Our reader question this week comes from a woman we will call Wanda. She works full-time for a smallish firm, managing HR (among other things). The job is incredibly flexible. She knows how to do it well and efficiently. Indeed, she has managed to work out an arrangement where she works from home two days a week, but she does not work much on those days. She does almost everything she needs to on the three days she is in the office, and then she hangs out with her 2-year-old son on the other days. She takes care of anything pressing during nap or after bedtime. As she puts it, “I am required to manage what I am responsible for…no one cares too much when that is done.”
So the problem? “I am unhappy with my job and want a change.” She does not feel close to people in the company, and she sometimes feels powerless about the overall big picture. She would not mind trying something different from her current responsibilities. The trouble is that it is hard to envision any other situation providing nearly as much flexibility. “I want to work outside the home and my family needs my income but are there other jobs out there that allow for this arrangement?”
So how do you go about searching for a flexible job? Or is this the right way to approach this question? In other words, should Wanda figure out what she wants to do with her life first and then deal with the flexibility question, or the other way around?
I would love to hear what readers think. My personal inclination is to start with the soul-searching of figuring out the perfect job, hunting for something that could be shaped into it, and then negotiating the flexibility, keeping in mind that she probably will not get the exact same set-up, but might be able to get something feeling comparably good. But some might argue that if flexibility is a key consideration, that needs to be taken into account first. What has been your experience?