How I got hired part-time for a full-time role

Lynn DrysdaleLike many parents of young children, Lynn Drysdale knew she would need flexibility when she went back to work. Previously an in-house accountant in the oil and gas industry, she was advised to go into private practice if she wanted a part-time role. But knowing how few jobs are actually advertised as part-time, she decided to widen her options.

“I put in quite a few applications with the big accountancy firms in Aberdeen, where I live. None of the roles were advertised as part-time but that didn’t hold me back; I felt I just had to give myself the best chance possible. The advert for the EY role stated that the company was happy to consider flexible working arrangements, so I gave it my best shot, and was delighted when I got offered an interview.”

The flexible dilemma – when should you ask?

Lynn thought carefully about when to ask about flexible working, and concluded that she would bring it up at the interview. “Because of their inclusive reputation, I thought there was no harm in mentioning it upfront – after all, if they weren’t able to give me the flex I needed, I wouldn’t have been able to accept the role. And their response made me feel I’d made the right decision.”

The interviewers reassured Lynn that she didn’t need to make any firm decisions about flexible working, or commit to anything specific, until the recruitment process was complete. So she felt confident that her personal circumstances weren’t going to be a barrier.

“The HR team made it clear that EY recruit based on the person not the hours they can work, and that they trust their employees to deliver within the arrangements they agree. That doesn’t mean everyone gets exactly what they want – any flexible arrangement has to work for the business as well as the individual – but EY are open to it in principle. That attitude made me really keen to work for them – which, fortunately, I got the chance to do.”

So now that she’s got the four-day role she was hoping for, what advice would she give to others in a similar position? Here are Lynn’s five key principles for getting and keeping a flexible job.

  • Be ambitious

    “Don’t be put off if a role isn’t clearly advertised as flexible. Instead, apply for jobs that interest you and match your ambitions. It’s obviously helpful if the company you’re applying for is openly supportive of flexible working – but you certainly won’t get a job you don’t apply for.”
     
  • Be realistic

    “That said, you need to sense-check whether the job you’re applying for is feasible within the pattern you’re seeking. If it involves a lot of international travel, for example, it’s unlikely to allow you to regularly manage the school run. You need to have a plan for how you’ll deliver the role in the time you’ve got.”
     
  • Be honest

    “There is no right or wrong time to mention your need to flex, but my view is that honesty is the best policy. There’s no point getting a job you won’t be able to manage, so you may want to speak to your recruiter about it in the interview. The main thing is to be honest about your reasons, but don’t make it your focus – it’s more important to convince them you’re the best person for the job.”
     
  • Be open

    “Communication is so important for flexible workers, so you need to be proactive. If I’m doing anything different to my standard working pattern in the week ahead, I email my team on the Monday, so they know where I am and what I’m doing. And my voicemail and email signatures are always up to date, so that if I don’t respond immediately, people know why.”
     
  • Be adaptable

    “Don’t be rigid about your flexibility. For example, if you’re asked to move things around to make a whole-team meeting, you should do your best to comply. And if your arrangement means you’ll need a brief or feedback earlier than the formal deadline, make sure you give your colleagues enough notice.”

And if there’s one final piece of advice that Lynn would want others to take on board? “Be brave and ask. You can always agree a trial period with your potential employer, on the understanding that both parties can suggest changes to it if it isn’t quite working. You might be surprised about what is possible in less than a full week.”

This article has been written in association with EY, one of our Timewise Partners

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