What would you do if a company you really wanted to work for was offering you the position of your dreams with an impressive remuneration package and in the perfect location? The only proviso would be that you could offer them more flexibility in terms of your working hours.
For many of us it would be a straight forward decision. We would have to make a choice as to what was more important; our career ambitions or our work/life balance. For others (men and women with responsibilities outside of the workplace) that choice is often taken away.
I recently caught up with a good friend who was half way through a period of maternity leave from a senior account management position in London. She had been contacted by a Head Hunter about a fantastic role with one of the UK’s most successful media/communications companies. The move would take her to the next stage in her career and give her an opportunity to work with some of the best names in the industry. She had met with their senior management team and fallen in love with everything about the opportunity. She was perfect for them – they were perfect for her. Then, she received a call from the CEO.
The CEO told her he wanted her on the senior management team but unless she could commit to more hours then he didn’t think things would work. To clarify, my friend had already pushed the boundaries of the kind of working pattern she had hoped to achieve, going from four full days a week to five. She was offering the business a normal working schedule but the CEO felt the demands of the role would require more.
This situation is by no means uncommon, particularly in senior management or client facing roles. My friend was well aware of this but had managed a similar workload successfully up to that point and felt confident she could do the same again. Like many others in a similar position she would manage her time at work carefully and pick up any extra slack in the evenings after her children had gone to bed. Unfortunately the CEO wasn’t ready to take the gamble and the golden opportunity slipped away as quickly as it had arrived.
‘Is this what I’ve got to look forward to?’ she asked me. I was disappointed for her but wanted to be positive. 'You may have to travel a slightly longer path and explore a few more opportunities' I told her, 'but talented people are coveted in every market and not everyone will see your family commitments as an obstacle'.
Two days later she rang me to let me know that the CEO had sent her a LinkedIn request telling her he still had ambitions for her to join them and wanted to stay in touch. Perhaps even better was her existing employers’ reaction to the new social media connection. Beforehand they had been reticent about discussing promotional opportunities but fearing they could lose one of their most valuable assets they asked to see my friend ‘as soon as possible’ to discuss her future career progression.
The job market may still be challenging for those of us who have to juggle career ambitions with our responsibilities but employers in every sector are becoming more committed to flexible working as they realise this is where they can reach some of the most exceptional talent in the market.
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