Sasha Yablonovsky is helping to rewrite the norms for work, life and family balance. Three years ago, Yablonovsky and her husband, Michael Barnett, came to a decision. She would continue to focus on her career and become the sole breadwinner of the family while he pursued a new business and took the lead on home and responsibilities over their two children.
Sasha Yablonovsky is President of the HR tech company CareerBuilder (Photo Courtesy CareerBuilder)
“My husband and I had been talking about him starting his own business for a while when he pitched the full concept to me,” shares Yablonovsky. “I believed in the project and in him, so we made a plan.”
The plan was for Barnett to quit his corporate job and take on the majority of the household work, while Yablonovsky continued to focus on her career. With that came its own set of pressures. “I had to ask myself, if I lose my job, what happens? I never appreciated the pressure until now,” says Yablonovsky. “Regardless of your gender, it’s important to talk about these issues.”
Together, Barnett and Yablonovsky commenced rigorous budgeting, planning and forecasting to make their plan doable. Yablonovsky worked in Chicago on weekdays and returned to Boston for the weekends. “We both experienced emotional changes,” she explains. “My husband, worried that he wasn’t contributing. I relied on him to ensure that meals, groceries, the kids’ schedules and upkeep of the house was running smoothly. Also, I did a lot of cheerleading while he built up his company. It’s all part of building a future together.”
Since implementing their plan, Barnett’s business venture has taken off. Meanwhile Yablonovsky was named President of HR tech company CareerBuilder. Throughout the pandemic, she has remained as driven as ever working on behalf of jobseekers who have lost work due to COVID-19. She is also committed to companies grappling with supporting their workforce amid an uncertain economic horizon.
Yablonsky is one of the many parents navigating a remote work environment since early 2020. Her mantra for mothers is: “Be selfish. Understand things are not perfect. Divide and conquer.”
Sasha Yablonsky shared more.
Jeryl Brunner: During this pandemic many work from home. How as a parent can you juggle your family and personal life while still excelling at work?
Sasha Yablonovsky: Bringing my best to work was easier when I was out of the house. It used to be that Monday through Friday, I was in Chicago with all work and no play. On weekends, I was laser-focused on my kids. My husband and I divided our week that way, it worked for us, and our kids were aware of it. Since working from home, my focus on weekdays is still mostly work, but I also need to dedicate time to engaging with my family at home. It means I work more on the weekends.
There is guilt that comes with being at home and not spending time with my family. I’ve started pre-planning weekend activities with my kids to make the most of those times. Having hard lines for start and end times at work helps too. I’m still working on balancing, it’s not a perfect formula.
My advice for blending personal and work life: You can only do your best. We are all human. While I keep hearing “new normal,” I am reminded that it was never normal for me. We better embrace it. Where work will continue to evolve, and as it shifts, we need to shift too.
Jeryl Brunner: The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women. It has exacerbated the wage and promotion gap for them. What actions can employers take to support women in their workforce?
Sasha Yablonovsky: Several things come to mind. Close the wage and promotion gaps in your own company. Women are usually the parent forced to quit their jobs to become caregivers, because they are underpaid compared to their partner. To prevent this, ensure women are not just making as much as their male counterparts, but that they are promoted at the same rate. Consider adapting performance reviews to account for the extra challenges women have faced during the pandemic.
Fight to keep employees. Design and offer flexible options to employees who might otherwise resign due to childcare concerns. Focus on accomplishments and execution of tasks or projects versus just hours worked and how many of those hours are worked during the day. Allowing for that flexibility while expecting high yield results will benefit the company and the employee. Offer leave of absence where possible and assure employees that their jobs will be held for them when they're ready to return.
Also, men should be offered the same benefits and flexibility as women. This means they have the ability to take PTO or rearrange their schedule so they can take on more caregiver responsibilities and more evenly distribute workloads at home.
Brunner: What advice would you give for those who are looking for a job right now?
Sasha Yablonovsky: Keep in mind that the skills you’ve gained throughout your career — and your life — can be applied to multiple roles and industries. If you’ve been caring for your kids, for instance, you’re an expert in patience, communications skills, budgeting, and vendor management – yes working with telecom companies and managing how your household runs, is vendor management. all sorts of problem solving. You can parlay these skills into job opportunities.
Deliberately take actions to conquer your self-doubt. Here’s an exercise: list the skills you’ve developed over your career, those you’ve gained while being out of work, then write how your new skills translate to the job you’re applying for.
Jeryl Brunner: Can you offer some specific tips?
Sasha Yablonovsky: You can find tools and build your professional network via virtual networking sessions. Because everything went digital in 2020, you’re no longer confined to your location for career fairs. At these online events, there are usually activities, agendas and guided discussions. You never know who you might meet, the resources you’ll gain (like e-books) or the information you’ll learn.
Job sites are a great tool and can help recruiters proactively find you. When selecting a job site, keep a couple of things in mind. For one, ensure the site lets you customize your profile so you can show yourself off as a well-rounded candidate, including your social media profiles and professional accomplishments. Also, make sure it lets you store multiple versions of your resume tailored for different types of positions. That way you have versions on-hand to quickly apply to postings.
Jeryl Brunner: What piece of advice you would give to the working parent?
Sasha Yablonovsky: Talk to your kids. Engage them in conversations. Let them understand your work, your obstacles and limitations, and be honest with them.
Often, we want to shelter our kids from reality when we think it is scary. But we need to explain to our children when changes happen. Kids are intuitive. They do not like uncertainty. The more they know, the less anxious they will be.