Have you ever toyed with the idea of reducing your work hours, negotiating flexibility, or going on a part-time schedule? If so, you’ll find today’s guest post by Suzanne Brown of Mompowerment incredibly helpful. Ask yourself these questions as you think through whether to make the switch.
You’re in the prime of your career, and something happens in your personal life that makes you want to focus more on family and work-life balance. Perhaps you’re returning from maternity leave, and you’re not ready to go back to work full time. Or you’re realizing that your elderly parents need more attention from you. You might simply want to spend more time with your children as they’re getting older – growing up before your eyes.
Whatever the reason for the interest in transitioning to a professional part-time role, you’re not alone in wanting this career approach. Almost half of moms shared that working part time would be their ideal situation, according to data from Pew Research.
If you are toying with the idea of transitioning to life as a part-time professional, it’s important to ask yourself thoughtful questions, as you think through these four important dimensions of the change.
Understand your Motivation
The first step is to consider your motivation. A key piece of advice I heard when I conducted more than 110 interviews with professional part-time working moms was to figure out why you want a change. Identifying the driving force behind wanting to go part time will help you figure out what is the right career model for your needs.
For example, if you’re looking to spend more time with your child, then you’re likely looking for a role with hours during the school day, every day. That way your work doesn’t cut into your family time.
Maybe you need to go to more appointments with your aging parent. Will that require a job with more flexibility, and not necessarily fewer hours? Or will it require less office time and fewer hours? You might be looking for a part-time position. You might need a flexible schedule, or even the ability to work from home with a flexible schedule. Flexibility may make a full-time role more feasible.
How will a Change in Career Model Impact You Professionally and Personally?
Now that you’ve thought through your motivation for wanting to work part time in your career, start to look at the impact on you and your family. The transition will likely affect you professionally and personally. You want to ensure that the changes you decide to make are reasonable and that you’re prepared for the transition. It’s time to ask the tough questions about the short-term and long-term and better understand what adjustments you might need to make.
As I interviewed women and began writing my book and sharing what I was working on, I was often asked by moms interested in transitioning to a part-time approach to their career: “Will this transition hurt me professionally?” I can’t answer that question for you individually. But I can share some questions to help you think through the transition, so that you can answer that question for yourself. The implications of this transition are unique for everyone.
Ask yourself these questions to better understand the career implications of transitioning to a part-time role:
- Are you a valuable employee to your manager and/or the company? Will the transition make you less valuable?
- Is shifting to a part-time career approach a short-term or long-term option? Does one or the other work better for you, or are they equal? Why?
- If you miss an opportunity for career growth or promotion, how will that impact your own perspective on your career and family?
- Consider how you feel toward your job, manager, and the company you work for. Is this a time to make a shift to something else, such as a new company or a new role? Or is it the time to even start your own company? Do you need a career change? Or just a different approach to your current role?
I also get asked: “What changes will I have to make in my personal life, when I start working part-time?” If you shift from one career approach to another, there are usually changes for you and/or your family. These questions might help you think through this side of the equation:
- Is this a time when your family needs more of your time and attention? If so, will giving more time help the situation?
- What kinds of conversations have you had with your significant other about your potential transition? How has your idea been received? What concerns have come up?
- How will your new schedule impact your family?
- What changes will you need to make in your support structure (e.g., sitter or housekeeper)?
- How do you and your family feel about these potential changes? How can you overcome any challenges that have come up?
These questions won’t give you all the answers you need. They will, however, start you down the path to understanding if this transition is right for you at this time. The questions also help you develop plans both for you and your family and for your team and manager.
The Financial Side
It’s important to consider the financial side of the equation. Can you afford to work part time, if you get a pay cut? I say “if” and not “when”, because some of the moms I interviewed didn’t get a major pay cut when they transitioned to a part-time role. They understood their value and contribution to the company, and they negotiated their salary when they transitioned to a part-time schedule.
If you do receive a pay cut, this next set of questions might help you navigate the finances of this change. They aren’t all-encompassing and shouldn’t take the place of contacting a financial professional, if you want to understand, without a doubt, your own unique situation. I include questions about retirement, because there could be long-term implications to working part time, even for a short time. I also believe it’s important to factor in benefits, given that according to the most recent US Bureau of Labor Statistics Employer Costs for Employee Compensation Summary, benefits make up thirty to almost thirty-seven percent of an employee’s compensation, depending on the type of employer.
- What costs do you need to be able to cover with your income?
- What lifestyle changes will you and your family need to make, if your income level falls?
- How will your retirement plan be impacted by a drop in your income?
- If you have insurance through work, will a transition to part-time affect that plan and overall coverage? Is there a minimum number of hours at which you maintain your benefits?
- If you have accrued vacation or sick days, how will a transition to part-time status affect that time?
- If you lose benefits, what does the benefits package look like through your significant other? Or what does coverage look like if you don’t have benefits through your significant other?
- If you plan on getting pregnant again, how does a part-time status affect any maternity leave benefits?
Importance of Networking
If you’ve worked through all these questions, you’re aware of the implications, and you’re ready to start working on your transition, what’s next? You might consider offering your employer a proposal to reduce hours in your current role. Or, you might need to look for a new role, either in the same company or at another company. Or, you might even start your own business.
My #1 piece of advice to making your transition successful is to network, even if you are planning to make an internal shift or become an entrepreneur. Start talking to people about what you’re looking for. About one-third of professional part-time working moms I interviewed shared that networking was how they found their new role at a company.
What types of decisions did you have to make when you transitioned to part-time? What kinds of conversations did you have before you made the change? Are there things you gave up to work part time? I’d love to hear more from you in the comments.
Suzanne Brown is a strategic marketing and business consultant, TEDx speaker, and an expert on and advocate for professional part-time working moms. She is also theauthor of a forthcoming book (mid-September, 2017). Her book, Mompowerment: Insights from Successful Professional Part-time Working Moms Who Balance Career and Family, empowers moms to think differently about their career approach and work-life balance. Learn more about Suzanne’s book, read her weekly blog, and even download the Introduction & Chapter 1 of the book at www.mompowerment.com.
Need help with the transition back to work after maternity leave? Get help and meet a supportive community of new working moms by joining the next session of Mindful Return.