During National Work Life Week I have been thinking about all the people I have recently supported through career transitions who wanted to find a better balance between work and all the other aspects of life, and how this is no longer just a “working mum’s” issue. From the person who needed flexible hours to look after an elderly parent, to the man in his 50s who no longer needed to earn a full-time salary and wanted to start slowing down the pace of work, to the woman who wanted to dedicate more time to her Etsy store during the week, there are a whole number of reasons why employees now wish to secure a new role with guaranteed flexible working.
The common theme that emerges, though, is that people generally don’t have the confidence or the knowledge of how to secure these kinds of roles that give them the work life balance they want or need. If you find yourself in this position keep reading to discover my top tips for finding that perfect next role.
1) Define what ‘flexible’ means
Most commonly we think of ‘flexible working’ as meaning part time hours, but there are a number of other things that come under the umbrella of flexible working; it could be a job shar, compressed, condensed or annualised hours, flexitime, or your location of work (home working, either fully or in combination with being office-based). Before looking for flexible work, be clear on what exactly you want, or need in terms of working pattern (including any specific days or hours you can or can’t work) and where you might have flexibility yourself on what you can offer. Then be aware that any roles you’re seeing advertised as ‘flexible’ might not have the same interpretation of this as you, so check any assumptions early in the process and be clear on what this means for both parties.
2) Research flex-friendly organisations and job boards
Job boards such as Ten2Two, timewiseJobs, Flexibility Matters and Daisy Chain specialise in advertising a range of flexible roles and work with employers who champion flexibility in all its forms, so offer a good starting point when looking for a flexible role – both in terms of specific roles advertised, but also to see the kind of organisations that are leading the way with advertising flexibility.
3) Use social media to your advantage
Most people are now familiar with using LinkedIn for your job search, but also consider wider social media platforms such as Instagram. Accounts like flexpo_live, findyour_flex and workingfamuk are a great source of information and inspiration, as are prominent campaigners for flexible working such as Anna Whitehouse and Tushar Agarwal. You can also search useful hashtags or recruiters across all social media platforms.
4) Use your network to uncover opportunities
As ever with job boards and advertised roles, the inevitable downside is that there is likely to be a lot of competition for these roles. Whilst absolutely still a useful source of information, it’s also important to take a proactive approach and use your own network for your job search. Who do you know that can refer you for a flexible role, or introduce you to a flexible organisation? With an introduction you are much more likely to get shortlisted for an interview than if you are just applying with all the other people who have also seen the role advertised. You can also use your network for research purposes. Think about who you know that has found a flexible role and ask them, how did they find the role? Was it flexible from Day 1? How does the flex work for them? It’s also really important to surround yourself with success stories when your confidence might be lower, or you get a few knock-backs.
5) Continue to consider roles even if they aren’t advertised as flexible
Lots of roles are advertised as ‘full time but open to flexible working,’ so if you are only looking at roles advertised as part time or remote (for example), you could miss out on all these other opportunities based on the filters you are using – cast the net a little wider and you might find the perfect fit. Even if a role isn’t advertised as flexible, if it’s something that really appeals to you and you know you would be a great candidate for it, it’s always worth a phone call to see if they would still consider your application on the basis of the flexibility you are looking for – it’s such a hot topic at the moment is it much more likely to be considered now than in the past. Just make sure that if flexibility is non-negotiable for you that you are having this conversation early on in the process.
Employees have the right to request flexible working after 26 weeks’ continual service (and currently under government consultation to be applicable from Day 1), but there is no guarantee a request will be granted. It could be a waste of both your time and your future employer’s if they just aren’t able to offer flexibility, but you wait until the point of receiving an offer to have the conversation.
6) Ask questions to make sure this is the right opportunity for you
As with all interviews and employment offers, it should be a two-way agreement that works for both parties. Ask questions during the recruitment process to validate the reality of how flexible working works for that company. Do they have others working flexibly? What types of flex does this accommodate? Was the role you’re applying for designed to be flexible? You don’t want to end up agreeing a 3-day week only to find you have the same targets, KPIs or scope of responsibilities as your full-time colleagues.
7) Be proud of your value
All too often flexible workers feel the need to apologise for having a different working pattern or feel they have more to prove to keep up with their non-flexible colleagues. Remember that you will still bring 100% of your time and energies to this role in whatever hours and way you are working, even if that’s not 100% of your week. Taking this confidence and positive mindset into a recruitment process will shine through and help you to achieve what you are capable of.
When supporting people through career transition at Connor, we put finding the right next role for you at the heart of everything else we do, and use all of our expertise and experience to help make this a reality.
Complete the form at the bottom of this page, or call us on 01491 414010 to find out more about how we could support you or your employees find that next perfect opportunity.