Let’s Talk About Career…

Tomorrow I’ll be sharing 10 things I’ve learned in my career over the past fifteen years (so many things!), but meanwhile here are a few career tidbits from around the web…

Watch Peggy Olson break the glass ceiling in under three minutes…

My back hurts all the time, so my friend Gemma told me (and raved) about these ergonomic kneeling chairs. Apparently they keep your spine in proper alignment, strengthen lower back muscles and encourage good posture. Have you ever tried one?

My favorite career book by George Lois, the real Don Draper, which has 120 valuable nuggets about career and life. Smart, funny and no-nonsense.

Just discovered the hilarious tumblr It’s Like They Know Us, which points out how unrealistic stock photos can be. The caption above is “I am getting so much work done. Toddlers are easy.”

And above is, “Mom, I’m getting kinda hungry…Hey, um, Mom, you’ve been stirring that empty pot for 2 hours. Is the stove even on?…Mom? Mom? Mom…what happened to Dad?”

What have been your toughest interview questions? Douglas Edwards remembers being interviewed by Google co-founder Sergey Brin: “I’m going to give you five minutes,” he told me. “When I come back, I want you to explain to me something complicated that I don’t already know.” He then rolled out of the room toward the snack area. I looked at Cindy. “He’s very curious about everything,” she told me. “You can talk about a hobby, something technical, whatever you want. Just make sure it’s something you really understand well.” (What would you explain?)

John Derian paperweights to cheer up your desk. (Caroline and I both have one.)

If you’re in the mood, here’s the past work/life/baby balance series on Cup of Jo. I’d love to do another one in the future featuring mothers with different careers, relationships, economic means and overall situations. It’s a topic very near and dear to my heart. Lots of love to you.

P.S. Let’s talk about fashion, books and travel

(Google office photo from The Atlantic)

  1. Thank you for posting “It’s Like They Know Us.” It was so cool to see it here!


  2. Let me know if you need another work/life/career balance writer to add to the list. I am currently a working Mom (petroleum engineer) with a 21 month old and one on the way! I’d love to share my story!

  3. Thank you so much for this post. It is nice to see that it is possible to be a freelance journalist :)

    I am a 25 year old who has just graduated from journalism school and I am a little unsure of what to do now. I have moved to a new city and had an internship with a newspaper as part of my studies, but I didn’t get to continue working there and now I am a little lost on what to do… I still want to write and be a journalist but I don’t know how to proceed… If you have any advice it would be very appreciated. Thank you very much!

  4. OMG! That tumblr just made the mascara run down my face – tears of laughter! I had to stop looking.
    Thanks for sharing that.

  5. Joanna, I would love to talk to you when you are writing your next career/balance series! You may remember emailing me the last time you ran this series…I discussed finding a balance when my husband is away for work, and helping the homeless in NYC (a random mix, I know!) anyway, I’m a stylist-event designer-artist-creative consultant with two children…I would be so happy to talk with you if you’re looking for someone in my field :)

  6. I know Mad Men seems to be all about Don, but I personally think Peggy is the main character driving the story’s arc. Love her so much.

  7. That tumblr photo is great! When I was pregnant I remember seeing photos of breast pump advertisements where a woman was smiling at her desk behind her computer and writing something down…..with both boobs hooked up to an automatic breast pump. AAAGGGHHHH! SO rediculously hilarious and yet amazingly awful! Seriously?!?!

    And, yay for a new career/balancing act series!!

  8. That tumblr is awesome! Also, I would love to read more career and work/life balance posts!

  9. Looking forward to more on this topic!

    Wondering if you or any readers have read “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg … it’s been on my reading radar lately. Would love to hear any other suggestions, too!

  10. “If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation.” – LOVE it. Her sassiness and self-confidence is so great to watch.

    High Heels & Happy Feels

  11. Sounds like a great idea for a new series. I absolutely loved the motherhood around the world series. Could I ask you to consider one thing? Diversity. When I look at my friend group, I’m surrounded by straight, lesbian, disabled and single mothers. All devoted and some, impressive career women too. It would be lovely to see more diversity, well everywhere right? But on your awesome blog would be a real joy!

  12. I’d love to hear Caroline’s career thoughts too! How did she get into book publishing? Why did she switch into blogging? Would she have, if Cup of Jo wasn’t hiring?

  13. How can I be considered for the career themed posts? I am a 34 year old mother to three with a Master’s Degree in Professional Counseling. I have worked on and off in private practice but am currently home on an extended maternity leave. I have this wonderful education and find my work extremely fulfilling but struggle with wanting to be at home with my children. It’s a hard balance that I am certainly continuing to figure out.

  14. I had one of those ergonomic kneeling chairs for awhile at my office. VERY good for posture, but the main problem for me is that they’re awkward getting into and out of. Not a big deal if you sit down for a long time at a stretch, but I’m up and down every few minutes in my job as a librarian. It was just too annoying so I eventually went back to a regular task chair.

  15. The Tumblr is cracking me up. But I keep thinking about how no one would ever even think about asking a man to do this kind of multitasking – working while taking care of a toddler while taking care of dinner…at the same time. Yet, for women, the ability to do these things at the same time is positioned as a benefit. “Look! You can work from home and do all these things!” This expectation is completely insane, and I swear it is making us crazy.

  16. I’ve never watched Mad Men but that super cut makes me want to!!

  17. This is great! As for the interview question… I think I would explain technically how to do 1 perfect pirouette!

  18. The multiple Mad Men references make this post a winner by default. The fact that you introduced that Tumblr is just a total bonus.

    But fo’ real: I’m really digging your idea to run a future series “featuring mothers with different careers, relationships, economic means and overall situations.” As a twenty-something mother of 3 who works two jobs, serves in the Army Reserve, is effing STILL in college, has totally random hobbies that don’t make sense when lined up next to each other (hello CrossFit and scrapbooking), is technically legally married to a man that lives in the basement but is in a serious, long-term, committed relationship with another woman, and who is broker than a joke…r (…no?) (also, I candidly blog about all this crap), I have a hard time finding “real” “stuff” online that I can relate to. (More about all that here:

    I would love to see something like that in this space.

  19. I always sit down to your posts about moms and careers as if I am sitting down to tea or wine with a dear friend. Thank you for always offering such a nonjudgmental, fascinating, and intimate window to the varied realities of moms. It means the world to so many of us trying to make it through the day.

  20. I love this post! Definitely going to buy Damn Good Advice. Looks like a great read. Can’t wait for more career posts. I am considering a career change so I am looking for as much advise as I can get!

  21. Hi Jo, I’m fairly new to A Cup of Jo but I absolutely love your blog. I’ve recently had a second son (he’s 5 months now) and I find your posts really interesting and relevant to where I’m at in my life. Looking forward to the next work/life/motherhood series and hearing about different peoples experiences. Before having Louis (boy no 2!) I started working on a freelance basis and feel now that I have so many opportunities open to me… It’s all quite confusing at the moment! (Especially in the fog of sleep deprivation!). But I’ve had a nugget of an idea for an online business and would be interested in sharing my early thoughts with you over a message at some stage! I’m writing this from a beautiful viewpoint on a common in Suffolk, England – isn’t it strange how small the world has become! Anyway, keep up the brilliant blogging xx

  22. Also love the idea of a series on working moms! I love hearing about unusual situations. My husband and I live in downtown SF in a studio with our 12 month old girl and dog. I work in the tech industry 7am-4pm daily, he teaches web design and runs a web development shop and has the baby 15 hours a week during the weekdays while I’m at work. We have a nanny 20 hours a week. It is crazy but we somehow make it work (most weeks). I am sure a bunch of your readers have equally non “standard” situations that I’d love to read about!

  23. I love the clip with Peggy!! Interesting how her voice changes threw the show:), fantastic!

  24. Sitting all day is bad for your back… sitting all day in a different posture is just going to cause different injuries. The real problem is sustained postures.

    Consider a standing desk, or a desk that can easily convert to standing (ones you can push on and the raise up, and you can push back down) to vary your posture throughout the day. Or even a treadmill desk.
    You could also see a physiotherapist for exercises and treatment for your back pain

  25. Great post, thank you for this! As a woman in my mid-20s, recently married and an inch away from getting my Master’s, I already find myself anxious and struggling with reaching my career goals, being a leader in the workplace, and in a few years, being a good, and present mama (with a career). I’d love to see more of the work/life/baby balance series…and more Peggy Olsen kicking ass :-)

  26. Such a hilarious and entertaining post. Thanks for sharing :)

  27. I love love LOVE that you’re doing a career themed week. Since graduating from college (almost 5 years ago, eeps) I have been fascinated by what people do with their careers, what their day to day is like, if they enjoy it, how they got there, etc….When I was in my first few jobs out of school (and miserable!) I seriously wanted to ask these questions to every person I met, and most random strangers on the street. I think I was just looking for some inspiration/hope in my career. I have now ended up in a position I love (I’m an analyst in anti-money laundering working for a large financial institution) and I really love hearing how people careers evolved as they gained experience and moved into new positions. I don’t relate much to the work life balance issues since I have no babies (yet) and am totally single but I love the more career focused posts Joanna, really great addition to the already brilliant blog.

  28. My in-laws have one of those kneeling chairs in the room we stay in when we visit and unfortunately it kills my knees. After “sitting” in it for longer than 30 minutes my knees start to really hurt and it is difficult to stand up quickly. However, that being said, you probably need to move around and get up fairly often no matter what kind of chair you are sitting in. :-) If you could borrow one for a bit before making a purchasing I would recommend that.

  29. I’ve seen a kneeling chair like those on craigslist for super cheap and I really wanted it (I thought it was cute), but I didn’t because I had no idea how to use it. Now I do! Looking forward to tomorrow’s post! xx

  30. LOL! Thank you for lightening up my day, Joanna. Loved your work-life balance series, its a topic near and dear to my heart. Looking forward to more.

  31. What a great post! Here’s some varied input:

    a) I too find myself hardening over time just like Peggy. It feels fucking great to put men in their place when I’m the one in the right and I’m being walked all over. I’m still learning how to pull it off in a way that doesn’t utterly rattle me, but Peggy is kind of a model… and she shows how this often goes hand in hand with a certain cynicism. Sigh. :)

    b) I’m all about the HAG Capisco chair! There are LOTS of great ergonomic options, but when it comes time to actually purchase, I highly recommend Ergo Depot. Amazing prices, no taxes, and really over the top incredible customer service. I actually have lots of ergonomic modifications because of my severe tennis elbow; my “gear” makes working at home a joy instead of a burden.

    Anyway, basically, if the kneeling thing isn’t for you there are still loads of atypical spine-friendly ergonomic chairs that will make people confused when they try to sit at your desk.

    c) What else was I going to say? Who cares? Time to go read that entire Tumblr now.

  32. I was just told by an older (more accomplished) woman that there is no such thing as balance. “It’s bullshit” were her exact words. :)

  33. I was introduced to the Stokke Varieablechair (as pictured) years ago by a painter I worked who swore it was the only way to spend the day in front of an easel. I have it now, and love it. Though I have heard that it isn’t for everyone.

  34. I’m really loving these career posts Joanna – looking forward to tomorrow!

  35. funny! this is the first time in a long time I don ‘t feel maxed out trying to balance working from home and parenting (both kids are in all day school for the first time) its going well!

  36. I never realized how funny Peggy was!! Love this series I just started my new job last week!

  37. That’s too funny! We just bought a kneeling chair off amazon a couple of weeks ago. The ladies in that photo are doing it wrong, though- you’re not supposed to lean forward with your elbows on the desk! I end up that way, though, after a bit because proper posture involves engaging your core muscles, and that’s hard work! :)

  38. I love your work/life/home balance posts. Your blog makes me remember that I’m not alone in my struggle for balance between working, being a mom and wife. I went from managing a winery at 60+ hours a week to staying home with my twin boys during the day and working part time as a beer-tender at a tap house during the evenings. It was a hard decision, but now, my family is much happier and I am grateful that I had the ability to make a choice to stay home part of the time. I know not all people have that option. Your blog is always very inspiring and fun to read. Great work! Thank you.

  39. Yay (!!!) for talking about careers. The stock images are pure comic gold.

  40. Hhhaaaaa at the stock photos! As a mother of a 14-week-old bubba, it would be more realistic to see some stock photos of breastmilk platters over black leather couches and of a mum crying in the shower while she waits for take out to be delivered. I could submit them!

  41. Joanna – As a professional ergonomist, let me be the first to tell you (and the rest of the commenters), DON”T be so quick to jump on the kneeling chair bandwagon. The research shows that while it can be beneficial to some, it in fact significantly increases pressure on lower body joints, and in fact can actually put more pressure on your spine than your task chair. For those whose career keeps them sitting at a desk all day, it’s important to really understand what makes something ergonomic for YOUR body, not just because it’s labeled. Think how the kneeling chair or that standing desk or even the treadmill desks will affect your body – for the vast majority of us, these will hurt more than they help. Don’t let your career make you uncomfortable or injured – fit your tools to your body in a neutral posture and don’t contort your body to fit your tools. You will be much more comfortable, more productive, and be able to work at your career much longer without injury! If you are uncomfortable at work, please seek an assessment by a board-certified ergonomist who can help you!

  42. that tumblr! laugh-out-loud funny. also adding “damn good advice” to my reading list. as always, i can count on you on being a trusted resource on a variety of interesting things, joanna!

  43. My mom has an ergonomic kneeling chair and she swears by it! She’s a special education teacher and spends hours writing reports (usually after a full day of teaching), and once she switched over to the ergo chair she said everything started to feel better-back, shoulders, wrists, etc… At my last job, I used a ball chair for 4 or 5 hrs a day (and then a Herman Miller ergo chair for the rest of the day) and I really liked how it made me conscience of my core. I would recommend giving one a try. They’re pretty inexpensive too, I think mine was around $90.

    Excited about these career themed posts! I have a background in engineering and worked in engineering research for a few years, but now, I’m trying to transition to something completely different. And to be honest, it’s overwhelming and intimidating and mostly I can’t tell if I’m doing anything right (ha!). Would love to hear from women that have attempted a career 180 and come out the other side happy, satisfied, and energized. xx
    Kelley | The City and Us

  44. @Mrs Lana – I’m also an engineer and I’ve always thought of it as work life integration instead of work life balance. I’m currently home on mat leave with my first and curious how my priorities and strategies will shift when I go back. It’s nice to hear of a mom-gineer who’s maintained that philosophy!

  45. I love Peggy! She’s changed so much since season 1!

  46. I had a kneeling chair. It was much uglier than the ones in your picture, but it didn’t do much for my back in the long run. You can still slouch in a kneeling chair!

    I would love to hear more work/life balance posts, especially from a variety of economic backgrounds. I’m an office administrator, and my husband is a grad student (for eight years now!). We make peanuts, and our son is in a very expensive day-care, but you know what? I love it! We have GREAT work/life balance, and our finances are actually pretty okay. I sometimes read about the lives of high-powered creatives (getting home at 8 p.m.? What??) and think… yeah, I’m okay with my anonymous career. The downside is, I don’t think we can afford to give our son a sibling until that dissertation is finally written.

  47. Those stock photos are funny, but the truth is as a solo practitioner and a mother, I’ve had both of my children with me in the office as babies. I find clients to be receptive, and since my youngest has been here since 7 weeks (he’s now 7.5 months) he’s used to the routine. I figure if clients don’t like it, then they can find another lawyer. This is who I am, and it’s the best way I can handle that balance.

  48. LOVE the video of Peggy’s progression.

    I used a kneeling chair at work for many months but ultimately decided it wasn’t for me. I don’t think they’re the best option for tall people because it puts a lot of weight on your knees. I ended up slouching in that chair more than a normal chair. Just my two cents!

  49. I’m currently testing a kneeling job at my desk at work. My back has starting hurting in the last year so I’m exploring options.

    I’ve tried it on and off for the last two weeks and I’ve gone back to an office chair for now.

    It wasn’t for me and I think it was contributing to headaches.

    I would definitely recommend testing one before you commit – I thought they would be answer to all my problems.

  50. laughing so hard at the stock photos!!

    great interview question! i’d probably explain bloom’s taxonomy, from my elementary school teaching days.
    or maybe the intricacies of breastfeeding….haha!

  51. I love career posts.:) Ergonomic kneeling chairs are a thing?! I need one ASAP. Always looking for ways to improve my posture. Thanks for sharing that hilarious tumblr. The photo with the mom stirring the empty pot had me in stitches lol!
    I’ll definitely be adding that book to my already lengthy fall reading list.
    Currently reading The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry. Have you read it yet? If not, I’d highly recommend it!
    Also, check out his amazing podcasts when you get some free time:

    I can’t wait to read your career post tomorrow!

    Lots of love from Toronto,

  52. Hahaha! I write for a local paper and they once used that
    picture if the mom stirring an empty pot alongside
    one if my articles!

  53. that tumblr just made my day. thank you for sharing!
    on the subject, I feel like I could contribute a bit, being an aerospace engineer and a mom to a 3,5 year old (and if things work out, she’s having a sibling next year). But the truth is, my definition of work-life balance is not there, because I enjoy my work so much, I never feel guilty checking emails/finishing reports at home. And when I’m at work, I don’t find anything wrong with reading articles on parenting and ordering meals for a family dinner. I just don’t separate ‘work’ from my ‘life’ if it makes sense, and it’s my zen :)

  54. I love how this headline is the direct version of “I’d love to feature career-themed posts.”