Taking Stock in Your Career
For those working toward a clearly defined goal, overtime can be an investment in future wealth and security. “Ask yourself, ‘What do I want in terms of my own career path?’” says Texas rail industry recruiter Edna Rice, who has owned her since 1988. “If you envision yourself as an entrepreneur, you may want to work extra hours to learn as much as you can about different facets of a business.”
Taking ownership in a company and its successes, whether you’re actually an owner or not, can make long hours more palatable. “If you’re a stockholder,” says Rice, “you are, in fact, part-owner. In that case, it would probably behoove you to work as many hours as it takes to get the job done. Get involved in theof the company and it becomes less of a chore.” The extra hours may also help you get ahead.
Rice stresses quality, not quantity, when it comes to overtime. “I believe there are three reasons why people are hired: to make money for a company, to save money for a company, or to solve a problem. People get hung up on the number of hours they put in, when it’s really one of those three issues they should be focused on.”
When Richard Needles defined his goals 22 years ago, he sought to become a human resources generalist for a major corporation. Another main objective: to retire at 55. Needles is now the senior vice president of global human resources for Sterling Commerce, a provider of e-commerce solutions in Ohio.
“When I first started out,” Needles says, “I saw that my cohorts were getting in at 8 a.m. and leaving at 5:15. So I started showing up at 7:30 and leaving at 5:30, and I worked for about three hours on Saturdays. Suddenly, I was better prepared on Monday mornings than they were. It got me a step ahead.”
Now Needles is in a position to communicate to Sterling Commerce employees his expectations regarding hours. “I think that it’s reasonable to expect most employees to work 37.5 to 43 hours each week.” Needles expects 45 to 47 hours from managers; 50 hours from directors; 55 hours from vice presidents; and top-level executives such as presidents are expected to put in 60-hour weeks. “No one can define balance for any other individual,” says Needles. “I have a very specific plan, so I went down a very specific career path to get there.”
Matching Expectations and Reality
Jobseekers should decide if a time commitment sounds feasible before jumping onboard at a new company. “The kind of company, the kind of business, and the cycle of that business all dictate what’s expected of employees,” says Joyce Leger, human resources manager for ePresence, a Web development and firm in Westboro, MA. She notes that the e-commerce explosion is creating numerous jobs, most of which require numerous hours.
“If you’re talking about a dot-com or a start-up company,” says Leger, “the expectation is that you work a 60 to 80-hour week.” The trade-offs, such as valuable stock options and double-digit increases, offset the extra hours for many people. “But for someone who’s got family or other personal commitments and can only work 40 hours, it’s not going to be a good fit.”
Speak candidly about expectations before taking a position, Leger advises. “Most employers will bring this up in an interview because they want a good fit. But if the interviewer doesn’t bring it up, by all means, ask.”
The Balancing Act
Today, it seems that no occupation is exempt from overtime. Giving every endeavor 100 percent, whether it’s work- or pleasure-related, is one way to balance overtime with personal time. As the executive director of the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum in Pennsylvania, self-described family man Cummins McNitt manages a staff of 30 and a budget in excess of $1 million. He also does more than his share of community work. McNitt tries to “stay centered on family life and spiritual life,” and home time means family time–at least while his son is awake.
“We spend our family time, we do homework, we go to basketball games,” McNitt says. But when his 10-year-old goes to bed, McNitt’s laptop often reappears so he canwork on grant writing and correspondence.
Learning to Love the Stress
Sacrificing time off to take a job is commonplace for Spencer and Liz Kennard, co-owners of Kelsey-Kennard Studio in Chatham, MA. Whether they’re rising early on a Sunday morning to capture clear aerial photos (one of Spencer’s specialties) or spending New Year’s Eve on the job, the Kennards juggle hectic workdays with caring for two teenage sons.
“You don’t want area businesses calling someone else,” Liz says. “You don’t want to lose contact with your clients.” She admits forsaking housework to enjoy an evening off on the family boat. “Whenever we get a free moment, we snag it and go.”
The constant flux of vehicles, policies, and people at Best Ford and Cycle in Nashua, NH, keeps Holly McMillan busy 55 to 60 hours a week. “You almost have to enjoy a certain stress level to work at an auto dealership,” McMillan says. As business manager, every single purchase transaction eventually crosses her desk. She and the sales manager must wait until the last customer of the day is serviced, so indecisive and late-arriving patrons keep her hours unpredictable.
McMillan finds balance in family cookouts or walking with her dogs on the beach. After 14 years in the motorcycle and automobile industry, her time investment is sufficient incentive to work hard–and late. “Having gotten to where I want to be,” she says, “I want to do the best job I can.”
In that, she echoes the sentiments of thousands of other workers who have learned to live without their stopwatches.