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2024 Virtual Return to Work Conference, May 14-16

Finding Your Dream (Part-Time) Job

Look for flexibility in more areas that just hours.

By Vivian Steir Rabin

Vivian Steir Rabin is the co-founder of iRelaunch and the co-author of Back on the Career Track (affiliate link). She is a relauncher, having relaunched her career in executive search after a 7 year career break. Vivian left iRelaunch in late 2014 in order to focus full time on VSR Advisors, a retained executive search firm focused on commercial real estate and financial services for which she serves as Managing Director and Principal.

People often ask me how to find meaningful part-time work, something other than bagging groceries, answering phones, selling clothes, or stuffing envelopes. Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet, but here are some surprisingly successful strategies.

First, of all, don’t spend a lot of time perusing the part-time ads on job boards or in newspapers, and don’t tell everyone you meet that you’re looking for a part-time job. “Part-time” may be one of the most important aspects of the job to you, but when someone hears that they automatically think “this person just wants to make a little money. She’s not really interested in making a contribution.”

Instead, tell everyone you meet about the kind of work you’d like to do. “I’d like to get back to doing PR work” or “I’m ready to get back into finance.” Open yourself up to a range of options—full-time, part-time, consulting, freelance, interim or project assignments. Take the focus off the hours and put the emphasis on the substance.

Pursue full-time jobs that are results-oriented, then ask about flexibility. For example, one of the women we interviewed for Back on the Career Track (affiliate link) had been a magazine advertising sales rep before she left the workforce. She saw a posting for a similar job in her area and applied, despite the fact that she only wanted to work part time, because she knew the field is results-oriented. Toward the end of her interview, when she could tell they were interested in her, she asked if there might be the possibility of reduced hours and telecommuting in this position. Their answer: “for the right person, there would.” Bottom line: She got the job, was the only mother in her group and the only one working primarily from home and primarily part time. But her sales results rival those of her peers, and that’s all that matters. Obviously some jobs, such as sales positions, convert more easily to part time than others.

Another strategy is to approach small to mid-sized companies in your area that interest you, figure out where in the company you might be able to add value, and propose to them what you think you can do for them. If you can’t network your way in, consider writing to the president (if it’s really small) or the relevant department head (if it’s mid-sized): “I notice you’re trying to expand in such-and-such a way. I believe my experience in X and Y could be valuable to you in reaching that goal.” Then trot out your experience and credentials as proof. If you get a meeting and seem to get along, propose to start with a consulting project. I actually tried this tactic myself seven years ago when I was inching my way back into the workforce. I stumbled across an intriguing training company and wrote to the president proposing to help expand their client base and teach some of the training sessions. When I followed up with a call, they asked me to come in and give them a 30-minute sample course. Following my presentation, they started talking to me about how we might work together. I didn’t end up signing on, because some of the other leads I had in process proved more promising, but the experience boosted my confidence and convinced me that the best way to find a job that works in your life is not to find one but to create it.

Keep in mind that everyone has their own definition of part time. As my colleague Carol Cohen wrote in a post a few weeks ago, once you’re in deep discussions with a company about a consulting project or a flexible opportunity, make sure you’re all crystal clear on what the expectations are regarding hours, face time and results.

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