Working part time can give a career advantage

05 Oct 2014

Lynn RattiganContrary to conventional perception, working part-time can actually help people to out-perform their peers. Lynn Rattigan, Chief Operating Officer at EY UK & Ireland, calls for a mind-shift in attitudes.

With the prospect of promotion ahead, I could have made the assumption that it wasn’t possible to do a senior role whilst working four-days a week or that my boss would want someone who worked full time. Indeed, there was no precedent, nobody had done the role working part-time before.

Instead I chose to approach it with a commercial mind-set. How can we make this work to satisfy the needs of the business and my own personal needs? It was a business conversation with my ‘boss to be’ that concluded with a commitment from both of us to making it work, with regular formal check-ins to make sure it continued to do so.

How you think about your own flexible arrangement can be a key success factor in making it work. Some of the part-time business leaders I have spoken to, while judging Timewise’s Power Part Time List, talk about a shift in their own mind-set during their career as a game changer for them.

Rather than seeing part-time working as a disadvantage to their prospects, they turned it on its head. In fact on reflection it gave them an edge. Time outside of their working week to gain perspective and approach an issue or challenge with a fresh pair of eyes. How many of their colleagues could do the same?

In the words of my fellow board member and 2017 Power Part Timer, Maggie Stilwell, “I now see working part-time as a positive, it has been one of the keys to my successful career; allowing me to be the person I want to be outside of work.”

Part-timers are often happier and more productive in role, because they have the ability to achieve their professional and personal ambitions at the same time. I know one of my own ‘business and personal’ reasons for working four-days a week, is that I believe it makes me more effective at my job.

To embed flexible hiring and working as the norm, rather than the exception, we need more role models to challenge the status quo, at all levels of the organisation. The ‘Ones to Watch’ category in this year’s Power Part Time List, does exactly that. It highlights the success stories of individuals who are furthering their career whilst working flexibly, paving the way for others.

A colleague who has certainly inspired others to challenge the ‘status quo’ is Victoria Price. At age 23, a ‘one to watch’, she applied for a series of full-time positions with global firms, with no intention of working five-days a week. At interview she presented a clear plan of how she could make her arrangement work and its benefits for all.

At the time, EY was the only firm receptive to her plan. Ten years after she joined the firm she made partner, climbing the ranks whilst working three or four days a week. Victoria talks about how she realised that working part-time actually made her stand out – “I was perhaps more willing to flex around the business and our clients because they flexed around me.”

If we can shift the mind-set of employers and part-time workers themselves, we can help to quash the blunt perception that working part-time spells the end of your career aspirations. It can, in fact, be an enabler. Creating such cultural change will help to encourage our ‘ones to watch’ to fulfil their potential, which is good news for business and indeed the UK economy.

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