THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 123: Lindsey Mead, Executive Recruiter

Welcome to THE BALANCE PROJECT: a series of relevant and refreshingly candid interviews featuring inspiring and accomplished women talking about balance. I’ve always been curious about how women I admire manage the tragically glorified “doing it all” craze. So I asked them. As I suspected, no one really does “it all.” Everyone’s making sacrifices somewhere. And that should make us all feel a little better. I hope the conversation will be steered toward that reality rather than toward the flawed and dangerous assumption that we should try—or even want to try—to perfectly do “it all.”

By the way, looking for THE BALANCE PROJECT novel that was inspired by these interviews? It’s here.

No. 123: Lindsey Mead, Executive Recruiter

Age: 41
Where I live:
 Cambridge, MA
Job: Executive Recruiter
Kids:
 A son, 10, and a daughter, 13

IMG_1227Have you changed jobs or adjusted anything in your career to have more balance?
I had hoped since very early in my career to be an executive recruiter eventually; it was clear to me that it was a field that offered a lot of flexibility and I also thought I’d find it very interesting (I do). So while I have not changed jobs in search of balance, my entire path has been focused on a role that would give me a pretty good shot at “balance” (not a term I love).

The first job I took when I graduated from business school was a “lifestyle” choice in some ways, and I guess it was a gesture toward balance in the future. I returned to the management consulting firm where I had been before business school in a newly-created role focused on recruiting. I still wonder what my life would look like had I leaned in at that point.

Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
I just think that “it all” has different definitions for everyone.  I think people need to figure out what’s non-negotiable and then let a lot of other things fall away.

What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
I am too often stressed and snappy with my children, because I’m preoccupied with a meeting I’m rushing to or an email I need to answer. I feel like a lot of aspects of home and work I have a pretty good handle on, but I’m in a client service role and there are too many days where my mood is too affected by something a client says or needs.

What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
I’m learning how to put boundaries around the issue above. A lot of it has to do (unsurprisingly) with limiting technology. I check my email when I get up and then once I wake the kids up I’m totally with them for the hour that is breakfast/getting ready/driving to school. I leave my iPhone in my bag during this hour. And then at least an hour before bed I turn off all devices. That’s made a big difference.

Do you have a favorite time management tool, hack, or other strategy you use that helps you achieve balance that you would recommend to others?
I put everything on my calendar. Everything. That means I keep two calendars, since my workplace functions on a shared calendar, and I don’t want to have my every run, class visit, or dentist appointment in there. So I have to double-enter all my professional appointments into my Outlook calendar (for work) and my Mac calendar (for home). But having it all on there helps me a lot.

What was the best advice you ever heard on balance? 
From a mentor/co-worker? 
“A series of very interesting jobs can be as rewarding as a traditional ‘career.'”
From your mother? “Have a positive attitude. There is so much good, no matter how busy you are.”
From your spouse/partner? 
“Lighten up. Everything is going to be okay.”
From your kids? “Pay attention.” They don’t say this in so many words, but it’s a lesson they teach me every day.

If you had one extra hour in each day and you couldn’t work or be with your family, how would you spend that hour?
I would either sleep or run.

What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
That so many of the things I stressed about would turn out just fine.

What do you hope to know by time you’re 60?
That my children will be happy people with challenging work and strong relationships, hopefully living near to me (and I hope I’m still here).

What part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
I love cooking for my family but would love if someone wanted to help with that a few days a week!

Whose job do you wish you had?
Hmm…. This is a good question! A published writer who supports herself with her writing. Or a midwife. Or the editor of Vogue. (I contain multitudes, as Whitman says!)

Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
Anything requiring a lot of business travel or face time in an office.

Favorite books?
Impossible to answer! Novels: The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, Light Years by James Salter. Several books of poetry. Memoirs: Devotion by Dani Shapiro, The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison.

What are you reading right now?
My Own Country: A Doctor’s Story by Abraham Verghese. I love doctor-writers (and, fun fact, I always wanted to be a doctor as a child–part of me still wishes I’d done that. In my alternate, fantasy world I am a midwife) and Verghese’s memoir of being a small town doctor as the AIDS epidemic spread through America is powerfully and beautifully told. I think I’m drawn to it because I just finished reading much of Oliver Sacks’ work just before and after his death.

Biggest vices…
Activity?
 Randomly scanning the internet.
Food? Sugar.
Website? 
Twitter, and the various ratholes (many wonderful!) it leads me down.

How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
7-8.

What do you read every morning?
My email, Newsblur (50-ish blogs), and Twitter.

Complete the following sentences:
I think I: feel deeply and live fully.
I wish I: were better at not reacting to things.
My kids: 
know how much I adore them.

Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
“Be here now.” I wear Ram Dass’s perfect words around my neck and have often said that if I ever got a tattoo, it would be of “be here now” on the inside of one wrist. And Wendell Berry’s short poem, The Real Work, which runs through my mind every single day and is the only piece of writing on the wall in my office

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IMG_6968About Lindsey:
JS_BusinessCard_Front_FINAL
Lindsey Mead is a mother, writer, and executive recruiter who lives outside of Boston with her husband, daughter (12) and son (10). She graduated from Princeton with a degree in English and received an MBA from Harvard. Her writing has been anthologized and published in a variety of print and online sources.

Find out more about Lindsey:
www.adesignsovast.com
Facebook: Lindsey Mead, writer
Twitter: @lemead
Instagram: lemead

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WANT TO READ MORE ABOUT WORK-LIFE BALANCE? CHECK OUT MY NOVEL THE BALANCE PROJECT!

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