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Returning to Work – Is there a Middle Ground?

A guest post for mothers looking for greater flexibility from Amanda Seabrook, MD of Workpond.
The frightening
thing about ‘leaving the workforce’, either when you have children or during
their early years, is that you know instinctively that things will never be the
same again. Even if you are able to return to your old company, the way that
you value your time away from the office will have changed and however much you
enjoy your job it won’t feel quite the same.
This may be because you wish you
could spend more time with your child/children or it may be due to the fact
that your disposable income isn’t what it was! Whether you have a’ babe in arms’
or teenage children, the demands are much the same and you just have to work out
a way to balance the two that suits you.
So is it worth
returning to ‘the same old’ or reinventing yourself to suit your new life
circumstances? Change is hard to achieve, until you know what options you have.
Many people assume that it is normal to work on a full-time employed basis. It
is therefore a surprise to many that, according to the ONS, only 46% of the
labour force are employed on a full-time basis. 27.2% are either self-employed
or working part-time – and this number is on the rise. A further 5.5% (2.3m)
are economically inactive (not paying taxes or claiming benefits) but at the
same time keen to work (largely mothers and early retirees).
So there IS a middle
ground –and this middle ground is growing. It is driven, not only by women
looking for greater flexibility to allow more time with their children, but by
a large number of people, both male and female and of all ages, who are
becoming self-employed and selling their expertise directly to businesses.
There are vibrant markets for Senior Interims (MD’s and FD’s that work for
typically 6-12 months for large corporates, often when specific projects need
to be sorted out). There are freelancers in the more creative sectors – such as
design, web development, branding, copywriting and journalism. There are
specialist consultants who can put together strategy, implement it and then
move on to their next project. Some of them work for single clients consecutively
and some have a portfolio of clients that they work for at the same time,
billing on an hourly or daily basis.
Interestingly, it is
the forward-looking businesses which are becoming more open to the benefits of
employing more flexibly. Some are going a step further by developing their
whole business strategy around it. They are also becoming more accepting of the
fact that professionals in all disciplines can be of use on a self-employed or
a part-time basis – great news for working mothers – particularly when it means
you can save on childcare costs and potentially work closer to home (or even
better, remotely from home).
Early stage and
owner managed businesses are particularly open to engaging talent in this way as
they tend to be much more cost conscious and need the best talent to enable
them to grow. The innovative sector is booming – not only at Silicon Roundabout
in the East End of London, but all around the country, and to work at a company
that specialises in emerging technologies (even for someone with no technology
experience) can be extremely stimulating. Some would balk at the lower
salaries sometimes offered , but others recognise that the cost savings of reduced
travel and childcare , the potential to grow with the business and the ability
to balance their lives makes up for the short-fall.
Finding work in
these companies may not be straightforward as many don’t enjoy parting with
their cash to pay recruiters. However, a simple five step process might suffice
in discovering potential flexible opportunities which may otherwise remain
1. Research your
local area to see what businesses there are close by that you would like to
work for – think broadly.
2. Work out what
service you could offer them – what you would like to specialise in.
3. Update your LinkedIn
profile and connect to everyone you know. Update your CV and send it through to
your target businesses explaining what you believe you can offer them.
4. Tell your friends
what you are trying to do and start going to business networking meetings.
5. Register your CV
with specialist recruitment consultancies, like Workpond, who may be able to
help you.
Don’t be afraid to
tell people that you are a mother. In our experience, as long as you are
realistic in your expectations of flexibility and are willing to offer
flexibility in return, it will garner a great deal of respect.
Amanda Seabrook is the MD of Workpond, a
recruitment consultancy helping businesses find professionals who wish to work
on an interim, consultancy or part-time basis.