job sharing—a partnership between two people to bring two minds and skill sets to one full-time position. I’m Melissa Nicholson, former job sharer turned founder of the first U.S. job share company. But it wasn’t long ago that I felt like an utter failure at work and as a new parent. Job sharing was my game-changer. I reclaimed four days a week to fully engage in my life while my capable partner handled everything. Together, we achieved more than I ever could solo. Fast forward to many lessons learned to bring you the training and support I wish I’d had to change lives and the modern-day workplace. Let’s live life and slay work.


MELISSA NICHOLSON: Thank you so much for joining me for this special episode with my very first guest on Jobshare Revolution. Before we get started, could you do me a favor? It’s my goal to help as many humans as possible find a better way to do this whole work and life thing. If you could share this podcast with a friend who might just need it, it would mean the world to me.

Maybe it’s my job share days, but I like to think of my guests as my co-hosts, co-creating this space to help you live life and slay work. Today, my co-host shares what happens when one mom, pushed to the brink during the pandemic, wrote a resignation letter with a major mic drop. Karen Browning summoned up the courage to be vulnerable and transparently spell out what she needed and what her employer could have done to keep her in order to help those coming behind her, AKA you, my friend. Karen sat down to have a frank discussion with me about what women are facing now and what they can do about it.

I want to give a quick heads-up. This episode could feel triggering for some. If it does for you,  It’s okay to skip it. Take care of you. We are socialized to move on quickly, but like Christine Langley Obaugh, I believe, “We repeat what we do not repair.” And we have learned a lot from the past several years, haven’t we? Buckle up, buttercup. Let’s get to it.

I am so excited for our guest today. She is talented. She is savvy. She is the leader of our Ladies of Brilliance group, and she is my dear friend, Karen Browning. Karen, hi!

KAREN: Hi. Thanks for having me. I’m very honored to be here.

MELISSA: I’m so excited that you’re here. I’m so excited that you’re on the podcast.

KAREN: Me too. I’m so proud of you for doing this podcast. This is incredible.

MELISSA: So, Karen, there’s like, a really specific reason that I invited you to be one of our very early guests. You’re not a job sharer.

KAREN: Not at this point.

MELISSA: Although you’re a huge fan of job sharing.

KAREN: I love it.

MELISSA: But you are something that so many of us are. You are a mom who went through the last years of the pandemic. As much as we want to pretend that it’s over in many ways still effecting our lives and our work lives. And so tell us a little bit about you.

KAREN: Thanks again for having me. I’m really honored to be here. And you know, just share my story. I am a working mom, a mother of two, and I have been working full-time since they were really little. Right now, I’m doing Salesforce consulting. I love it. And what I was doing prior to this, when the pandemic started, I worked for a little software company. We did software for foster care agencies. I wore many different hats. I was doing content. I was helping run internal project management, and I was their Salesforce administrator. So a lot. A lot of stuff that was going on with me leading into the pandemic at that job, which I think will kind of set the stage for, you know, what we are going to talk about today.

MELISSA: There was a recent Deloitte Global survey of five thousand women, and more than half of them planned to quit their jobs in the next two years. And of the women who plan to quit their jobs, 53% of those women said that they feel more stress right now, now that our everyday lives resemble what they did more pre-pandemic. And I just wanted to really pick that apart. And the number one factor for all of these women is burnout.

KAREN: Yeah. When I hear that statistic, I think two things: I mean, it kind of gets me in my heart because I feel that like I was there was one of those women, but it also makes me excited to hear women talking about those options of like, knowing they need to make a change because that’s so powerful.

There’s a lot going on in the world and a lot of it’s really tough still. As you and I have talked about a lot, those stresses aren’t over. And I think there are still hard times ahead, but I’m excited, cautiously excited. Again, we’ll talk more about this probably. But like the women wanting to quit tech layoffs, like I think we’re feeling these big structural changes. Yes. Things that we still need to figure out as a society.

I hope everyone listening kind of takes it to heart that there may be some painful decisions that kind of hurt to get through, but I hope that what we’re rebuilding…like, as we break apart these structures and rebuild, they are going to be good and they are going to be more considerate of who we are now as a culture. With layoffs and women thinking about leaving their jobs…that kind of change can be hard and painful, to get through. But I just feel like this sense of optimism that we can rebuild things, and hopefully in a way that includes women and people of color. And all of these structures that we feel just aren’t working for us, maybe some of this breakdown will give all of us who are able to, a chance to rebuild them in a positive way that fits our lives, that we want to be living and makes room for women and their families.

We need more flexibility and we need work to fit into our life in a way that makes sense now, and not ten years ago, twenty years ago, fifty years ago. So I’m optimistic, which is rare for me, and I’m kind of embracing that.

MELISSA: I think there is reason to have optimism. I also want to get into a little more discussion about where we are right now. The truth is, the pandemic hit and in the U.S., we had no social safety net. Schools were our social safety net, so, schools were security, and counseling, and food for a lot of kids. And when that went away, the only safety net that we had to lean on was, really, parents. And because of deeply held social norms, a lot of that fell to women.

It completely makes sense why we were at a huge tipping point. And then, remote work opened up. Now here we are, years in, still no social safety net. Still, our schools have bled talent because they weren’t supported and it’s a great opportunity for employers. There is reason for optimism, but there’s also reason for employers to be aware. This is it. This is the point where we need to be paying attention, and we need to be paying attention to our female talent so that we don’t lose our female talent. If over half of them are planning to quit their jobs…

KAREN: Nurture, nurture and pay attention.

MELISSA: So when we were in the thick of the pandemic, you sent me an email and said, “I just wanted to share the letter that I just turned in to my employer with you.” And we are talking May of 2021, I mean, the height of the pandemic. And I wondered if you could read that letter for us and maybe we could talk about it?

KAREN: I mean, do you want me to read the letter first, or do you want me to set the stage a little bit?

MELISSA: Well, what do you think? I trust you.

KAREN: I’ll read it and then we can kind of go back and I’ll explain what was happening. This is a letter to someone who was in HR at the company I was working for at the time.

So I said, “I’m writing to let you know I’ve resigned my position. I have loved my experience working with an incredible team of people over the last three years. However, I’ve decided to take the summer off to be with my family. I am one of the thousands of women leaving the workplace this year because of burnout, because the challenges of balancing remote work, remote schooling for my children, and all the other social pressures and anxieties of this year have just been too much. I’m someone who prides herself on doing good work and doing a job well. With all that’s been going on this year, I haven’t felt like I’ve been able to do a good job in any area of my life. The problem with this year is that it was unprecedented. We had no script to work off of. We had no idea what was coming, how long it would last, or what to do to manage it.”

I’m getting like a little bit like teary-eyed just thinking about where I was at at this point, you know, and just everyone who well, it’s so emotional.

MELISSA: That feels emotional for me too, Karen.

KAREN: Right. And I’m saying “my story”, but I know I wasn’t alone and that’s, you know…

“I think companies looked too already stressed out and overwhelmed working parents for suggestions of what they could do to help. It’s like asking a drowning person, how can I help this?”

MELISSA: That Karen? Just that I know it’s like asking a drowning person, how can I help you while they’re drowning and they can’t breathe?

KAREN: Yeah, yeah, this was a rough point. Luckily, I knew you. Luckily, I had a really strong network. You know, it’s incredible to imagine trying to face everything we did if you didn’t have that network.

So I closed a letter with, “I’d like to suggest that you look into options that might be a lifeline for times like these. We may never experience a global pandemic on this scale again. That affects everyone in the same way. But workers of all ages will experience issues in their lives that might make them feel like they’re drowning and in need of a lifeline.

One option is job sharing. Last spring, when we were in the depths of the pandemic, if leadership had reached out to me and said, I know things are hard, would you like the opportunity to go part time while we get through this and share your job with another person? I would have leapt at that opportunity to keep my job and my health” and my mental health. I didn’t say that in the letter, but adding that now you know, like everything…

“Now I feel like I’ve reached a point of burnout where even going part-time is not an option. I just need a break. I’m worried about what this means for my career and for my family’s long- term financial outlook. But at the end of the day, getting myself back to feeling whole and able to present my best self to my family and work is more important.” 

Oof. Feeling for that Karen.

MELISSA: When you read this letter, can you remember like exactly how that felt?

KAREN: Saying it was a dark time doesn’t even cover it. You know, I feel like we all can think back to where we were in the depths of the pandemic, and we all had so many things going on. And so now I think it’s helpful for a little background. So the summer before the pandemic, my dad had gotten a lung cancer diagnosis. My youngest was in kindergarten, my oldest was in second. 

MELISSA: Kinder. It’s such a big thing. Like all of those transition kids going into middle school for the first time, or high school for the first time, or college for the first time, or kindergarten.

KAREN: Yeah, we loved our kinder teacher too. But, so dad had that diagnosis. You know, I was working full time. Plus, my role was, you know, as a content writer, but I also did a lot of different things. I had taken on this big project, working on Salesforce and doing a lot of like, third-party software implementation projects. I just I was really busy in February 2020. Like crazy busy. And we were supposed to leave, we had the suitcases packed, lined up by the fireplace. And I remember just so vividly that Friday morning we were going to miss the last day before spring break and just drive to Florida to go see my family. And we, of course, were keeping close tabs on Covid.

And I remember getting a text that morning at like 6 a.m. School’s closed, Austin is in lockdown. And so I had to make the call to my parents and tell them, “We’re not coming.” You know, that was so hard to miss that chance to see my dad. And you know, we all spent the next few months in lockdown and we had a few weeks, but we were trying to figure things out. And then and then it all started. We were back to working full time and the kids were home remote, full time. Fast forward, you know, to that summer. There was so little learning at the end that school year, and we lost my dad and we had to, you know, go through that during the pandemic and not really have a funeral or anything for him.

MELISSA: That’s so rough.

KAREN: It’s so rough. And my company I was working for at the time, they did a lot to support me through that process. But it was rough. It was hard. It just felt like things, and of course, you know, there was a lot going on politically, and just, you know, we just didn’t know where you stood week to week. I just was like stressor after stressor. And so we started back in person. I think January of twenty-one. Barely. And then they shut down again, you know, is just like that back and forth. And then that ping pong and the huge freeze, which was this big traumatic event for everyone who lived through it in Texas. We didn’t have electricity for days. We didn’t have water. It was just really stressful to live through. And again, my company was very supportive. We were mostly remote, but like, it was so traumatic.

MELISSA: It was traumatic. Yeah. We are not built. We do not have basements. We did not have generators. We normally don’t have snow. We were so lucky that we had like the snow of my childhood dreams that I never saw in Texas because we were just melting snow for totally for flushes.

KAREN:  Yeah, I felt so lucky. The company I worked for, they were very, you know, they were very lenient of like, you know, I don’t worry about anything. Like you’ve just got the week off paid until we can figure this out again. We were literally like Laura Ingalls Wilder or, you know, like Pioneer Days, just figuring it out day by day.

And after we came back to work after that, one of my close worked friends when she, like, you know, pinged me one day and just was like, you know, “Karen, I wanted to let you know I just resigned. I’m going to just take some time off.” We were pretty close. I got on the phone with her and was talking her through, like, is it another job? What’s going on? And she was saying, “No, I’m just burnout.” Like both of us had taken on more or more work. You know, for the last couple of years, our company had gone through acquisitions. We got acquired by another company while still remote schooling. Both her and I, both of us had small children at home that we were trying to get on their zooms and, you know, first graders that we were trying to train how to get on a zoom.

So like, impossible. Yeah, that was definitely, you know, something that gave me pause and that felt, you know, like, oh, like, how am I going to go on without her? And my youngest was in first grade. We just kept communicating with his teacher and he just wasn’t he wasn’t reading. He wasn’t progressing. He wasn’t. You know, this is a bright kid. It wasn’t because he wasn’t interested.

And at the same time, our school district lost their entire special ed department, like the people that we would turn to for help are gone. You know, it’s like you have no help with Covid. Like, it just felt like all these systems were broken. I just remember talking to so many working parents that year and a half, and it just felt like there was nowhere to turn and we were on our own or just, you know, had to help each other. You know, all those pressures were just too much. I just remember I wasn’t sleeping. I think I’d shared this with you, but I had days where I was staring at my computer and like, I couldn’t even think of words like I was so burned out. I was just so in the depths of all of these things to so constantly stress of going context switching, like helping the kids and doing this and doing that, all of the home stuff, you know, everything was all happening at home.

I got to a point where I just like I finally had a conversation with my direct manager, and I just told her I was like, something’s got to give. I literally can’t even think like, I’ve got to do something differently. She was in the same boat. I mean, she wasn’t a parent, but she was completely overwhelmed. She just said, keep me posted. Let me know what you need. You know, I’ll help you however I can.

And I just finally, you know, I kept thinking, like, you know, who’s going to help us? Who’s going to help my kid read, who’s going to help, who’s going to make this happen? And I finally just woke up from a dream. One night. And like, the answer was me.

I was the one that was going to figure this out. But I couldn’t do that and work and do all the things. So I just decided that that was the thing that had to go, like, I just had to quit my job and..

MELISSA: And that was really hard for you too, because you were, you know, the breadwinner.

KAREN: Yes. I mean, my family definitely relied on my income and my benefits to, you know, make things work. We were very lucky in the pandemic. You know, there was no after school. So, you know, we’d saved a lot of money because of that. So I had some long heart-to-hearts with my husband before I finally made the call. But I finally just felt like there was no other option.

MELISSA: That was your breaking point.

KAREN: That was my breaking point for sure. I think. I think that call with my boss where I was telling her, I literally can’t think there are so much stress in my life right now. There’s so much going on that I can’t even think clearly to do my job.

MELISSA: Karen, in that letter, you said part-time may have been an option at some point, but I can’t even consider that at this point. You were past the point in that return.

KAREN: Yeah. You know, those cartoons of like the guys crawling through the desert and they’re like, you know, like so thirsty like that. I feel like that’s how, like, I imagine my brain was at that point. I was so done, completely spent. There was just nothing. Nothing. Nothing for me, nothing for my family. I felt like I couldn’t be there for anyone. And I just like my heart hurts thinking about how that felt. And just like knowing I was not the only parent going, you know, or. And yet we were still logging in every day and like getting on our zoom calls and it just felt like something had to give.

MELISSA: You were just pushing through. It was always in my head, like, I’ve got to have Karen on. I’ve got to have her tell this story because your story is really millions and millions of women’s stories. And I think it’s exactly at the part where it’s like, yeah, the pandemic pushed everybody harder. Yeah. So anybody who had a parent that might have had some health problems, it’s like it pushed them all the way over to where they ended up passing away. It just put so much strain and stress. And we just didn’t have like the health care system. And then our schools didn’t have the support that they needed.

KAREN: And every day just involve so many decisions. Do I mask, do I not mask? Do I go to that thing? Do I not go? Yeah, I think it was so many decisions. All those decisions, remember, was that exhaustion of how much we didn’t know. And then everything felt new and just we did in a scary way. New. Not in a bright, shiny, fun way new.

MELISSA: When I’m really looking at like the landscape of like where we are now and why all of these women in the US? Yeah, over half of the women surveyed said that they are going to quit their jobs. It’s worse now. And then I go, what makes it worse now?

KAREN: Well, because we’re all pretending it’s over. Like, obviously like all the things you and I were just talking about, you know, like, we’re not completely back to normal. And not only that, we’re different. We’re coming out the other side. So different for different was so much we all went through together, just realizing the pressure that our systems couldn’t take.

You know, women can’t do it all. I don’t want to do it all. If there’s an advice I can give to working moms who feel like they need to quit their burnout, like, don’t do it all, find what you can not do, figure out what you can not do or what you can not do. Well, I’ll tell you what I don’t do well. I don’t do laundry well. I gave up on it. I don’t care, you know what I mean? It’s like, find those things and let it go. You don’t. Right? You let it go, right? You don’t have to be Martha Stewart and do everything perfectly. And Marie Kondo and like, you don’t have to do it all. That would be one thing I would say let it go.

But I feel like we’re not there yet. It’s like we realize all these things during the pandemic, you know, and we and we’re guilty of this, too. I signed the kids up, like all of the things I was like, Monday night, we’re going to gymnastics. Yeah, Tuesdays come through, Wednesdays swimming and, you know, Friday and Saturday soccer. We’re doing all the things.

And we also decided in the pandemic to be a one-car family to save, you know, to help the environment because we’re always working from home. Yeah. You know. Damn. And I’m back working full time again, you know. And so we were all for like even the kids were just looking at each other sometimes like, what are we doing?

And I swore we weren’t going to hit this busy point again. But we did, you know, and I think a lot of us did. I think a lot of us, you know, swore like, no, I learned my lesson in the pandemic. I need that quiet time. I need more space. I’m not going to say yes to every birthday party and every invite.

MELISSA: The stress and the pressure, not just from the pandemic, to come back in the office. That part of us is supposed to be put away and put in a box and it’s behind us. But there’s so much fallout in our schools, there’s so many teachers who have quit. The parents are not okay. The kids are not okay. The structures are not holding up. And we effectively don’t have any more social safety net than we did before. It’s like, thank goodness that the administration put in that extra child credit where it’s like people got that just straight to their bank account.

KAREN: I mean, it was so needed and I can’t almost believe like it then went away because that’s got to be the most I mean, it helped us.

That definitely was a factor in the fact that we could put that away every month for months and months and give us that leeway. You know, I basically resigned the same week the kids were getting out of school. And like when we were realizing my youngest was, you know, having issues and I know nothing about teaching kids to read, but I would just decided to take it upon myself, my husband, I had all those heart to hearts. 

And I said, you know, I’m just going to spend the summer reading and swimming with the kids. The kids still were not vaccinated. It was not available for them at that point. Just a reminder to all of our listeners, you know, so, you know, as I was like going through that spring of 2021 with all those stressors, I just kept thinking, how can I sign my kids up and send them to summer camp?

I spent the summer with the kids. We you know, it was a blur. I was a happy blur. That was probably the happiest time looking back, just because of all that pressure being off. And I got my brain back and it took months and months to get my brain back.

I don’t want to encourage women to quit, but I do want to say, take care of you. Your family needs you. And that was what finally pushed me to do it. It was like, I can’t please any of these people if I can’t function. You know, if I just like, go catatonic, then I’m not helping anybody. And so that was finally, you know, it was like that, that cliched saying, and put your own oxygen mask first. And I was like, I’ve got to. I’m so thankful I had that space and could come back and like, find work and, and do it my own way.

MELISSA: Doing it your own way. Yeah. I think about that letter and I think beginning of the pandemic, it’s like massive layoffs, right. People are getting laid off 1 or 2. I had a neighbor who was laid off for three jobs, and then everybody’s hired back with raises.

And it’s like super competitive. And now it’s like employers are acting as though it’s the 2008 recession. And I remember that because staffs were cut back and they would go to a great employee that they wanted to retain and they would say, hey, we want you to take on these extra duties and maybe they would increase the pay by 10%, but they weren’t hiring two people to replace that person, and people didn’t feel like they had the power. 

People who believe that employers are going to take this moment where it shifts from an employee having the power to the employer having the power or the excuse or the ability to say, once again, like people have got to do more and we can’t have everybody working hybrid and we can’t have everybody working flexibly, and we’ve really got to work a 40 hour workweek.

I think that might also have something to do with why these women, whether they’re caring for their kids or their aging parents or both in their sandwich generation, like we are. What’s so inspiring about that letter is that was like the hardest time for anybody. And you went to your employer and basically said, hey, if you had had job sharing I would have jumped at this if I was given the chance.

If you have had something that would have helped me bridge this gap through the meantime, or maybe forever, I would have totally done it. But they didn’t do it. And so you had the self-advocacy to, like, take yourself out of the equation, get this isn’t working. I need a time out. And then figuring out what aligned with your values, what you wanted to do, and what kind of work was going to work for you.

KAREN: Yeah. Well, and I have to say, like, I’m so thankful for, I mean, I have some incredible male friends in my life who are so supportive. But at that point, it was my women friends, our women friends there for me and advocating for me. The friend I mentioned that had left the company before me. I reached out to her.

We had a couple of lunches where we both were kind of like, all right, what are we going to do next? You know? And like, we have each other’s back. You know, if I hadn’t had that, yeah, there’s probably less of a chance I would have felt safe. I mean, even with the stability of my marriage and my husband, if I hadn’t had that network saying, yeah, make the leap.

Do what you need to do. Women backing me, I probably would have been far more anxious and afraid to take that step. You know, I think that’s huge. Like for all those women who are thinking about quitting work, I would say, don’t be afraid about quitting work, but don’t make that leap without having some support in place. Just know that people have your back.

Like I think that’s key to landing on your feet and not just finding your next thing, but finding the next thing that’s right for you where you’re valued. I ended up meeting with recruiters and going through so many interviews, and some of them are incredible, and I was heartbroken when I didn’t get them. Some of them were terrible and I ran away as fast as I could, but I had my cheerleaders making sure that I didn’t take something that wasn’t right for me. And I think that’s so necessary.

MELISSA: Yes, I also think like there’s another part to this, which is that you don’t have to wait for your employer to come to you. Right? In your words, had your boss come to you and said, we will let you job share it. This is like a great solution. You can do this. Well, they don’t know about that solution. This is not their lives, it’s your life. My thought process to this is, I want women to know you don’t have to wait around for your company to come to you with what works. They don’t know, you know your life. And then we are all feeling this stress because we have this psychological fallout from the last several years.

But we were stressed before the pandemic ever happened in the first place. It wasn’t working. Look at women who never make it beyond mid-level in their career, because they take career breaks, and career breaks can be great, but career breaks are really damaging to people financially long term. So one of the things I would want people to know is like, you don’t have to wait for it.

You self-advocate, you create it, you go to them with the innovative solution. That’s how my job share happened, and that’s how most people job share, because so many employers don’t know about it. It doesn’t have to be a job. Sure, it can be whatever that thing is for you, but you don’t have to wait.

KAREN: Totally. What I love about what you’ve built is there’s a job share community.

You know, like that network I was just talking about, like, it’s built if you want to job, share. Like if the women are listening and they want to quit or they want to think about, you know, maybe going part-time and job sharing, like there’s a built-in network who will cheer you on

MELISSA: And you’re not going to be alone.

KAREN: Right? Exactly. Yeah, I love that about what you’ve built. And that’s incredible. And like, it just speaks volumes to like, what we need as a culture is like, nobody could do it alone. And we all need each other. We need a community.

MELISSA: You know, it’s like you say, the one thing that really made a huge difference to you is that your work BFF quit. And she was at the end of her rope.

KAREN: She was like a mirror. Totally. Yeah.

MELISSA: That’s the number one factor for Happiness at work is a work BFF. It’s not your boss or how great that relationship is. Being able to job share and you’re going through those tough times and the other person takes the load for you or makes it lighter. So that you can, like, get through that rougher period. It’s reciprocal because you care about one another and it’s like a really supportive, kind, nurturing way to work. And we don’t think of work that way.

KAREN: Yes, I feel like even if I never job share, like the lessons I’ve learned from job sharing, you know, like I always every job I’m in now, I always advocate that there should never be one person who knows how to do everything for this one role. Like, I’m always advocating for cross-training. Everybody should be able to have vacation and time off with their family, or time off to be a caregiver. If there’s something I could offer to like, you know, all these working parents out there, it’s don’t be that person.

I think some people take pride in that. And they’re like, well, I’m the only one that can. Yeah, and that’s not a good thing. That’s not a good thing.

MELISSA: Because then when you walk away, you can’t walk away and you need that’s a socialized left up thing that our culture has done to us. That’s a socialized thing that is unique to us, culture, that is that grind till you get there mentality that is like, if you’re in the office at 630, then you’re a baller. That is just a very bro patriarchal system. We did not. We would never have built it that way.

KAREN: Remember that quote I sent you this morning from that song that Belle and Sebastian saw? It was like, I woke up with it in my head this morning. Thinking about our interview. And it starts with like, oh, get me away from here. I’m dying. Play me a song to set me free. Nobody writes. And like they used to say. It may as well be me. And I think that’s that it may as well be me. Like that just keeps like playing in my head. Like when I think about that time, that resignation and just that feeling of, I’ve got to take care of my baby, who is struggling so much like it may as well be me, right?

You can’t count on your employer to notice that you’re struggling and like, offer you help if they do. Amazing. That’s fantastic.

MELISSA: Believe in you.

KAREN: Believe in you. Exactly. Believe. And listen to that voice in your head saying you can’t do this anymore. You know that baby needs your help or your momma needs your help. Or maybe you just need, you know, the break or whatever it is. Listen to that voice.

MELISSA: That letter was the start of things for you. And then you left and you took the time off, and then you went through like a couple of iterations of finding the work that you wanted to do with the kind of organization you wanted. It was smaller, it was more human-centric. And just that idea of, you don’t have to wait for your employer to come to you. You can go to them and you can tell them what it is you need. What did that look like for you? Because you recently told me you did something like that?

KAREN: Well, so I was part time for a while. I’ve been with a new company now, and they’re very supportive and heartfelt and so at the end of my annual review, they asked me how everything’s going, and I said, everything’s going great.

“What if I decided to cut back to, like, a 35-hour workweek? What if I just need that extra hour with my kids? Is that possible?” And they’re both like, “Yeah, if that’s what you need. We’ll make that happen.” And that was something I was looking for. When you’re looking for your next thing, like interview them, you’re not the only one getting interviewed. You know, make it a two way street. I even tell my kids this. My oldest is starting piano lessons, and I told him, this is going to be your teacher. Make sure you like him. You just have to be your best friend. But if he rubs you the wrong way, this is not going to be a good fit.

I think I did a good job vetting this company. Flexibility was a huge thing I was looking for, and so I kind of knew that was already baked in. Going back to these like, you know, 50% of women who might want to quit their jobs in the next year. I hope you find a place where you’re happy.

MELISSA:, And also, like before you give up completely, before you wait for your employer to come to you and for them to offer the thing that is going to be the thing that you need or the promotion.

Yeah, you create it. You make it happen because according to Harvard Business Reviews data, women lose an average of 18% of their earning power when they take a career break. They might be planning to take a couple months off for the summer off, and some do and some come back. But the longer that you take off, the harder it is to get back in, the more ageism becomes a thing and it’s just a really hard fight.

And so I would just encourage people do what you need to do if you’re at the end of your rope and this isn’t the place making a change in your life is huge, huge. You have the power. You don’t have to wait for someone to come to you. You have the power. And if that stepping away and taking that break and recharging and really thinking about what values you’re looking for in an employer or what is that next move for you, maybe it’s even starting your own thing, absolutely assaulting or doing something else. You have it in you.

KAREN: Yeah, I’m a big believer in like envisioning. And so like when I left my other company and like I finally had space, I wrote out what values do I want the company to have? And I just like, you know, would imagine and draw and like, I love doing things with colored pencils. I’d write every value in a different color and really just kind of see myself in this next place to help get there.

MELISSA: I think that’s brilliant.

KAREN: But yeah, I think that’s huge. It’s like, don’t be stuck. Even if it feels terrible, even if it feels like there’s layoffs and like, I can’t leave my job. Now, I really want to emphasize, I think that this is like structure is breaking down, like sort of in a good way, you know what I mean?

It’s like all these people getting laid off. I mean, like thousands at Google, thousands at Amazon. Those people are coming together and they’re going to make something new, like, there are going to be new things coming out of that. Yeah, we may have to wait a little while, but like if you have patience and you watch, there’s going to be some really good stuff coming out of that and I’m excited for it.

MELISSA: This is time that employers are open to solutions. They don’t have the answers. You and your employer and said, how about a 35 hour workweek? They want to retain you. It costs them so much to lose talent. And even for companies that have to scale back talent, they’re going to keep the best talent. Why not take two skill sets, put them together in one job with two employees? It’s like an ideal moment when employers are facing something.

KAREN: We’re definitely at this inflection point where things are going to change. If your company is one of those companies who have these PR statements about diversity and inclusion and believing in women that hold them to it, or work life balance, work life balance, yeah, told them to it. Call it out.

Call it out. You know, like, don’t be afraid. And if you are afraid, then maybe you’re not in the right place. Right? Culture is huge. Yes, huge huge huge. And so I hope that like companies who say they invest in women are listening. This could be such a big moment. I hope it’s better than my guess were, because things were really broken and we can do better.

MELISSA: Things need to get better and things have been breaking and we need one another to get there. And we haven’t had this social safety net. But like we’re being one another social safety net and we’re trusting ourselves and believing in ourselves, just knowing that you have something within you, you know you can create what you want your life to look like and the way that you work.

And I do think we are at a tipping point. I just want I don’t know what I want our message to be to the women out there, but it’s I thank you so much for coming here today, Karen, and sharing that letter to you for having me your story, because I just know that it’s going to inspire so many people to know that whether they leave, whether they recreate what it looks like for them, that they have that power in them and that they can listen to their inner voice and they can look for the things that they deserve in a way, to work that values who they are and like all the parts of themselves. And you don’t have to do it alone. Look for your people, like for your ladies of brilliance

KAREN: other ladies of brilliance. Yeah.

MELISSA: And, you know, should it be that you decide to job share it right? You’ll never be alone. You’ll be doing it with somebody right there holding your hand the entire way in. Whatever you do, just know you have that inner power. It’s all on you.

KAREN: Sending so much love out to all these working parents. It’s. It’s been rough.

MELISSA: Okay. Thank you, lovely Karen.

MELISSA: I really appreciate Karen’s vulnerability. I don’t know about you but thinking back through that time brings up a lot for me. As a society, we tend to push through without reflecting, but it changed us. It may have been painful, but I was forced to find coping strategies to put my well being first in a way I never had before and to start living with more intention. Maybe you did too. And like Karen, I’m hopeful that it changed us for the better. I’d love to hear what your thoughts about this conversation. Share them in our Facebook community, Job Share, Live LIfe + Slay Work. I’ll put the link in the show notes of Episode 3 at workmuse dot com forward slash three. See you next Thursday, same time, same place.


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