The Work/Life Balance

It has been ten years since Jack Welch, the icon Chairman of GE retired on top of the corporate heap.  He was known during his twenty year tenure for robust stock prices and his competitive management approach for positive returns for his shareholders.  In a recent speech at The Tulsa Business Forum hosted by the Oklahoma State University’s Spears School of Business, Welch made it quite clear that “the whole idea is to grow jobs,” and “the main social responsibility for a company is to win.”

Welch’s philosophy on business and life are unique, especially when you consider how the world has changed just in the ten years since his retirement.  Vault.com reports that: “the man known for helping to create the shareholder value corporate buzzword or cliche, and for laying off thousands of GE employees to reach efficiency, also did not mince words about anything asked.  ‘We played business like it was a sport,’ Welch said of his philosophy heading up GE.  ‘You make a game of it; you field the best team and weed out the weakest.  The weeds you’ve got to pull out if you’re going to build a beautiful garden.’

Vault.com continues it’s report on Welch’s performance, “Welch’s history at GE is already well-documented.  His cutthroat style and ‘eyes on the money’ philospophy is routinely boo-ed and praised by alternative members of the corporate world.”

If you don’t think Welch is not controversial enough you need not go too far back, in 2009 before a group of HR professionals at the annual meeting of SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management) he tossed out a red meat statement that still permeates amongst those who make their money the old-fashion way – they work for it.  “There is no such thing as work/life balance,” and once again according to vault.com he stated that “women have to make choices; the choice between family and the quest for the corner office … and those choices have consequences.”

Jack Welch is not exactly a politically-correct kind of guy and most people would contend that he loves to rattle your cage at any opportunity he can find.  Though the business world still needs many more female CEOs with only 3% of the top 500 U.S. companies headed by women, I would assume that Ellen Kullman (CEO of Du Pont), Irene Rosenfeld (Kraft Foods CEO) and Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo’s CEO) were able to balance their lives to have the best of both worlds since they all have families and children.

As an individual who has had the opportunity to be on both sides of the interview table it is always important to assess what kind of person you are questioning.  Obviously you want an individual who is passionate and focused on the daily results of his/her job but I certainly believe that no company in today’s world wants a singularly-focused individual who only lives and breathes his career with little interest on his family, friends or society that he lives in.

The modern HR Department or interviewer will always ask: “What do you do outside work?” or “What do you do to relax?”  It is certainly recommended that candidates plan for this question and seriously provide an answer that is truthful and profound.

Using examples as: Little League Coach, Boy/Girl Scout Leader, School Board Director, gardening, golf, movie-goer or book reader are all tried and true responses.  Even Don Draper and Roger Sterling of “Mad Men” had after-work hobbies, though I would recommend that you not boast too loudly about your womanizing and liquor consumption habits.

The best candidate for any job in today’s corporate world is a well-rounded individual who balances his business life with his family life.  Most interviewers would be happy to hear of your children and your family.  The business world is far from being a vacuum where the rest of your day doesn’t matter.  Most progressive employers believe that the best working environment is one that has a balance and one that you can comfortably and seamlessly move from one to another without hesitation and concern.

In an interview, the person across the table is looking for not just your business acumen but also how comfortable you are in your current family situation and whether that status is going to infringe on your success at work.  Though interviewers are very careful not to seek personal information (age, spouse etc.) especially since it is illegal, you and I both know that to develop a full picture of any candidate it is important for the potential employer to determine what kind of person you truly are and to what degree they want to invest time and money in your future.

It is important for a candidate to position himself as one who is comfortable in all environments and to that end when you are talking about yourself, it is imperative for you to include your family in the conversation.  A well-rounded candidate is one that most employers want and will go out of their way to include when deciding to hire and grow the company.

A family person is a resourceful person and one that has a mortgage, dental bills and college tuition payments.  If you have all three you need to emphasize your desire to make this potential employer an element of your life.  If you don’t have a family, (for whatever reason) it is also important to present a balanced picture that includes a business and relaxation history.

Jack Welch was certainly a successful businessman, one that we all can idolize for his money-making prowess but in today’s real world, balance is the key word and one you need to emphasize time and time again throughout your job search.

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