Again, Lisa outdid herself, far exceeding her manager’s expectations. Soon, she was managing a team of fifteen who were distributed across the country, all while she continued to work part-time from home. Lisa led this team until her twins entered kindergarten. Then, when her boss offered her a larger job with profit-and-loss responsibility, Lisa decided she was ready for the new challenge. She took that job, but only after negotiating to have a modified schedule that allowed her to have Fridays off as needed.
Today, Lisa’s oldest daughter is in college and her twins are finishing high school. It may have taken her longer than others to get to a leadership position, but Lisa has no regrets about her scenic route to the top. Lisa is very public about her choices because she wants to be a model for how flexibility can work for companies and employees.
“In many ways, my career path is a business case for flexible solutions. I gave 110 percent to the company and the company rewarded me by supporting my need for flexibility while still helping me grow and advance,” Lisa said. “I want others to know this is possible.”
Career Works Brockton Photo Gallery
A longitudinal study by the Pew Research Center shows that between 1997 and 2012 the vast majority of mothers consistently reported they would prefer to work part-time while their children are young.245 However, the sad truth is that even today with the advent of technology that allows for a distributed workforce, meaningful part-time jobs that require the skills of a professional are hard to come by. The women who have managed to secure those coveted slots have done so only after having proven themselves to their employers and by having the courage to ask.
As Lisa told me, “Because I had proven myself to be a hard-working, committed employee, when I went in to ask for a flexible schedule, I was able to confidently say, ‘I’m worth it.’”
Women who “stayed in the game” by working part-time found re-igniting their careers relatively easy. For those, like Lisa Johnson, who had negotiated a reduced schedule, it simply required signaling to their boss and/or to the human resources department they were ready for more responsibility. For those who decided they needed to move on to a new company, their part-time schedules could easily be buried in their resumes if needed.
Because the typical resume or LinkedIn profile does not distinguish between full-time and parttime work, potential employers have no idea if a candidate has been working a reduced schedule. The women I interviewed who had taken the Cruiser path were evenly split on whether to be fully honest or selectively mute about the topic. Some expressed concern that women who have temporarily downshifted could struggle to overcome the flexibility stigma.
However, as one woman who had successfully relaunched after working part-time for years said to me, “Would you ever really want to work for the person who cares that your previous job was part-time? How can you be true to yourself and your future employer if you start the relationship out with a lie? I recommend being fully authentic and then finding the boss and company who can support you to be your very best.”
Only you can decide what feels right for you. But be strategic in what you decide to communicate about your career progression. Sometimes less is more. Then again, what parent wants to work for a boss who doesn’t value family?
Pulling back on your career and “cruising” for a while is often the first choice for many women who are struggling to integrate kids and careers. Sadly, most workplaces don’t offer flexible work solutions, and so many women either struggle as they work full-time or they leave the workforce entirely. As one woman I interviewed said, “It’s a nice gig if you can get it.”
Unfortunately, most women can’t, and so what happens when the challenges of integrating kids with careers become insurmountable? Often, they just quit.
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