Sara Sutton Fell is the CEO and Founder of FlexJobs, an award-winning, innovative career website for telecommuting, flexible, freelance, and part-time job listings, and Founder of 1 Million for Work Flexibility. Having worked in the world of online job searching since 1995, Sara is an advocate for legitimate flexible work opportunities and FlexJobs has helped over 720,000 job seekers avoid scams and stay safe while job searching. Sara is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, and currently lives in Boulder, Colorado, USA, with her husband and two sons. I had the distinct pleasure of attending high school with Ms. Sutton Fell and feel so honored to have her share some Advice For My Daughter.
What is the FlexJobs story? How and why was it founded? Who or what do you serve exactly?
FlexJobs came from my own job search experience. In 2006, I was 7 months pregnant with my first son and laid off from a VP position. I wanted to find a new role that was in-line with my career path and that would offer flexible work options like telecommuting so I could pursue my professional passions while being there for my growing family. I did freelance work for a time, but my job search for flexible work was frustrating and I was amazed at the overwhelming number of scams in the work-at-home niche. I knew there must be other job seekers out there who wanted to find the same thing -- flexible professional-level jobs -- and that should be a place to find these easily, quickly, and safely. I founded FlexJobs in 2007 and, fast forward seven years, FlexJobs is an award winning career website that helps job seekers find flexible jobs that offer work-life balance.
Since 2007, FlexJobs has helped over 930,000 job seekers in their quest for more flexible jobs, and has become the leading service of its kind. Our team now has 45 people operating from over a dozen different states, all based in their own home offices. Our goal is to help career-oriented, professional job seekers find telecommuting and flex-friendly jobs in their industries, or to transition to new careers that offer flexible options. Our job seekers are working moms and dads, millennials, retirees, military spouses, people with disabilities, graduate students, caregivers, and people who want better work-life balance.
What skills and characteristics are needed to be successful in your role as CEO? What else have you done in your career that might have prepared you for this role?
It's interesting because I've now had this experience twice. I co-founded my first company, JobDirect, when I was a junior in college, and the experience was amazing. But because my business partner and I were so young and so new to running our own business, we often listened to our advisors rather than trusting our own instincts. I realize now that a CEO really needs to have confidence in their knowledge and understanding of their own business. Of course, advisors are incredibly helpful and should be used often. But ultimately, being able to trust yourself is a really important part of being a CEO.
My advice for anyone considering starting a business is to follow your gut! Choose to work with amazing people who you’ll learn from and whom you trust. Don’t get too hung up on others’ expectations of you, and instead choose the path that’s really right for you, even if it’s winding or seemingly nonsensical at times.
What do you enjoy most about what you do? What are the challenges you face?
Professionally, I love helping people find work and being able to create a company culture that I feel lives up to the level of integrity, quality, and positivity that I have always wanted. Personally, I am thrilled to be able to work from home with a flexible schedule, and specifically the freedom that this arrangement gives me to be more available for my family. I don’t have to waste time “getting ready to go to work” or commuting; I’m able to attend activities and special events in my children’s lives with no conflict from my work; I’m able to leave work without guilt or negative ramifications for any emergency that might come up with my kids (or friends, family, etc.); and the list goes on.
My biggest challenge has to do with setting clear boundaries for myself, so that I don’t let work creep into my personal life.
Finally, what is one motto that has served you well in your life and career? Why?
Life is a great balancing act! While the work-life juggle isn’t always at its optimum balancing point, I always try to keep the concept of what is sustainable in mind. For me this means that while I might need to work extra hours or travel more during certain phases, there will likely be other phases when I can ease off a bit to take breaths and cut out early if I need to. If I can successfully stay in the middle of these two extremes most of the time, it’s okay if I have to tip the scale occasionally.
Thanks to Ms. Sutton Fell for her time and thoughtful responses!
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