Thursday, July 29, 2010

CareerMums Q&A on negotiating flexibility

This week,a CareerMums user emailed me with the following question (specific details have been changed to protect privacy):

"I require some assistance to negotiate flexibility when returning to work in a few weeks. I am a Sales Manager and would like to work 3 days in the office, 2 days from home as I am struggling to get childcare for my 5 month old. Any assistance would be appreciated. I would like to send my request in writing to my boss this week to ensure that it is actioned prior to returning to work."

My response was the following:

"Thanks for getting in touch with CareerMums. Your challenge sounds very common!

Importantly, don’t communicate to work that you need to work from home because you don’t have childcare yet for those days. You will have to work that problem out but it is important not to indicate that your child will be at home while you are working. It just doesn’t work.

Instead, dissect your role immediately into the following groups:
• What can be done inside or outside of office hours
• What can be done at work or at home

Also, get a copy of your employer’s flexible work policy. If they don’t have one, refer to the new employment law (Jan 2010) stating that working parents now have the right to request flexibility if their child is under school age. See for more information.

This will be the foundation of your business case in line with needing more flexible work arrangements because you are a parent with a young child.

Refer to the following web page for tips and questions to answer in your business case proposal:

Mention that you are happy to offer a 3 month trial period to prove that it can work for yourself and the business.

Stick to the facts. Don’t be emotional. You will find child care for those 2 days eventually, and in the meantime, you would have set yourself up to work 2 days from home. It is important to understand that working from home does not negate child care. A sales role implies constant communication with customers and potential customers. If you have a child at your feet demanding attention, it doesn’t look good. The upside is that if you work from home, you can drop your child later to childcare and pick your child up earlier making it an easier day for all of you."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Recruiters - make way for talent!

Unfortunately I spoke to yet another talented and experienced parent who was turned away from one of the large recruitment firms because she had taken time out of the workplace to do a job that is harder than any job going in the workplace - being a parent. The recruiter simply told her that her clients would not be interested because she has not had any recent work experience (she had, but the recruiter just heard 'parent').

In my experience, employers are having huge problems in finding good employees. Flexibility is a common workplace offering these days, and after reviewing this woman's resume, I shook my head in disbelief that they had discarded her without even a telephone discussion.

It reminded me of something I experienced when I was in my 20s - without children. I had gone to Boston USA to work for a start-up. My experience was priceless, however, another large recruitment firm didn't seem to think so. "You haven't had any Australian work experience for over a year so it may be hard to place you." I got up and walked out of that meeting.

The time has come to own the relationship when it comes to recruiters. Start asking recruiters questions like 'Do you know what flexible work means?', 'How many flexible jobs do you have on your books?' and 'If there was a suitable role for me but it was full time, would you submit my resume?'. If the recruiter is not listening to your needs, take your resume elsewhere.

To be confident in asking these questions, you need to be confident in your own abilities, skills and expertise. Be proud of your career to date and your parenting and role, and know what you want your next step to be.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Applying for a new role - having the 'flexibility' conversation

- Know YOUR story - Before having the conversation, be confident in your skills and abilities. Know what you are worth, what you want to do, and know what you are goods at. Employers like motivated and confident candidates.

- Do some research - Google the employer. Find out if they are aflexible employer. Do they have a flexible work policy? Connect with your networks on LinkedIn and Facebook - ask if anyone has had any involvement with the employer. The more information you can gather, the more prepared you will be.

- Always ask - If you see a job advertisement that looks perfect for you but it is full time, always find out if the employer if happy to explore flexible work options. The talent pool is getting smaller and the quality of the applicants may not be strong. If you don't ask you will never know.

- Be upfront - Don't wait to get a job interview before finding out if the employer would consider flexible work options. Be upfront about your requirements so your time and the employer's time are not wasted.

- Work with the right recruiters - If you are enlisting the help of recruiters, make sure you are talking to recruiters who understand your needs - and who undertand what flexibility means. Read our tips on dealing with recruiters.

- Be proactive - if the role is similar to another role you previously worked flexibly in, prepare a business case as part of your application.

- At the interview - Treat the interview process as a 360 degree interview. In other words, you are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you. You are at a stage in your career where you have accrued experience and expertise. Remember that.