Can you have a career break and still work flexibly?

 

How to find work that works for your life pattern but in a new area?

 

Can do you change direction AND still maintain a working balance?

 

I’ve collaborated with Natasha Perry who walked the walk…from full time researcher before career break to freelance social media consultant now. Encouragingly she is still on the journey; you can follow her mission on Twitter @FlexibleSurrey.

“For individuals with caring responsibilities or other projects, flexible work means facilitating these whilst engaging in professional work. Work that nurtures your own identity. For employers, it means attracting and retaining highly skilled local talent that is proven to be productive and loyal. What’s not to love?!” ~ Natasha Perry

Natasha returned to a part-time version of her ‘old’ research job following a break for family. However, “Squeezing myself back into that old job mould just didn’t feel right”. She opted for redundancy but says “pivoting my career whilst also needing flexible work has been one of my biggest career challenges so far”. (Natasha, we must do a podcast?).

 


The challenge for those wanting flexible work in a new field:

When companies take a risk on candidates with little/no relevant experience it’s hard to commercially justify them working flexibly. Equally, Natasha is honest about the “truth” circulating in our heads! As returners we lose confidence to ask for a flexible working pattern.
After a career break we can forget what we offer.

 

How Natasha did it :

She blended the old with the new after a 6-month social media course. Natasha gained confidence with new skills. She could consider a different range of jobs that “I wouldn’t have dared apply for previously.” She now freelances, offering research and social media services. She finds out what makes a target audience tick… then reaches them. Genius!)

“I mix my research skills with new ones in digital marketing to give me credibility but give my career a contemporary twist”

 

 

Making a career ‘pivot’ into a flexible job…how?

Fundamentally: what you actually want to do? “We work ’til we are 70+ these days – so take time now find something that will engage you for the next important phase” advises Natasha. “Ask: What am I good at and what do I love? What works with my lifestyle, both financially and time-wise? “

Then, what can you bring from your past? An industry or transferrable set? Building on existing expertise enhances your marketability. Liz Ward used this analogy in our podcast, “Keeping one foot stationery whilst moving the other (towards your preferred role).

Further astute counsel from Natasha: “Devising a short, through long-term plan can be a good way to provide some clarity to your career horizon. Initially you create income, whilst nurturing a longer term ‘master’ career plan”.

 

Making the flexible job happen…

Re-train, re-skill and re-invent. Take time to develop and nurture yourself. Look at:

Personal network.

“Natasha’s mum’s advice: “’it’s not what you know it’s who you know’ washed over me most of my life – until now”. Personal connections and recommendations springboard your career pivot like no training course ever could.

Raise your own (social media) profile.

Start a blog, start a social media campaign, engage with people on Twitter. You’ll see things starting to happen.

Continue with flexible job agencies.

The process itself is a valuable learning curve. Remember job specs are wish lists – I write them describing the ideal person, not an actual one!!

Learning.

In online tutorials, free evening classes. Think about what areas complement what you already offer and develop those. Organisations such as Timewise, 2to3Days and ten2two.

Volunteering.

New perspectives, confidence and new contacts. Organisations like Viewvo are great for experiencing another career without commitment.

So Natasha and I agree, you have nothing lose and everything to gain! Also – if you can – give yourself time and space. Anything worth having takes a little time to make happen!

Real opportunities do exist if you want to leverage your pre-break job and industry. Just be realistic about what you want with what the market needs, which may take some time. In the next post, Natasha will share tips on freelancing. Connect with Natasha here.