Yes -- this is THAT conversation again -- how to find the ever elusive work/life balance or win the work-life battle. But instead of continuing to whine and restate the age-old problem as I've done (along with with the women on my website) it's time to discuss a few solutions. Sure -- it's a scramble to do meaningful work, make a lot of money and be at the soccer game on time. But it can be done -- you just have to be flexible about how you look at flexibility.
Bottom line -- according to career advice columnist and author, Penelope Trunk - is this:
"The trick is not to get flexibility, the trick is to get it without losing engaging work and avoiding a pay cut. Flexible work is not about the hours, it's about control. Because most of us are fine with working long hours as long as we have control over those hours."
Given these parameters for thinking about flexible work, here are Penelope's tricks for landing that sort of job:
1. Be a star. There are great stories all over the place about women who negotiated. Brenda Barnes was CEO of Pepsi, then she quit to take care of three kids. She came back and took a position as CEO of Sara Lee. That's the ultimate flexibility: A CEO position in the Fortune 500 with seven years off to raise kids. But who is as talented in business as Brenda Barnes? Not many of us. The flexibility you can negotiate is directly commensurate to the star power you established before you started negotiating.
2. Be relentless. Flexibility comes, usually, after proving your worth to a company. Which means you can't job hop to get flexibility unless you're a rock star and can make it a precondition for hiring. Non rock stars need to stick around longer. Prove your worth, and then make tons of suggestions to get the specific flexibility you want--a new department, different hours, less travel, on-site child care, maybe a satellite office near your home.
You need to propose options that are solutions for you. And if one doesn't work, try another.
3. Know your bottom line. I wouldn't work without enough money to have household help. It was a precondition for me being available at all times to the company--I needed household available at all times to me. This gives me the ability to create the type of flexibility I need in my life. At one point, things got so tenuous that I had a huge screaming match with one of my investors over my salary. But I didn't budge. I had the confidence that I knew my line in the sand, and I wasn't going to cross it.
4. Gear up for big risks. Screaming at my investors. And crying. And getting thrown out of the attorney's office where we were. Those were big risks. I could have lost my company. But I didn't. And I didn't lose my salary either. But I took big risks. You never know what risks you'll have to take to get what you want. But it's safe to say that if you are aiming for flexibility in corporate America, you will need to risk your job, or your salary, to get what you want.
5. Be careful what you wish for. If you win the flexibility to do your work when you want to, and you make space in your day for your kids, you still did not get more time in your day. For example, it's clear to me that there's a surge of email from 9pm - 11pm eastern, as kids across America go to bed and parents jump online. So we're better parents and engaged workers, but Oprah magazine reports that more than half of people who are married say they don't have enough time for their spouses.
For more tips on life, work and the intersection of both, join Penelope and I for a FREE webinar June 8: How to Work Part Time But Still Look Like a Full-timer. Sign up here.
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