Do You Have an EXtreme Job?

I always enjoy spending time with my sister Judy. I admire the way she lives her life. A successful COO, loving partner and a person who can have a serious amount of fun. She has a vision of the way she wants to live her life and fills her world with people who enhance rather than diminish her. It is very planned and directed. One of the reasons she has achieved so much.

Thought about her while reading an article in the current (December 2006) issue of the Harvard Business Review. It is titled “Extreme Jobs – The Dangerous Allure of the 70-Hour Workweek”. This fascinating piece was written by economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Carolyn Buck Luce. Ms. Hewlett was last in the headlines with her book “Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children”. For that work she surveyed the large number of childless women in Corporate America coming to the conclusion that the participant’s dreams and realities were not in sync and that many women were setting themselves up for a major life disappointment.

I found the results of the current article interesting but not surprising. The author spoke with, and surveyed high-paid, successful, professionals and executives (male and female). Some factors used to define “Extreme jobs” were 60+ hour work weeks, unpredictable workflow, large amounts of travel, high number of direct reports, fast-paced, tight deadlines and many work responsibilities inside and outside the office.

When asked “Why do you do it?” What do you think was the most frequent answer? Why do 90% of men and 82% of women work so hard and long? They report it is because they love their work, find it stimulating and enjoy the adrenaline rush. This answer was followed (though less often) by contact with high quality colleagues. Do you believe them? I do. I have been there, done that myself and enjoyed it most of the time. Many of my coaching clients would fall into this “extreme job” category and would answer in a similar manner. The bigger question, and one I hear myself frequently asking clients is “And at what cost?”.

Those surveyed acknowledged the price: first being the inability to maintain their home. You know the scenario – still living with the furniture from college, a bottle of Vodka in the freezer and moldy take-out in the fridge. Poor home keeping was quickly followed by sacrificing a strong relationship with their children. Here women (65%) greatly outnumber men in their concern though 1/3 of men listed it as well. Both men and women were worried about their relationship with their spouses or partners. Though not expressed many surveyed did not take care of their health, reported drinking more alcohol than they would like and not getting enough sleep or exercise.

So why did this happen? One reason is that it’s easier to stay connected 24/7. More than a few of my clients are expected to respond to customers whenever, and I mean, whenever. With corporations being global those with responsibilities on a few continents can literally be on call day and night. In addition, this trend is not the sole possession of Americans. The behavior is even more exaggerated in countries such as Japan and Korea. The manager overseas could easily take your job if you are not up to the task and hours.

The authors make one further, and very important, point. This mindset particularly penalizes ambitious women with child. Society continues to see mothers as the primary caretaker and children need time as well as love. So women are faced with a choice – delay or forget having children or be seen as “less than” at work.

Of course there are ways to work around all of this. My aforementioned sister, Judy, has always set limits, in fact turned down jobs which required more time or travel than she was willing to engage. Did it cost her? Maybe. Does she have regrets, I doubt it.

So here is your challenge for the week

  1. Take a look at your current work situation. If you were to work more hours, travel more, get more involved what would that do for your career? If you did less of all of these what would be the results? How would you make the choice? How would you justify it to yourself and your employer?
  2. Take a moment to assess your career. Do you like what you do? Do you respect and enjoy the people you come in contact with? What do you see as your future? How has your career choice impacted your other life decisions? 

Jane Cranston is an executive coach, career coach and “The Job Search Expert” based in New York City. She shares with success driven executives and professionals techniques, skills and goal setting strategies that advance their careers, increase people management skills and assists them in career change or job search. Receive Jane’s free "Competitive Edge Report" and the free audio download “Creating a Career Strategy” by visiting

About the Author

Jane Cranston - Executive Coach NY (New York)Executive and career coach, “The Job Search Expert,” Jane Cranston understands the challenges and opportunities in the workplace. She integrates years of experience as an accomplished senior executive with global brand name companies, with the lessons learned from opening three successful businesses, and then applies her education and coach training. This sophisticated mix affords her clients her unique perspective, business sensibility, and entrepreneurial spirit.

Jane is the founder and Managing Director of ExecutiveCoachNY, an executive and career coaching business based in New York City with clients nationwide. She coaches success-driven executives and managers to develop a career strategy that accelerates advancement, increases compensation, enhances people-management skills as well as gets the competitive edge in all business activities.

Coaching with Jane is dynamic, structured, forward-focused as well as fun and inspirational. Working with clients in fields such as finance, technology, media and entertainment, real estate, and the law, she assists them in recognizing and achieving their full potential at work and in their personal lives.

Clients claim coaching with Jane has “changed my career focus,” “helped me better understand how to motivate my staff,” “given me ideas that have increased my income by $100,000s,” and “made me realize what is my part and what isn’t,” and claim coaching is “the best thing you could do for yourself.”

Jane’s soon to be published “Great Job Tough Times” is a step-by-step job search system designed to assist managers and executives looking for employment, or contemplating leaving their current positions, with their resume writing, interviewing skills, networking techniques, and negotiating need to get the right job fast.

Jane Cranston is frequently seen on CNN’s “Your Money” and quoted in nationally syndicated newspapers, magazines, as well as Internet article sites and virtual programs. She authors the free, twice monthly, “Competitive Edge Report.” Learn more on her website


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