From one Working Parent to another : Don’t give up The Search!
So you took time off to raise a family (a brave decision!) and now you want to get back to work. Back to something that resembles the person you were and the bank balance you once had.
One of the biggest obstacles to achieving your goal can be finding an employer who empathises with your situation and allows that to play a part in your future working life. You have so much to offer, you just need that one thing. The dreaded ‘F’ word: Flexibility.
I am a BIG champion of flexibility for working parents. Not only because I am one, but most of my friends are too, and I was raised by one. I know there are many amazing people at home right now, desperate to get back to work but lacking in confidence and concerned that their needs will be met with rejection and disdain.
But is the fear founded? Will that career gap and the need for flexibility really be viewed as a negative? The honest answer is Yes, it can be, but not always. A friend of mine recently spoke to a recruiter (who shall remain nameless) about re-entering the work place. After five wonderful years at home raising a family it was time for her to get back to work, and she was looking for a flexible role. This woman is degree educated, a senior manager, and has a wealth of experience behind her. Sadly (but not surprisingly perhaps) she was laughed off the phone: even though she had been clear about the reasons for her employment gap she was deemed “unemployable” and dismissed (by this short-sighted recruiter at least) because “there just aren’t any part-time roles out there at your level”. But hang on a minute: five years raising a family doesn’t mean this woman has forgotten all her knowledge and experience in a fog of nappies and sleepless nights! In fact, she has gained invaluable skills that are hard to cultivate anywhere else: skills such as patience, time management, multi-tasking, crowd control (Ok, maybe that last one should stay at home). She offers stability and dependability; she shouldn’t be judged on a CV gap, or the fact that she now wants to work diligently for three days instead of being present (and possibly resenting it) for five.
If you are in the same position let me reassure you : It is 2017 and there are more roles at management level and above available to people who need flexibility. It may just take a bit of extra digging to find them. If you are spending hours at home googling “part-time jobs” don’t be disappointed with the lack of interesting results that come up. Each person, family and potential employer is different, which is why you may have to go a little deeper than the online job boards to find the right role for you. Pick up the phone and speak to the relevant contact. Explain that you have all the right skills, however you need to work in a slightly different way. “Flexible working” can mean part time, or a job share, or agile working: ask them if they would consider any of these options instead of the one advertised. The worst they can do is say no, but at least you have asked the question. You never know; they may have been looking unsuccessfully for a while and you could be presenting the alternative solution they need.
Not just for working parents
Flexible working is not an unattainable job-nirvana; it really does happen in many workplaces and doesn’t only apply to working parents. We all have unique needs and lifestyles which may require us to re-think the daily grind at some point in our careers. Think about it : the twenty-somethings who have different interests and are developing a “portfolio career”, the fifty-somethings who are now caring for an elderly relative, the sixty-plus-somethings who can’t quite afford to retire but don’t want to work full time. Travel, charitable work, sickness, family: these things can and do affect anyone and everyone of working age. Most decent, progressive employers understand that you don’t need to be sat at your desk 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday to be a productive member of staff. Real flexibility should be an integral part of a company’s culture, something that is available to everyone from the start and encouraged from thereon in, not an earned privilege like an extra day’s holiday for every year of service. Let’s face it, most of the millennial generation view flexibility as a right, not a privilege. In 2017 that is how it should be.
A note to employers
If you are an employer and looking for a candidate, take a look at the hours that are really needed to do the role vs what you have advertised. There are certain jobs where only full time will do and that’s fine, but there are a lot that don’t. Could your advertised role be achieved flexibly? If so, there may be the perfect candidate currently looking but put off by the ‘full time’ label. Moreover, if your company is making it challenging to be a parent (or carer, or any of the other things mentioned above) whilst working for you, then watch out for an exodus of talented people. There are plenty of other employers out there ready to snap them up, who fully embrace a flexible working culture.
And to those of you looking for that flexible job – JUST PICK UP THE PHONE. Only by speaking to a real person can you establish a potential employer’s attitude to flexible working. All you have to do is ask.
Go on, be brave – you are a parent after all.
To discuss your next flexible career step, or for any other Recruitment needs, call us on 01904 698 698 or contact our team .
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