Career Corner: How to Get Ahead Whilst Working Flexibly

Career Corner: How to Get Ahead Whilst Working Flexibly

Want to know how to keep your career moving forward without giving up the flexibility you have?  We hear from those who have done it and receive tips from careers experts on how you can do the same. 

Esther Cavett is an accredited coach, qualified in psychological coaching; Geraldine Gallacher is MD of the Executive Coaching Consultancy; Rebecca Hourston is an MD at Talking Talent global coaching consultancy and shared their advice with us in relation to some questions asked.

  • How can we change the perceptions/misconceptions of flexible working in an organisation?
    We can all be more transparent about the actual flexibility that we enjoy - from the top of the business down - whether it's meetings on the golf course, business lunches or other "non-office" activity and show that you can work flexibly and still deliver your job.   Let's share examples of where it is working and talk openly and honestly about how it works, rather than trying to do it by "stealth".  Rebecca reminds us that "Each of us is a role model - we may not be perfect but we need to share our stories" to help others achieve their own flexible working.  In reality, everyone works "part-time", ie. not 24/7/365, but mothers can become stigmatised by being the main flexible working workforce. 
  • How will you know what to negotiate?  Should the company help?
    There is no "one size fits all" solution - it is about the individual.  "You first need to figure out what you need to enable both your job and family life" says Esther - identify your own hard and soft boundaries, then speak up and ask for it.  Don't dive in with a litigious approach, trying to define every detail, but rather test the water, sound it out, and be pragmatic.  Keep in mind that you have already worked flexibly by working more than your "9 to 5" hours when required and that we are not in a "Full-Time Equivalent" world any more.  "Flexible Working" should now be the mainstream language.
  • How can men be more a part of the conversation to improve the situation?
    Very simply, we need men to "Do it, Talk about it, and Demonstrate it -  Come Out!"  Make it known how you work "flexibly" - be "out and proud" and show that it is not just a "mum thing". Geraldine observed that mothers often "sleep walk" into becoming the primary carer, due to breastfeeding and becoming the "expert" early on, but it doesn't have to continue in that way.
  • I'm working flexibly, what can I now do to start to "get ahead"?
    This can often be a career crossroads where you can address questions such as what are your values, who are you, what must you have in your life, what's important to you?  And for each of those answers ask yourself the question "what's important about that", until you are clear about what you want.  There are then plenty of routes and tools which can help you identify your strengths, and how you can best use them.  This should help you to understand "what does getting ahead mean for me?"  Try different things that might take you in that direction, such as sitting in on work that you wouldn't normally be involved in, shadowing somebody else in the business, putting yourself forward for something you wouldn't normally do etc.  Expose yourself to as many different job descriptions as you can - buy the jobs pages, look at internal job adverts, and highlight any words or phrases that appeal to you, as a stimulus for what you want to achieve.  Don't be afraid to identify any gaps in your organisation and design your own job!
  • What can you do if your request is denied?
    This can feel very personal, but it is unlikely to be so - it's just a setback.  Ask questions such as "what are the reasons", "what needs to happen".  Collaborate, re-group, come up with a Plan B.  Pre-empt how the conversation might go and any blocks.  Create a mini business case. 

By Alison Deane, Chair Cityparents Influencers


Panelist contact details:

Esther Cavett | Website:
Executive Coaching Consultancy | Website: | Twitter @ECC_Team | LinkedIn the-executive-coaching-consultancy
Talking Talent | Website: Twitter @TalkingTalent

Released On 7th May 2019

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