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How Flexibility Is Trumping Face Time for Millions

How Flexibility Is Trumping Face Time for Millions

Millions have their dream work schedules. Here's how to get yours. (Image Michal Marcol)

“If only I could find a great job that allowed me to….” Career dreaming. I’m frequently in these conversations. Maybe it’s my 40-something age, that I’m a working mother or a coach. All I know is that there’s a lot of unrequited longing for people to find nontraditional work arrangements that allow them to build the life they desire.

Some people want to work part-time or be home-based so they can see their kids more. Others want a flexible schedule so they can start a business. Many desire consulting careers that allow them to do satisfying work on their own terms. A few brave dreamers even want to have time off in summers for extended travel.

With the anemic job market, getting this dream job can seem like more of a dream than ever.

Except that it’s actually more of a reality than ever.

We’re in the midst of a convergence of factors — cloud technology, mobility, and a skittish job market — that are creating a new normal for the U.S. workforce. Employers see contracting and part-time work as a safe bet. Companies like Cisco and Booz Allen Hamilton are leading the way with telework policies that encourage people to work where they live. Technology has created a job market of the world, instead of your hometown.

A recent study by Telework found that 26 million people telework. And contrary to the stereotype of teleworking professionals as primarily working mothers, most are male, knowledge workers in mid-career.

Work scenarios that both men and women only dreamed of getting five years ago are becoming common realities. For most people desiring a nontraditional work environment, it’s not a matter of if it exists, but knowing where to find it.

I sat down to talk to Jennifer Folsom from Momentum Resources about this trend, and to get a broader perspective. Momentum is a recruiting firm that places people in full-time, part-time and flexible careers. Originally founded with the idea of matching working mothers with challenging, highly skilled jobs, the company has grown to include placements for men and women in a variety of work assignments. Business is booming.

KH: What’s the back story of how Momentum was founded?

JF: The founders, Tanya Cummings and Whitney Forstner, met while working together in the recruiting field for a Fortune 200 company. Both had become mothers, with one staying home and the other working part-time. Neither was particularly satisfied as they wanted to return to the workforce on their own terms with companies who promoted flexibility and appreciated their strengths and commitment.

It became obvious that there was a huge population of people who were being overlooked for great jobs because they didn’t want an in-office, 9-5+ schedule — yet they wanted a challenging career.

What do you feel is the current opportunity for people who want nontraditional work schedules?

If you can produce you’ll get what you need. Face time is so five minutes ago! It’s all about results, which nullifies the schedule and location argument.

Technology plays a role too. Most of the technology you need to work remotely is free or cheap. Between Skype, Google docs, Dropbox, and smart phones, you can be global and mobile easily.

Keep in mind that even though part-time or flexible job opportunities are not often advertised through traditional job boards, the concept of nontraditional work schedules is really taking hold.

What trends are you seeing from companies?

First, contracting continues to be a strong trend. Companies are still a bit leery, especially in certain sectors, of bringing on full-time associates. Contracting allows companies to hire great people without having to make a long-term commitment.

Within the contract model, we are seeing a lot of part-time and flexible job opportunities. Companies are interested in bringing on top talent without having to pay a full-time salary. Companies get dedicated, experienced professionals for less and employees get a great job that meets their lifestyle needs.

This is a benefit to everyone, not some sort of favor. You no longer have to accept a discount for working part-time or a flexible schedule. You should get paid the pro-rated equivalent of the full-time rate.

For people reentering the workplace, what’s your best advice?

We counsel people every day about how to get back into the workforce, how to find a more flexible role and/or how to transition into a new career. For those looking to return to work, here’s my advice:

  • Be confident in your decision to go back to work — and own it.
  • Establish and leverage your professional network. You will be surprised with how many people want to help you find a job. Networking is key.
  • Develop a strong resume and target list of jobs you’d like to have at organizations where you’d like to work.
  • Be your own advocate. No one knows you better than you. Sing your own praises.

How about for those shifting careers?

For those looking to shift careers here’s my number one suggestion: connect the dots for everyone! If you’re an attorney, people will assume that you still want to be an attorney. If you are looking for a job outside of your current industry, you have to paint the picture for folks. Be specific —  tell them exactly what you are looking for and how your skill set fits that new job or industry.

What companies do you see as trend setters in nontraditional schedules and options?

Mid-size and small businesses are the trend setters in this space. They are nimble enough to be able to offer flexibility and know that it can be a real value-added benefit for both the employee and the business. These clients are using contractors to hire exactly the expertise they need for the job at hand. That may mean a 2/3 time project manager and a 1/4 time in-house counsel.

Are there any silver bullet qualities job seekers have that gets them hired? What qualities are coveted by employers?

Nothing beats A+ communication skills, both verbal and written. Our clients also love to see creative problem solvers and “get it done” types of people. They need those who can strike the balance of being able to work successfully in a team and without direction.

How do you create the job you want from the one you currently have?

Figure out what’s important to your manager. Ultimately it’s up to them. They may not need to see you every day, but might want you online or on instant messenger. If you want a four-day workweek, but your boss is afraid your top client won’t reach you, then commit to checking in twice during that day.

What are some examples of nontraditional jobs you’ve placed recently?

We placed a half-time CFO, a very competent professional who was exactly what the company needed. This part-time schedule has allowed the employee to start a business on the side.

Another client, a finance professional, quit her full-time job to do financial consulting part-time for two companies. This has allowed her to pursue her passion of starting a community theater.

Finally, a federal sector finance professional reentering the workforce got certified in financial software. Within three days, we had two offers for her. She recognized the most in-demand part of the market and went for it.

Have you figured out how to have your dream schedule? Comment here or @kristihedges.

Kristi Hedges is a leadership coach, speaker and author of Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others.

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