Q "Hi, I have 3 kids under 5. I
have been contracting for several years but now feel I need the
certainty of a permanent job and regular income. I have not had
regular work since I had my last baby (now 1 year old) and finding
ad hoc childcare when I do get work is simply too
My question is, going back into the job market, should I be up
front with companies and tell them I am looking for part-time work
before I even get offered an interview? Certainly my experience
with recruitment agencies has been that once they hear this, they
have nothing for me and don't contact me again.
I don't want to lead prospective employers up the garden
path. On the other hand, I feel perhaps I would have a better
chance of negotiating a reduced working week if they were actually
interested in hiring me...any advice welcomed!"
Answer by Galia
Let me start by saying thank you so much for this question. I've
spoken to many women over the years who've been confronted with
similar situations to yours. I'm delighted that you've sent your
query through in such a succinct and cut-to-the-chase manner!
What follows is my perspective on your situation. I'm sure there
will be different views out there as to what you could or should do
- so I invite anyone who might disagree with me to send comments
through to us at Professionelle!
Honesty IS the Best Policy
My first response is that you should always be honest and up
front on such a fundamental aspect of the working relationship. I
believe that no relationship established on incomplete facts can
survive. Furthermore, your prospective employer must be on board
with your needs from the outset in order for you to enjoy the
flexibility that you will probably need to make a success of your
employment and your work life balance.
Wanting to work part time is not a crime or shameful!
Progressive employers are willing to make it work by being creative
I'm not surprised at the response you've received from
recruiters. Keep in mind that they generally get paid a proportion
of the annual salary of the role they fill. Because of that, the
prospect of recruiting someone for a part time position is not
greatly appealing to them. There's an interesting thread regarding experience with
recruiting firms on Professionelle's Bulletin Board, which
pretty much echoes your sentiments. Also remember that only a
fraction of all jobs are filled through formal channels and this is
particularly true for part time positions.
If a role is clearly a full time role, I would hesitate to apply
for it if I was in your position given that I'd be absolutely
certain of only wanting part time work. If, however, it appears
there's a possibility a role could be handled by a part time
worker, I'd apply. I'd prepare extremely well for it to make the
best impression. That way, even if it turned out there was no
possibility of this particular role being made part time, I'd hope
the company would remember me next time something more appropriate
Position Yourself to Succeed
When looking for a good part time role, you need to be strategic
about it! Many women who go part time find themselves doing jobs
which they are over-qualified for and find them underwhelming. This
is a real risk to watch out for when searching for a permanent part
Having given it quite a bit of thought, I recommend you try the
following process to help you find a stimulating and
career-enhancing part time permanent role. I also hope it will help
you achieve that elusive goal of work life balance!
- Package your skills, abilities and
experience in a unique and compelling way.
- Network, network and network.
- Use the internet and other less
conventional methods of finding roles.
1. Package your skills, abilities and experience in a
unique and compelling way
It has been my experience and observation that people with
unique skills, abilities and experiences are better able to find
great permanent part time roles. And you know what? We all have
these qualities - it's just that some of us are better at
articulating them than others!
You might have read on Professionelle's Resource page about Positive
Psychology. Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the
strengths and virtues that enable individuals to thrive. This field
is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and
fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and
to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.
Through reading about this field I have come across the Reflected Best Self Exercise. This is a
wonderful tool to help you discover your strengths in very clear
detail and I highly recommend it. Not only will it help you
understand your skills, but it will also provide you with actual
examples of when you're at your best. Take the time to do this
exercise and you'll gain clarity about what makes YOUR skills,
abilities and experiences unique.
Once you've done the Reflected Best Self Exercise, I recommend
you next write down your Elevator Pitch. This is a concise,
carefully planned, and well-practised description of what makes
your 'employee offer' unique. It needs to be simple and
jargon-free: your mother should be able to understand it in the
time it would take to ride up an elevator.
The Reflected Best Self Exercise will provide you with plenty of
compelling content to use in your Elevator Pitch. The challenge is
to condense the pitch right down to make sure you are able to
deliver it effectively in most situations. Wikihow has an excellent
guide on how to write your personal Elevator Pitch.
2. Network, network and network
Sarah and I are just now finding out how effective networking
can be. I must confess that when I was working as the Ethics
Manager at Fonterra (when my first was a baby), I hardly ever went
to these functions. Now, having been to quite a few, I'm finding
just how much they can help you learn about all kinds of
things…including what part-time positions exist in the market.
Armed with your extremely effective Elevator Pitch, start
attending networking events regularly. Not the same ones all the
time, obviously, try a few different ones and see which have the
best mix of people for the type of roles you're interested in. It's
a good idea to get business cards printed up with your basic
details. Today you can get a batch laser-printed quite cheaply.
Follow up on any leads and if you hear about a company that might
be interested in part time employees in the field that you're in,
make sure you contact them even if you haven't met them
A lot of companies take a long time to get around to going out
to the market in a formal way with a part time role (because of the
time, expense and thought required for establishing a role) and
more often than not, these roles get filled through word of
Depending on where you are in New Zealand, you should be able to
find several regular offline networking events that can be useful
to you. Fees vary from around $10 up to $50:
- The Auckland Executive Club is aimed at women
in senior management, the professions, business owners and people
with specialist skills. It holds regular evening functions.
- Women in Technology organise networking events
throughout New Zealand on topics relevant to women in your
- The Employers and Manufacturers Association
also offers a variety of offline breakfast and evening networking
meetings which we've enjoyed.
- New groups often appear, too, not always supported by websites,
so keep your ears open for these opportunities. For example, the
ANZ Bank has begun hosting the Very Early Lunch Club in East Tamaki
(Sarah - Ph 09 273 1043). Another set to launch in mid July 07 is
ABN AMRO Craigs Women's Wealth Breakfast series (Gretchen - Ph 09
I hope these Auckland-based suggestions provide you with a
starting point for finding good networking events that will work
for you in your quest for quality part time employment. But don't
forget to reactivate your own networks! Call up old contacts and
arrange coffees. When you meet, be up front about wanting to find a
permanent part time role. Just like formal networking, informal
networking is an excellent way to find out what's happening in the
3. Use the internet and other less conventional methods
of finding roles.
Some of the internet job sites actually have very good selection
of part time roles. Try Seek and you might be surprised to see how many
part time roles there are in your category.
Keep on Track
I do realise that all this is time consuming and with three
young children under five it might sound like a complete waste of
time. But, having been through the process of thinking of part time
work myself, I now realise how much I might have missed out on. For
women like you who are serious about their careers, being strategic
about each step including the part time phase is, to me,
fundamental in ensuring you stay on track.
If anyone out there has more suggestions, based on what you've
seen work well (or not!) in this challenging situation, please contact Professionelle.
© Professionelle Ltd 2007