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This article is part of an exclusive month-long program on CAREEREALISM to help readers break free of The Golden Handcuff Effect. Click HERE to learn more about the Professional Emancipation Project, a.k.a. The P.E.P. Talk. When I was approached to write an article for CAREEREALISM on work-life balance, I LOLed — laughed right out loud at my monitor. Some think I’m a master at this topic, but I hardly feel like a respected authority. Maybe I’m being too modest. I think I’ll just tell my story and let you decide. But, first, I have a confession. As much as I enjoy getting to know job seekers, clients, and old friends online and on social media, and let them into my family world (my kids keep me pretty busy and I’m always posting about them) and my professional life (I write about my business A LOT), there is one area I don’t talk about much. In this article, I’ll give you my thoughts on work-life balance with an added twist involving a third factor, a surprising extenuating circumstance in my life, that requires additional balancing. It’s personal, but it’s what makes me feel even remotely qualified to write on this topic, so I will share a relevant perspective I’ve never shared so publicly before. Before I jump into that, I want you to get to know me a little. Some of you know me for my hats. So, let me introduce myself. I’m Kristin — the hat lady. (A step above crazy cat lady.) There are three main hats I wear, symbolically. Family, business, and my surprise mystery circumstance. I’ll tell you more about the real reason for the hats later. The first hat symbolizes the overriding priority and motivation in my life. Family. I’ve got a lovely dog, Bella, my significant other, Tom, and our two children, William and Ruthanne. They're our pride and joy. I’m an only child, as is my mom, so our family is small, and my kids get plenty of attention (especially with their main talents). They're Shakespearean actors and the theater is often half-full of family and friends, coming to see my offspring. They have such a flair for acting, just like I have for hats. My other pride and joy is my business, Profession Direction. I’m an executive resume writer and job search coach. I help professionals find their ideal job faster. About three years ago, I decided to work from home. Since then, I’ve built a national name for myself by obsessing over resume writing best practices and learning the secrets of the “hidden job market.” I get geeked up about nerdy things like grammar rules, webinars, and Microsoft Word formatting tips. I enjoy marketing and promoting my brand as the hat-wearing resume writer. Running a virtual office has got its challenges, though. A lot of work hours (balanced with hours in the theater). So, why start a business when I have active kids to distract me? The biggest part of why I decided to set up my virtual business is also the next hat I wear and the third thing I balance. This hat is purple, the color for lupus. I was diagnosed about five years ago and have struggled to balance my family, my work, and my treatment for the disease. As much as I love that people know me for my funky hats, they serve a medical purpose – I’m extremely photosensitive and they protect me from UV light. Luckily, I have a good sense of style (at least I think so). The good news is that my lupus is not life-threatening. There’s a high likelihood that I will live a normal life-span. But, I have many symptoms and appointments that don’t lend themselves to holding a normal job. I thought there MUST be something I could do from home and have the flexibility I needed to balance the three most important aspects of my life – my family, work, and now my health. Since I had been working with job seekers in person as a contracted job developer through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, and loved writing their resumes, doing that from home, virtually, was a no-brainer. I’ve expanded beyond that original vision, and I’m so glad I made the decision to take my career into my own hands. Have I become an expert at running my household smoothly while working from a home office since making that decision? Am I Wonder Woman? No and no. But, I’ve learned work/life/health balance is a continuous process. I work toward it with a few small strategies:

1. Every day, every hour, I ask myself: What is the best thing to be focusing on right now? And then I give myself permission to reprioritize, do it, try something new.

2. I think creatively, process verbally, always brainstorm options to my career/life/health obstacles.

3. I’m not too proud to ask for help around the house, in the office, or anything else so I can take care of myself.

If you’ve got a special circumstance, health or otherwise, affecting your career, wearing those three hats is tough, but starting with these three basics — focus, creative thinking, and asking for help — will get you headed in the right direction to find balance.

The P.E.P. Talk

This article is part of our P.E.P. Talk Series. Over the next month, some of the brightest and best authors, business professionals, and coaches are coming together to share their valuable advice for breaking free of "The Golden Handcuff Effect" so you can take full ownership of your careers and experience Professional Emancipation. Photo Credit: Shutterstock
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