When I interview candidates, they always ask about work-life balance. I proceed to share with them what time people arrive at work, the makeup of people with family versus people who don’t. I will also tell them what time people start work and leave the office. But is that really work-life balance? What is work-life balance anyway? And should your job provide you work-life balance? Or should you create it for yourself?
The term “work-life balance” is such an oxymoron—a business’s goal is always to drive the business forward. So, it is common for there to feel like there’s a tug of war – your employer wants to work on strategic initiatives that require you to work longer hours whereas you may want to spend more time doing something else. A better way to assess work-life balance is to look at the business’s objectives and gather enough information to establish a 30-, 60-, and 90-day plan. Based on the plan, you can then figure out the resources you may need to be successful and leverage this new role to elevate your career.
For example, you are a business development director for a digital marketing agency and one of their objectives is to increase profit margin by 20% for each campaign. Within the first 30 days, you may want to meet with everyone involved in the campaign creation and launches, assess their processes, how much time does it take for them to create a campaign and what resources are they currently using. In the next 30 days, you may want to assess current expenses associated with campaign launches. You may also want to figure out the ratio of expenses incurred to the revenue an account brings in. In the following 30 days, you will finish your profit margin increase proposal. Once you create that plan, you can begin to ask specific questions, helping you assess the team’s openness to change and available resources that will help you to meet your goals.
I also find that people who ask about “work-life balance” either have gotten burned by their previous role or want to slow down their lives, neither of which is something you want to imply to your future employer. So, the best way to find out about work-life balance is to identify the team’s pain points followed by their short-term and longer-term goals. Using the example above, you can request to meet with the head of campaign management. If the Head does not seem to open to leveraging technologies to streamline their campaign work, you can assume that you may be fighting an uphill battle. Alternatively, if this person asks for your advice about technologies and your experience in solving this problem, you can also assume that this person wants a change. Once you figure out those goals and establish a 30-, 60-, and 90-day plan, you’ll have the opportunity to ask more role-specific questions.
Sometimes, it’s not about work-life balance—it’s about resources and the hiring manager’s beliefs about work. You most likely won’t find out your manager’s beliefs until you actually spend time with them. It’s okay. Gather enough information and make the most informed decision you can based on what you know. Making a career move is not just about taking a risk; it should be about taking a calculated risk and making the most of it.