Finding Work That Works

Not everyone wants to work after kids, but many of us do. However, finding that elusive role which gives you job satisfaction and an acceptable level of income, whilst not leaving you feeling that your time with the family is compromised is a challenge most of us can relate to.

I’ve been on my own journey to find work that works since having my first son 7 years ago, but with the benefit of being an HR person and now a flexible working consultant for Timewise, so Anna has asked me to pass on my top tips.

Identify what you want to do…
Ok a bit obvious and not as easy as it sounds. Do you want to carry on doing on what you were doing but work a different pattern, are you looking for a complete career change, or a compromise where you use some of your previous experience in a different way? Given we’ll all be working til our 60’s, try and make it something you enjoy! This could be a great time to take a change of direction if you’ve always wanted to.

I’d recommend thinking quite freely at this stage rather than assuming you won’t be able to make it work flexibly enough. A career coach is a good investment if you’re totally stuck or look for career coaching tools online.

… And picture what you want it to be like
The most powerful exercise I’ve found is to create a mental picture of what work would look like for you. What would the environment be like? Who would you be working with (if anyone)? Which bits of the job would give you most enjoyment? This is the time to start thinking how it might look in terms of hours as well, but keep as open minded as you can.

Remember there are many types of flexibility which can be offered in a job so have a think which will types will help you:

Finding opportunities
So assuming you’ve got some idea of what you want work to look like, how do you find a flexible role? I’m going to focus here on finding employed job opportunities, although of course many mums choose to become self employed to gain flexibility.

The first thing any career coach would point out is that a high percentage of vacancies are never advertised. So networking should play a bit part in your job search. I’ve only applied for 1 of my 7 jobs from an advert – the very first one – and all subsequent roles have come through conversations. You don’t need to ring people up and ask for a job, but start identifying those in your network who might be interesting to talk to and book in a coffee. Position it as seeking their advice or insight. Most people are flattered to be asked and will help point you in the right direction. Look out for networking groups which relate to your profession or even volunteering opportunities. And get your LinkedIn profile up to date and showing your open to opportunities.

Where to look for flexible roles
Sadly its still true than less than 1 in 10 jobs are advertised with any kind of flexibility (Timewise Flexible Jobs Index 2017). So looking for good part time or flexible roles can be hard. However there are jobsites and even agencies where you can specifically look for flexible work. There’s a good summary of the best sites to try here:

The other option of course is to look for jobs which are advertised as full time but suss out whether they are likely to be willing to discuss flexibility. If you’re open to working 4 days a week or compressed hours this is worth trying. I’d recommend trying to find out their general attitude to flexible / part time working to see if this is likely e.g. is it mentioned on their employee benefits page? Is there anyone you know there you could ask informally? Most public sector employers will be open to a discussion, private sector still really varies as often its down to the individual hiring manager.

When to mention flexibility
As important as it might be to you, an employer doesn’t want to hear that you want a job because it is part time. In fact it’s probably best not to mention flexibility during the application and interview stages. Instead, wait until the employer has decided they really want you, and offers you the job.
At this point, you should treat flexible working as a natural part of the negotiation phase, in the same way that you would negotiate salary or company benefits. Be clear in your mind about what you are asking for and how far you’re able to compromise – flexibility always works best when it works both ways.

Whilst part time and flexible roles are still hard to find, the good news is that the growing demand is starting to influence employers, many of whom of course will have families of their own to juggle. That combined with a general talent shortage in many sectors means you should be a good negotiating position.

A few more sites you might find useful:

Timewise Jobs – loads of useful tips on flexible job hunting

Talented Ladies Club – a site aimed at supporting women setting up in business

Working Families – advice on your rights, tax info etc for working parents

by Claire Campbell

Claire Campbell is a Programme Director for Timewise, a social enterprise which campaigns and advises on flexible working. She’s previously been an HR Director and run recruitment teams. Claire is also a mum of 2 boys and has worked 3 days a week for the past 7 years.

Claire Campbell

Claire and her two lovely boys! You might recognise her from classes.