“Only one of you raised your hand when I asked if you were actively looking for a new job, but every single one of us is auditioning for our jobs every single day.” That was the sobering but also perfectly encapsulated wisdom that career coach Joanna Bloor shared with a group of women at a virtual Chairman Mom event two weeks ago.

If women needed some sort of unfair advantage to bring them back to parity in the job market before, the game is permanently changed post-COVID. They’ll need a lot more than a temporary Band-Aid to adjust to these times. The same goes for individual employees when it comes to managing their own careers, keeping them on track, or ideally finding opportunities to accelerate them right now. 

As Joanna said this, everyone nodded, even founders like me who work for themselves. We’re auditioning too every single day: For investors, for customers, for anyone else who is looking to triage where their dollars are flowing. 

Yes, we are all auditioning right now when it comes to work, and working mothers are at a disadvantage because of the job we were never asked to audition for and can’t be fired from: Being full-time moms and teachers right now. We’re going into that daily audition without having had time to memorize our lines, without a good night’s rest.

Joanna excels at helping people—particularly women—discover what their distinct and unique professional value-add is. What makes them indispensable. And the answer can’t be, “I get stuff done,” “I connect people,” or “I’m detail-oriented.” Those are things that are required to be a good employee, not the reasons someone will hire you—or in this climate, keep you. 

She also excels at helping women control the conversations that happen about them when they are not around. When you can’t advocate for yourself. And these days, with everyone working from home and no one getting any face time, that’s all the more important as well. 

If women and underrepresented groups didn’t need to find ways to create their own unfair career advantages before the pandemic, they certainly need it now. Women have already had 10 years of labor market gains reversed in the few short months of this pandemic. And I think it’ll get worse from here. 

I was speaking to a woman in our community yesterday who said it well: “Last one in, first one out.” Women and other disadvantaged groups got more roles in recent years because of the tight labor market, and companies had to make themselves look appealing to everyone to fill jobs. Not so much now. 

Joanna is concerned that if women take employers up on the offer to stay working at home forever, they might make those numbers worse. In a bid to have more flexibility, lessen their commutes so they can be home for kids, or not have to pay astronomical rents to live in places like San Francisco, women may opt into being even more invisible just as other groups go back to the office and return to jockeying for attention, promotion, raises, and bonuses. Indeed, this week The Information reported that the majority of those “Silicon Valley” layoffs being announced are happening at remote offices that are not in Silicon Valley. Too many women are out of mind even when they are in sight. Being out of sight might exacerbate that dangerously. 

She’s right, but it pisses me off. 

It’s more of the same double-bind working mothers are always put in. And as much as we may hope some things are changing with employers having been forced to be more accommodating to the life part of work/life balance, it’s important to think whether that might put you at a career disadvantage if everyone else goes back to business as usual after this time. 

Joanna is hosting part two of her free three-part career boosting series this week. If you missed part one, don’t miss part two! It’s focused around making better asks of your network, something women are socialized not to do. 

Lastly, I wanted to share a poem she shared with our group that resonated with me (especially the YOU CAN’T JUST HAVE THE ICING part…) and several folks suggested I share with our broader community:

You Are Cake, by Joanna

You are your own unique set of ingredients
Ingredients curated over time and experiences
Put together by the recipe of you 
Your cake is perfect. 

Cakes are for sharing
Eat it all yourself, and you might feel sick
Share cake, and it transforms
From just food to a celebration 

I know you worry that someone will steal your cake
And try to own its magic
But only you know the recipe
Only you know the secret ingredient 

Some might say they just want the icing
The flourish, the story icing can tell
But without cake, icing is just a bowl of sugar
Sugar that soon will be too much for anyone 

Icing needs cake to be sublime
Don’t just offer the icing
Don’t let them just take the parts they want
Offer the whole cake or nothing 

Because your cake is the ingredients
The recipe, the icing on the top
All of it together
Creating a sweet delicious celebration 

Because that’s what they want
They want a perfect cake
Put together by the recipe of you 
And your cake is perfect.

Today’s new questions on Chairman Mom:

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