Belma McCaffrey, Founder of Work Bigger
“I’m off the clock.” This is a phrase that we’ve either heard or said at some point in time. But how true is this statement? Is one’s personal life and career mutually exclusive? Or does one’s personal life spill into their professional space? These are the questions that propelled Belma McCaffrey into creating Work Bigger. Work Bigger’s mission is to redefine work for women who are at a crossroads in their career. From not knowing which way to turn to building a side hustle, Belma and her team help create opportunities and provide resources for ambitious women to grow and learn. Read Belma’s Spotlight below to learn more about her and the impact she’s made with Work Bigger.
What was the journey to Work Bigger like? How did you stay focused on your vision and cancel out the noise of naysayers and those who doubted you?
I launched Work Bigger as a blog in January 2016. At the time, I was working at the largest news organization in the world, and my son Asher was only 10 months old. Prior to launching the blog, I had been working on getting another company off the ground, BOULD. BOULD was similar to Work Bigger because it was focused on supporting women with career development. However my partners and I were unable to make it work. We had different missions and goals. I was also a new mom working full time, and I ended up burning out in the process.
Blogging and launching Work Bigger was my way of continuing my work and mission in a way that felt healthy stayed focused on my vision because building Work Bigger is something that has always felt true to me. It brings me a lot of joy. So when I haven’t received the support I’ve needed from loved ones, I just go back to myself and what feels right for me.
Work Bigger has partnered with some amazing companies including AOL, Yahoo, and Merrill Lynch, just to name a few. In what ways have your workshops helped companies and their relationships with employees?
We partner with companies to support with employee engagement and retention issues. There are so many employees and individuals who feel disconnected from their work and their company. Disengagement at work costs companies $500 billion per year. It’s harmful for companies but also for the individuals as individuals will spend so much time looking for new opportunities, feeling discontent, etc.
When we partner with companies, we specialize in two areas: (1) building mission driven teams. This means connecting employees’ individual mission and purpose with that of the organization. (2) emotional wellbeing so that employees build a sustainable approach to career development. We bring so much of our trauma and personal issues to the workplace (though we’re told to shut out the personal side), so it’s important we learn to work through this as we become leaders. Otherwise you have leaders who are disconnected, emotionally unaware and ultimately contribute to the challenges we see in the workplace.
From your experience with the Work Bigger community and clients, what is the one thing you feel is holding women back from realizing their potential and embracing what they are truly passionate about?
Lack of self worth is at the heart of the issues women are facing today. We don’t feel worthy enough to ask for more money or that promotion. We don’t feel worthy enough to have it all. We don’t feel worthy enough to _____ (fill in the blank).
This is societal of course - it comes from generations and generations of gender bias and sexism. But I believe there’s change happening. Through safe spaces, connection, education and discussion, we’re building awareness of what’s in our way and then working to move forward.
With Work Bigger, your members have the opportunity to carve out a career path one-on-one with some amazing coaches. In what ways have Work Bigger’s community members helped each other to navigate their career paths?
Yes, we offer coaching to individuals who feel really stuck with their career. We also have a community of 450+ members. Members help each other through shared resources - whether that’s job opportunities, resume/cover letter reviews, connections, etc.
We host monthly meet ups in NYC, Chicago and Cincinnati, and we use these meet ups as a safe space to also share struggles. This is key in navigating a career path because often our roadblocks are about deeper issues that we don’t feel comfortable discussing.
Belma, during your own career journey at what point did you realize that your work life and your personal life were connected? Also, why do you think work life and personal life are no longer mutually exclusive?
When I had my son (March 2015), my work life and personal life could no longer be separated. So much changed when I had my son - my bandwidth, my focus, my energy. I had to find ways to better integrate the two so that I could be a present parent and also make the impact I want to make.
I also find that I’m not a different person at work then I am in my personal life. I bring the same values to my family life, social life and the workplace.
As Work Bigger continues to grow, what do you see the platform and its community accomplishing this time next year? How would you like the platform to grow in the coming years?
My vision for Work Bigger has no limit. The community, the coaching, the media platform, our work with learning and development teams at companies - this is just the beginning of the impact we want to make. When we talk about our mission as redefining work - there are many ways we can accomplish that.
However, to stay focused on the coming year - this time next year, we’d like to continue building solid relationships on the B2B side by providing deeper training to new managers and senior leaders. We’d also like to continue growing our community by deepening engagement and opportunities for members.
Interviewed by Renée