Yes, You Can Prioritize Flexibility With Your Next Job Search. Here are Some Ways.

Flexibility at work can mean many different things, from remote or hybrid work to flex hours and condensed workweeks. More than just a perk, flexibility can be an essential non-negotiable for many parents who work outside the home. Prioritizing this need while job searching is important in ensuring you find a role that integrates with your life.

How can you make your flexibility preferences clear during your job search? To understand the best way to find the right opportunities and approach the negotiation process, we sat down with our own Dr. Pamela Cohen, PhD, Chief Analytics and Research Officer at Werklabs, the data and research arm of The Mom Project. Pam’s extensive experience in research to understand the needs of both moms and companies gives her a unique perspective into finding an arrangement that works well for everyone involved.

If a member of our talent community wants to prioritize flexibility, where should they start?

Finding a career that is compatible with your life is key to job satisfaction and work-life integration. It begins with understanding what you truly want out of your work experience — and for many women, a key need that has emerged is flexibility.

Research supports this assertion, with the demand for flexible options such as remote and hybrid work higher than ever before. The good news is that many companies understand the immense benefits that flexibility has for both the employer and employee. Today’s job seekers have more options than ever when it comes to finding flexible work, but you must understand how to prioritize what matters most to find true career fulfillment. You may find that your priorities have shifted as your life circumstances have changed, offering clarity into what type of work best suits you. Once you recognize that flexibility is a must-have, seek out opportunities that will provide you with your ideal work-life integration.

Seeing flexibility mentioned as a perk in job descriptions is a start, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Begin by researching companies to get a feel for the company culture. Talk to current employees. Don’t hesitate to ask about flexibility in interviews. You can start by telling the prospective employer that you’re committed to joining a company around which you can be loyal and dedicated, and part of that is understanding if there is flexibility for work-life integration.  More than anything, however, the best way you can prioritize flexibility in a job search is to be honest about your needs and carve out a career path that is uniquely yours.

What are your best pointers for finding a flexible job after a career pause?

Traditional work structures aren’t working for most women, so it’s no surprise that career pauses have become more common. With limited workplace flexibility, women are significantly less likely to remain with an employer, often leaving them no choice other than to leave the workforce altogether.

After taking a career pause, the prospect of rejoining the workforce can feel daunting. You may worry that your skills and knowledge are outdated. This can be especially prevalent for those who work in fast-paced industries such as tech. My advice is to get ahead of the game by defining and refining your skills. First, don’t sell yourself short. In your time away from the workforce, you’ve gained invaluable skills that you can utilize on-the-job. Next, identify areas for potential growth and seek out opportunities for upskilling. Our RISE program is committed to accelerating equity for moms and women of color through access to upskilling certifications, all of which can be completed in six months or less at no cost to participants thanks to scholarships.

Another great way to find flexible work that allows you to ease back into the workforce is with a returnship program, which provides a dedicated on-ramp for people who have stepped away from the workforce and are ready to return. They generally last from a few weeks to a few months and come with additional training and guidance in the form of mentorships. Better yet, they could lead to a permanent position with a forward-thinking company that values all types of workers, not just those on traditional career paths.

Flexibility can mean different things. How can job seekers gain clarity on their non-negotiables when it comes to flexibility?

This question illustrates an important point — flexibility is a broad term that can encompass many different working arrangements. Remote work is obviously a hot topic at the moment, the conversation over working from home fueled by the pandemic and still going strong after several years. But remote work isn’t the only flexible option. Flex environments can be highly beneficial for parents who need to be free for after-school pickup or attend middle-of-the-day preschool parties. Generous sick leave or four-day workweeks may be ideal for someone who needs to attend regular appointments.

The point is that we all have our own circumstances that will determine what type of flexibility we need and it might be beneficial to start by defining what you don’t want. For example, if you left your last job because you felt overworked with too many late nights, your ideal environment might be a company that is well-staffed with clearly defined work boundaries that company leaders exemplify through their actions. It may take trial and error to learn what’s best for you, but ultimately it comes down to your own preferences and situation.

How can someone ask about workplace flexibility without ruining their chances of the job? 

It’s natural to want to make a good impression in an interview. However, you should also leave an interview feeling good about the company and what they offer. You can set up questions about flexibility by first letting the hiring manager know how committed you are to finding the right fit in a job, and part of that is one that suits your lifestyle (so that you can be dedicated long term to the organization as well). Outline your non-negotiables — things like schedule flexibility, the option to work from home, health benefits or additional benefits like childcare and tuition reimbursements — and go in prepared to inquire about them. The delivery of these questions is important. By doing some research in advance, you can structure your questions to impress the interviewer with your knowledge of the company and your experience while setting them up to answer your true question.

For each company you are interviewing with, consider these factors: 

  • Where they work: Are they in-office, remote, or hybrid? Is there a standard across the company?
  • When they work: Are they strictly 9-5 or is there room for flexibility? Having the ability to work early morning or late evening is crucial for many women who have to work around kids’ school schedules.
  • How many hours they work: Do they require a set amount of hours or is work complete when the job is done?
  • Company culture around PTO: What is the policy on time off and sick leave? Do employees feel comfortable taking time off and does leadership set a positive example?
  • Travel and non-work events: What are the expectations and requirements for activities outside of work and extended travel?

Remember, job satisfaction comes from feeling fulfilled without feeling overwhelmed. Werklabs research has shown that those who have workplace flexibility are happier and more productive

At The Mom Project, we understand the value of flexibility, and we work with companies who are committed to building a better future of work. Learn more about how we can help you find your next great opportunity. 

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