I have a friend in the professional services sector in New York, working in one of those pressure-cooker 24/7 type of environments I wrote about recently. In fact I have a whole lot of friends in these industries. They work insane hours and are, for the most part, remunerated very well. Most of them laugh at me when they hear what my blog is about.
“When you get called in on a Sunday night to close a deal that for every hour it goes on the client is losing a million dollars, then they don’t care if your wife is sick, your kid is walking for the first time, or your grandma is dying. They are paying me to accept this deal and all the conditions that go with it."
"When you’re paying a person fresh out of school with no experience $100+K you’re not paying them for a 40 hour week. When you’re entering these kinds of careers, you sign up for the premium service at the premium price.”
They make fair points. It is all about one’s perspective. But my friend has come up with a rather ingenious and ground breaking work life solution. And because he’s single and not a parent (and a "he"), it might be considered even more unusual.
There are a few qualities he possesses that make these kinds of out of the box solutions easier to negotiate. Firstly he is brilliant (I mean really, like rocket scientist smart). He’s got all the right schools and all the right grades. He has a phenomenal work ethic. He’s interested and interesting; a good conversationalist, and one who delivers – something that engenders deeply loyal clients.
Several years ago, after years of schooling, a ton of student loans finally paid off and an on-fire career, he realized that whilst he might be on the fast track, there were some dreams that were going to die on the vine if he waited much longer. He walked away and traveled the world for a couple of years, literally and spiritually exploring the planet. On his return, uncertain as to whether he wanted back into his old career, a temporary contract was leveraged into a unique part time schedule where he has negotiated summers off.
He works his guts out for nine months of the year. And then every summer he works in a completely different environment where he’s able to give a little back to the world and certainly restore himself. It’s a beautiful solution. His company gets his absolute best from September to May. He then renews and restores his passions from June to August.
There is a price to be paid. He’s firmly off the promotion path. That has been made clear. Which I find interesting, given that some working mothers in his company with more traditional part time schedules have stayed on course for promotions - a highly unique feat in itself.
And it’s not something he talks about much. Not because it is a big secret. But it is certainly not to be announced to the world. What if everyone wanted a deal like that?
Indeed. What if? In the world of work I dream about, neither of these consequences would have much traction. But in my friend’s competitive, intense environment, what he has created is truly radical.
Mothers in negotiating the work life solution that makes the most sense for them need to remember a few key elements:
1. Flexibility does not always mean less. It might. But not always. Think through whether you need less hours, or more control over the ones you currently work.
2. It is your job to sell your offering as a win-win and as a business solution.
3. Be aware of the massively disproportional career responses to part-time and related work life solutions. If part-time is right for you, be prepared to re-negotiate pay, bonuses and promotions. Don't accept relegation to the side-track unless that is what you want. And don't find yourself doing a full-time job with part-time pay.
When did you last come up with a really creative solution? Or hear of one? Post your thoughts in the comments. Who knows who you can inspire as we share innovative work life solutions.
Chrysula Winegar can be found www.wlbconsultants.com. This post is updated and revised from the original posted as Get Creative! It is Possible! on Nov 10, 2009