How to approach the subject of flexible working

Our Senior Coach Kate Mansfield, spoke to Louise Deverell-Smith, founder of Daisy Chain about the subject.

We know that when you are returning to work, concerns about how to balance life (which may include continuing caring responsibilities) with work again are a concern for many individuals.

Louise Deverill-Smith, who founded a platform to connect parents with flexible employers, talked to Kate about the shift in perspective she has seen from many employers and shares some of her top tips about how to approach the subject when returning to work.

Louise says “Whilst flexible working is not necessarily the norm as yet, it is definitely not the taboo subject that it once was. Many employers now offer agile working, which encourages flexible working and hot-desking. Many of our clients are thriving as they attract and retain great people, offer a productive and supportive working environment and generate respect and gravitas along the way”.

However Louise very much appreciates that many women (and men) find approaching the subject of flexibility daunting, and that this is particularly difficult for those seeking to gain a foothold back into an organisation following an extended break.

Louise shares with us some of her top tips on ways to approach the subject:

Really know what you’re asking for


Flexibility can take many different shapes and forms and certainly doesn’t necessarily mean part-time. Consider carefully what options may work for you and then consider how you can make that work for your employer.For example, map out the various options and consider them fully:

  • Do you want to condense your hours to have a Friday off? Work out exactly what this looks like. Could you reduce a lunch break to work a shorter day later in the week in order to make this possible?
  • Does starting early and leaving early meet your needs?
  • Could 1 or 2 days of home working make the difference to you?
  • Can you build in a review period so that you can trial the new arrangement?

Be aware of the difference between formal and informal flexibility and what might be possible at the discretion of an open minded and supportive Manager.

Manage business worries


When some employers hear the words ‘flexible working’, they automatically associate that with reduced productivity, time out the office and an impact on their commercial outcome. Ensure your proposal considers all critical aspects from a team perspective and present your proposal as a business case solution, which has thought about any elements that the employer may see as a risk.

Reassure them that even if your hours are less, the output will meet the needs of the job (put it in a spreadsheet if necessary), that your time in the office will be nothing but productive and that you are dedicated to your role and the company.

Consider your timing

Many individuals worry about when to raise the subject of flexibility and worry that not raising it at interview could go against them later on when they might wish to revisit the subject. Louise agrees that it is important to only raise it once an employer is aware of your skills, experience and value to them – lead with that in the conversation. Some routes back to work such as a returnship will offer the chance for you to trial the ways you prefer to work and present an opportunity later in the programme to re-visit this and potentially change the way that you work. Equally if important to you to start with a level of flexibility from the outset, do your due diligence on the employer and their working culture and go in with an informed expectation of how it is likely to work in this environment. Don’t be afraid to raise it with the same tips above in mind – a solution-focused approach that emphasises the skills you bring and practical solutions for how you will deliver.
Remember why you’re asking for it 

Always keep the reason you’re asking for flexible working at the forefront of your mind. It might be to help with childcare, to save costs or to just give you a better work/life balance – whatever it is, know that this is the overriding reason that this is important to you and this is your driver for making it work for both you and your employer.
Louise Deverell-Smith is founder of Daisy Chain – a free online platform for parents where they can match and connect with flexible employers to enhance their careers and work-life balance.

Can you do a senior-level job share?

One question I’m often asked is whether it is really possible to work in a senior role in anything other than a full-time capacity. It’s definitely the case that increasing number of both men and women are negotiating part-time roles in more senior jobs (see Timewise’s Power Part Time List for some great examples), however it remains very difficult to be hired on this basis.

Job-share is an interesting alternative, which can give the organisation the full-time coverage they often want for a senior role, while allowing you and your job-share partner to benefit from a part-time working model.

Can job-share work in a senior role?

Much as I love the concept of job-sharing, I haven’t come across many case studies of job-sharing at a top leadership level, so I was very encouraged this week to read a Womanthology interview with Mary Starks, the Director of Competition at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA): Why Job Sharing is a Two-Brainer. Mary started her career as an economist and has worked part-time since 2005, joining the FCA as a job-share in 2013. She is enthusiastic about the benefits both to the organisation and the individual if you can make it work:

“if an organisation can get the right job-share partnership in place, it gets two brains, two sets of accumulated experience, and the more productive halves of two people’s weeks for the price of one. It’s also a very enjoyable way to work, particularly as a senior leader – you share the highs and the lows and avoid the “loneliness of leadership”.

Job-sharing and returner programmes

Mary acknowledges the challenge of finding “the right combination of people at the right time”. It strikes me that a returner programme cohort or a return to work support group could provide the ideal opportunity to meet another high-calibre professional with similar and complementary skills, at that precise moment when you are both looking for a permanent role on a part-time basis. It hasn’t happened yet, so far as I know but, as the market develops, I hope to see job-shares as one of the successful outcomes of professional return-to-work programmes.

Further Reading
Sharing is Caring: Job sharing as a supportive way to return to work

Note: If you’re inspired by reading about the culture at the FCA, and have a background in commercial/regulatory finance or accounting, look at this supported hiring role where the FCA are welcoming applications from career break returners and part-time work is available: FCA Finance Specialist

Update 2/2/17: Just after I wrote this blog Timewise published their latest Power Part-Time list which featured 9 job-shares – 2 in the private sector at The Guardian and Lloyds Banking Group and 7 in the public sector at Age UK, the Green Party, the Home Office, Croydon council, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Ministry of Defence and the Scottish government. See more here.



Posted by Julianne

How to find a part-time or flexible job

Is part-time working in a professional job your Holy Grail? Our friends at Timewise, champions of flexible working, can help. They launched the Hire Me My Way campaign this year to encourage employers to open up more of their jobs to flexibility at the point of hire. They have created an invaluable in-depth guide to finding flexible jobs, including ideas on when and how to ask for flexibility when it isn’t mentioned in the job advert: Download it here.

Here are a few of their tips we’ve picked out, with some of our own thoughts too.

1) Think beyond part-time

Get creative – there are many variations on flexible working. Decide what option/s could give you a good balance of pay, job satisfaction and seniority as well as fitting with your family life or other commitments. In addition to the list below, some companies are now open to you taking unpaid leave in the summer holidays, as this is also a quiet time for the business.

2) Start searching for jobs that interest you

Do look at the growing number of job boards and recruiters specialising in part-time/flexible work (see here for a list)
Don’t just look at jobs advertised as flexible. Timewise research found that only 8% of professional jobs are advertised as flexible; however 91% of UK-based hiring managers say they are open to discussing flexible working within the recruitment process for the right candidate. Start by finding roles that play to your strengths and experience and put your focus on building and using your networks to find opportunities. Research whether the company you’re interested in already has staff working flexibly – if not, they’re unlikely to hire on this basis.

3) Lead with what you can offer

The application or early interview stage is not the time to bring up flexibility even if it is stated in the job advert. Concentrate on demonstrating your skills and relevant experience, as that’s what the employer is interested in.

4) Raise flexibility later on

The big question: At what point do you ask about flexibility if it’s not included in the job advert? Try not to ask during the interview, but after you’ve been given the offer, or maybe in the final round of a stage-based process. If flexibility has been mentioned in the job advert, it’s fine to raise beforehand.

5) Negotiate flexibility realistically
Some jobs aren’t suited to flexibility but the majority will have some element of adaptability. Prepare a business case as to how you can make flexible arrangements work. Flexibility is a two way process and it is worth considering what are your sticking points and where you can compromise. The employer needs to feel comfortable with the arrangement too.

  • If you’re looking for home-working, identify tasks that can be done away from the office and consider any cost savings for the business of remote working
  • If you want to work fewer hours/days and the job was advertised as full-time, make sure it’s realistic to do part-time or you’ll end up doing a full-time role for less pay. If your past experience was at a more senior level, you might be able to make a case that you can do the role in fewer hours.

If you’re applying directly for a permanent role and are sensing that the hiring manager is seeing your request for flexibility as an insurmountable barrier, suggest a trial period. Once you can prove that the arrangement works, it will be easier to make it permanent.

Posted by Donna

Sharing is Caring: Job sharing as a supportive way to return to work

For parents looking for a flexible way to return to work, job sharing is an option worth considering. Sara Horsfall, Founder and Director of Ginibee, a job share network, describes how job shares provide extra benefits for job sharers beyond reduced working hours.
One
of the (many) times in a parent’s life we find extremely
challenging, is reconnecting with our inner professional after
discovering our inner parent. In other words, returning to work.
Thinking about returning to work can
be a particularly lonely time,
when we can feel a range of conflicting emotions including guilt (for not being with our child 24/7), paranoia (that none of our parenting skills are
relevant /we have “forgotten” our professional skills /people
will think we can’t
do our job
anymore) and gratitude (when we find a role). These feelings can make it a stressful time and one
which is often
insufficiently supported. So, what if there was a proven way
to return to your career, without
leaving behind new life priorities, that benefits both you and your
employer?
One of the overarching benefits of successful job sharing we often see at Ginibee, for returners, is
the supportive nature of the job share partnership. Imagine returning to work with someone who is
faced with similar challenges in terms of creating time for other life commitments, whilst sharing similar career experience and ambition. Forming a partnership with another
enables job sharers to share the responsibility and opportunity of a full-time role without the associated time
commitment and in doing so improves confidence (since women often find
it easier to recognise the strengths in others than in ourselves), as well as creating the mental and physical space to attend
to their life. By
being aware of and respecting each other’s motivations
and strengths, job sharers live a very fulfilled
life both in terms of their career and life outside of work.
Supportive
Benefits of 
Job Sharing 
So
what does being in a supportive job share mean to us?
  • Reduces Stress

Although progressive
employers understand that mentoring support is a key requirement to retain and
develop parents as they return to work, it can still be rare. The
great thing about job sharing is that successful partnerships self-mentor as part of setting up and
maintaining the jobshare. Ruth, who switched from part-time work to job sharing in order to progress to a more
senior level as Director of Strategy, said “I feel less stressed as a job sharer,
because there’s a proper release valve. In other roles you might vent to your
partner or husband at the end of the day, but they’re not in it, so with my job
share partner we can really vent to each other and share the challenges, which
means it’s not all in your head, and I find that to be really valuable.”

  • Increases Confidence
Another job sharer, Polly, says “job sharing is really supportive, which
means you can take braver decisions faster, because with the best will in the
world, your boss, your mentor etc. isn’t going to be quite as interested and
involved as your job share partner. In particular, on
management decisions where you might be worried about being too subjective
about a matter, when you have both picked up on it you can give clearer,
stronger, more objective messages.”
  • Improves
    Focus
When
you know your days off really are
days off, you have more energy to fully apply
yourself on your working days. Employers of job share partnerships report that the inherent accountability of job share partnerships means they are easier to manage
as they have another to share ideas and challenges with. Polly says “Being
accountable to your job share partner keeps you focused and
honest”.
We
only need to look to organisations like the Civil Service, Barclays, Transport for London that have launched jobshare schemes for their employees to
see that this is now receiving a higher profile as part of creating and retaining diverse workforces.
If
you would like to progress your career with a job share partner, you can find more
information and
support, including Ginibee’s jobshare platform at www.ginibee.com. Ginibee are currently recruiting for a Jobshare Consultant to work as a 2.5 day job share with Sara, in Cambridge. For more information and to apply see 
here. Apply by May 9.
 
 
Posted by Katerina

Be flexible about flexibility

This week I contributed to a Guardian online live webchat Q&A on improving your work-life balance. It struck me that the vast majority of the questions people posted were on job flexibility: how to find it, how to ask for it and how to make it work once you have it.

A flexible interesting job can seem like the Holy Grail if you’re a working mother, enabling you to find time for both work and family with the stability of an employed role and without running yourself into the ground. Unsurprisingly, questions about how to work flexibly feature regularly in the conversations I have with women returning after a career break.

I’ve found that many women get off on the wrong track. They translate a desire for flexible work into a rigid quest for a part-time job, 3 or 4 days per week. Yet if you just look at online part-time job ads, you’re likely to get disillusioned very quickly. Of the 10,000+ ‘family-friendly’ jobs advertised on Mumsnet today there are only 37 in the part-time category, 12 of which have a >£30k salary. Timewise are doing their best to change this, but the numbers of higher-level part-time roles on their job board are still limited.

This doesn’t mean that flexibility doesn’t exist at a more senior level, even in large corporates. In my conversations with organisations, I hear an increasing openness to flexible working and a recognition that many (if not most) of their more senior employees do work flexibility in some shape or form. But flexible rarely translates into 3 days part-time. In most cases, it’s more about full-time hours, but with flexibility about where & when you do them.

Don’t rule this out – considering flexible full-time jobs as an option will greatly increase the range of positions available to you, and many women have found the work-life balance they want in these type of roles.

Types of Flexibility

Here are some of the most common options; think whether any (alone or in combination) could create an attractive working pattern for you:

Flexitime
Typically this means that you choose when you start and end work. This can fit well with parents of school-age children wanting to make the school pick-up. One returning banker negotiated an 8.30-3.30 schedule for a senior wealth management role, where part-time work was seen as out of the question.

Working from home (remote working)
Increasing numbers of professional roles don’t involve being in the office all the time, reducing commute time & meaning mothers no longer have to miss important school events. Kate, a lawyer and mum of four featured in our success stories, found a role with a public regulator which was mainly home-based. Even within large corporates, you may now be able to work from home on a regular basis (e.g. every Wednesday), or to find a company culture where the team works from home on an ad-hoc basis whenever this suits the individual and the business.

Compressed hours
You work your weekly hours by starting early and finishing late on 4 days to create one day off. This is more likely to suit you if you don’t have young children, maybe if you want to continue to have time for voluntary work, hobbies or other activities.

Extended holiday leave
It’s not only in the education sector where you can enjoy extended time off to manage the school holidays. In the web chat the HR Director from Deloitte said that they had introduced Time Out, where employees can request an unpaid block of 4 weeks leave each year. Taking unpaid leave can suit the business too if summer is a quieter period for them. If the lost salary is a problem, look for companies who allow you to accrue leave from overtime to use as ‘time off in lieu’ when you want it.

Finding a flexible role

Finding a flexible job is more about learning about company culture and effective negotiation than combing the online job boards. Timewise research in 2015 reported that only 6.2% of UK roles over £20k salary are advertised as flexible. However they have also found that 91% of managers are willing to discuss flexible working possibilities during the recruitment process. See our previous post for advice on negotiating flexibility.

And if you still see part-time work as the ultimate goal, remember that once you’re in a company it’s much easier to develop all forms of flexible working schedule (helped by the new right to request flexible working legislation). Most of the senior professionals featured in Timewise’s Power Part Time List didn’t start in part-time roles but reduced their hours once they were established and could make the business case for doing so.

See also previous post: How do I find a high level flexible role?

Posted by Julianne

Returning to Work – Is there a Middle Ground?

A guest post for mothers looking for greater flexibility from Amanda Seabrook, MD of Workpond.
The frightening
thing about ‘leaving the workforce’, either when you have children or during
their early years, is that you know instinctively that things will never be the
same again. Even if you are able to return to your old company, the way that
you value your time away from the office will have changed and however much you
enjoy your job it won’t feel quite the same.
This may be because you wish you
could spend more time with your child/children or it may be due to the fact
that your disposable income isn’t what it was! Whether you have a’ babe in arms’
or teenage children, the demands are much the same and you just have to work out
a way to balance the two that suits you.
So is it worth
returning to ‘the same old’ or reinventing yourself to suit your new life
circumstances? Change is hard to achieve, until you know what options you have.
Many people assume that it is normal to work on a full-time employed basis. It
is therefore a surprise to many that, according to the ONS, only 46% of the
labour force are employed on a full-time basis. 27.2% are either self-employed
or working part-time – and this number is on the rise. A further 5.5% (2.3m)
are economically inactive (not paying taxes or claiming benefits) but at the
same time keen to work (largely mothers and early retirees).
So there IS a middle
ground –and this middle ground is growing. It is driven, not only by women
looking for greater flexibility to allow more time with their children, but by
a large number of people, both male and female and of all ages, who are
becoming self-employed and selling their expertise directly to businesses.
There are vibrant markets for Senior Interims (MD’s and FD’s that work for
typically 6-12 months for large corporates, often when specific projects need
to be sorted out). There are freelancers in the more creative sectors – such as
design, web development, branding, copywriting and journalism. There are
specialist consultants who can put together strategy, implement it and then
move on to their next project. Some of them work for single clients consecutively
and some have a portfolio of clients that they work for at the same time,
billing on an hourly or daily basis.
Interestingly, it is
the forward-looking businesses which are becoming more open to the benefits of
employing more flexibly. Some are going a step further by developing their
whole business strategy around it. They are also becoming more accepting of the
fact that professionals in all disciplines can be of use on a self-employed or
a part-time basis – great news for working mothers – particularly when it means
you can save on childcare costs and potentially work closer to home (or even
better, remotely from home).
Early stage and
owner managed businesses are particularly open to engaging talent in this way as
they tend to be much more cost conscious and need the best talent to enable
them to grow. The innovative sector is booming – not only at Silicon Roundabout
in the East End of London, but all around the country, and to work at a company
that specialises in emerging technologies (even for someone with no technology
experience) can be extremely stimulating. Some would balk at the lower
salaries sometimes offered , but others recognise that the cost savings of reduced
travel and childcare , the potential to grow with the business and the ability
to balance their lives makes up for the short-fall.
Finding work in
these companies may not be straightforward as many don’t enjoy parting with
their cash to pay recruiters. However, a simple five step process might suffice
in discovering potential flexible opportunities which may otherwise remain
hidden:
1. Research your
local area to see what businesses there are close by that you would like to
work for – think broadly.
2. Work out what
service you could offer them – what you would like to specialise in.
3. Update your LinkedIn
profile and connect to everyone you know. Update your CV and send it through to
your target businesses explaining what you believe you can offer them.
4. Tell your friends
what you are trying to do and start going to business networking meetings.
5. Register your CV
with specialist recruitment consultancies, like Workpond, who may be able to
help you.
Don’t be afraid to
tell people that you are a mother. In our experience, as long as you are
realistic in your expectations of flexibility and are willing to offer
flexibility in return, it will garner a great deal of respect.
Amanda Seabrook is the MD of Workpond, a
recruitment consultancy helping businesses find professionals who wish to work
on an interim, consultancy or part-time basis.

How to Negotiate Flexible Work

Anna Meller, a work-life balance specialist, offers her advice on
how to negotiate flexible working, as a returner.
On 30 June 2014 the legal right to request
flexible working was extended to cover all employees after 26 weeks’ service. Many
forward thinking employers have already embraced the benefits of flexible
arrangements and extended these to new joiners. While this is good news for returners
and everyone concerned about their work-life balance, an employer is still able
to refuse a request if they believe it will have an adverse impact on their
business.
 
Preparation is key
Time spent preparing to negotiate – reviewing
your desired working arrangements and the potential business benefits of working
flexibly – will be time well spent. Before you start attending interviews, develop
a compelling business case that can provide a foundation for future
negotiations.
 
Building your business case
Begin by clearly identifying the key
skills and experience that make you valuable to an employer. This will not only
enable you to craft a flexible role from one that’s full time, it will also
enhance your confidence as you begin negotiating. In every job there are
specialist tasks that will require your skills and experience and more general
ones that could be delegated or eliminated.
 
Questions to consider
  • To what extent could your new job allow time
    and location flexibility?  How will you
    manage the work/non-work interface?
  • Will you always need to be in the
    office to carry out every aspect of your role (an increasingly unlikely
    proposition with technology) or can you do some of your work at home?
  • What additional support will you
    need to be able to work from home?
  • What’s the likely impact on your
    workplace colleagues, your clients and customers?
  • How can you minimise the
    disruptions to them and ensure smooth working arrangements?
  •  Are you happy to receive calls
    and emails from colleagues outside working hours or do you guard non-work time
    for non-work activities?
And, finally, but most importantly, how will
the business benefit from you working flexibly?
By now you should have a clearer picture of your
preferred flexible working arrangement and the business benefits. While you may
not always be able to work to your preferences, understanding them will enable
you to agree clearer ground rules with your future boss and colleagues.
It’s also useful to have a fall-back position.
Are there alternative arrangements which might also suit you, or issues on
which you could compromise?
Having completed this ground work you’re ready to begin negotiating.
 
When
to start negotiating
It’s best to be upfront about your need for flexible
hours. Raise the matter at the end of your first interview. The response you
get will give you a good indicator of the organisation’s cultural attitude
towards flexible working.
Rather than starting with a request for a specific
arrangement, begin with questions. Almost every organisation now has a flexible
working policy, so ask what arrangements the policy covers. What options are
there for arrangements not covered by the policy? What experience does your
potential manager have of managing flexible workers? Is there anyone else in
the team already working flexibly?
The time to discuss the details of your preferred
arrangement is when the organisation asks you back for second interview. Make
it clear that, while you have a preferred option, you’re open to negotiation.
And don’t feel you need to agree to an arrangement there and then. If you need
time to consider alternative suggestions ask for one or two days to mull things
over.
 
For
further support
A series of forms that can help you in your planning can
be found on my website here: http://www.sustainableworking.co.uk/negotiating_flexible_working.htm
By Anna Meller

Family-friendly rather than fulfilling work?

Why do our imaginations desert us when we’re considering our job options after a long career break? There are 949 job occupations listed in the O*Net database, yet there’s only one that is mentioned consistently in the career conversations I have with returning women: Teacher.

Some of you may be inspired by the day-to-day reality of creating lesson plans and motivating a class of schoolchildren. But from my experience, you’re in the small minority. For most women thinking about teaching, the strongest appeal is the long holidays and a belief that it will ‘fit with the family’.

Are you asking yourself the wrong question?

This isn’t the moment to go into the realities of teaching (which can be far from family-friendly as there is almost no flexibility about where and when you work). The point is that you may be starting with the wrong question. Rather than “What job is family friendly?”, ask yourself “What job will I find fulfilling and energising?”, then work out how you can make it family-friendly. Going back to work after a break is a wonderful opportunity to pause and consider what you really want to do: what motivates you, what do you most enjoy doing, what do you have a real pull towards? Do you need to retrain or can you create a role in your old field or something similar that fits with your family life.

Why is this important?

Working will inevitably make your life more complicated; the trade-off of work for family time needs to feel worthwhile. As I’ve mentioned before, research shows that satisfying work can make for a happier home life and give you more energy as a parent. If standing up in front of a class of 30 children day in day out brings you out in a cold sweat rather than brings a smile to your face, then you’re likely to feel drained and exhausted as a teacher and the long holidays will never compensate. This is not the route to work-family balance. And the same ‘Will it be energising for me?” test applies to any other positions you are considering.


Is it this a realistic strategy?

Our experience working with returners and the success stories on our blog demonstrate that flexibility can be found in a huge variety of sectors and roles. If you’re clear what you want,what you can contribute and the working pattern that will best suit you, then you are far more likely to find and/or negotiate a fulfilling role that gives you the balance you are looking for.

Is it time to consider a few of the other 948 occupations?

Posted by Julianne

How do I find a high level flexible role?

Do high level flexible roles actually exist?
This is one of the most common questions that we encounter from former professionals who are investigating their options for returning to work. Fortunately, is it also a topic that more UK employers are starting to address with the help of specialist recruiters such as Capability JaneTimewise Jobs and Ten2Two

For example, last week Capability Jane was advertising a 3 day a week Marketing Director role and a Managing Director role for 16-24 hours per week. Both these opportunities come from SMEs, organisations which often value part-time working because it provides a way of acquiring the skills they need at a lower cost than a full time employee.

Speaking at the Mumsnet Workfest earlier this year, Karen Mattison, the founder of Timewise Jobs, suggested that while many large private-sector organisations are open to offering flexible working as a way of retaining valued talent, SMEs may be more likely to consider flexible working for new hires. 

Timewise Jobs in 2012 initiated the Power Part Time list of 50 senior business women and men, demonstrating that high-level part time working is possible. The 2013 list will be launched in early December, supported by Red magazine.  I hope that these initiatives, combined with the Opportunity Now 2840 survey results will increase the debate on flexible employment opportunities and the creation of more senior flexible roles.

So how do I find a flexible role?
What options does a returner have, apart from signing up to the job websites highlighted above?  


Networking. As with all other job searches, a key component will be networking.  Personal recommendation and validation will get you a lot further in your discussions and negotiations than applying remotely for advertised roles.  If you are nervous or uncomfortable about networking, check our previous posts.

Apply for full-time roles.
You also have the option of applying for full-time positions in the hope that you can negotiate flexible working arrangements once you’ve been offered the role.  You can mitigate the risks of this strategy by learning as much as you can about the organisation’s culture, its openness to flexible working and the existence of other flexible roles.  You will need to build a convincing business case for how you will fulfill all the role requirements in a less than full-time schedule.  

Go self-employed. Often the most flexible way of working is to work for yourself; consider freelancing, associate work, project work and interim roles as well as starting your own business. We’ll be looking at these options in more detail in future posts.

Create your own flexible role. Identify gaps at a previous employer (eg. talent management or business development) that you could propose to fill. Or develop a portfolio of roles, such as non-exec board positions or higher education lecturing. 

Success stories
We will shortly start to publish stories of returners who have successfully found or created flexible roles and will continue to highlight opportunities as we hear about them.  We’d love to hear your own experiences of seeking or gaining flexible work.

For more resources to help you to find a flexible role, see our resources section on www.womenreturners.co.uk.

Posted by Katerina

Leaning In or Hanging On?

There has been a lot of comment in recent months by senior women on how they balance a high pressure, big-responsibility role with the rest of their life.  It is a common, often internal debate, which professional women experience whether they are already working or thinking about returning.  Julianne posted about this previously and I’d like to add my own perspective.
Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, exhorting women to Lean In to their careers, has currently reignited this debate following Anne-Marie Slaughter’s contribution last summer (see links below).  Both Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and her counterpart at Yahoo, Melissa Mayer, profess to be able to have both a high profile career as well as a satisfying personal life. Sandberg’s book sets out what women need to do to follow her path.  She believes that women need to have more confidence to put themselves forward and push ahead with their careers.  She is also refreshingly candid about her own experiences and times of self-doubt.  Her response to her self-doubt seems to be to push herself even harder and achieve even more.  In the opposing camp are Erin Callan, former CFO of Lehman Brothers, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, Princeton professor and former first female Director of Policy Planning for Obama, who found that a high profile career did not suit the rest of the life they wished to lead.  It is of note that all these examples come from the USA, where perhaps there are more women in senior roles than here in the UK.
In any event, how is this debate relevant to women wishing to return after a career break who have nothing, as yet, to lean in to?  Returners can often believe that it will not be possible to combine their career with their other interests.   In my view, the question underlying the debate is how we define our success.  For women like Sandberg and Meyer, their sense of success is defined precisely as combining being a leader of a major international business and an influencer in their industry with being a wife and mother.  Callan and Slaughter, on the other hand, discovered that no amount of power, income and position compensated for the lack of balance they experienced in their lives.
For women thinking about returning to work, it is essential to be clear about how you will define your success.  Will it be getting back, as quickly as possible, to the senior level you previously occupied?  Will it be creating a portfolio of diverse activities?  Will it be working for certain defined periods of time?  Will it be turning a hobby or passion into a business?   The options are limitless while the choice of how to define your success is totally up to you: it is not for your peers, your social circle or your family to define success for you.  Getting the right the balance – for you – between work and the rest of your life is likely to be more important than your title or status.  Gaining a sense of control over your future career is a key factor in how satisfying you will find it.
For further reading:
Anne-Marie Slaughter
Erin Callan

Posted by Katerina