Back to Work
After 11 months of intermittent job searching, while pursuing other interests, I have landed a paying job in IT support (similar to my last position). My search proceeded through a few different stages along the way. It started slowly with resumes being sent to publicly advertised positions along with a cover letter describing my desire for reduced hours work. Not a single company responded. Next, I broadened my search to include recruiters who I thought could present my interests to multiple employers. Again, not a single employer was willing to entertain the idea of a reduced-hours employee without the benefit of meeting me first. This didn't surprise me, but I wanted to do the research anyway.
My goal then switched to generating some interviews by using a more traditional cover letter. Right away companies called to express interest. I arranged a number of interviews and took the opportunity to discuss flexibility in general terms with those employers who seemed somewhat interested. The consistent response was in defense of the corporate policy of allowing flexibility, but they also stressed that this position was indeed a full-time position with little room for negotiation. Once again their interest cooled significantly after this discussion.
What turned out to be the last stage of my search consisted of almost entirely avoiding the topic of reduced hours. I would occasionally point out that I have worked a variety of schedules throughout my career and stressed that I was focused on meeting the demands of the position. During this stage, my goal was to generate job offers before discussing any benefits. Of course, the risk is that the company might get annoyed that the topic didn't come up sooner. However, these discussions were the most interesting from a negotiation point of view. They were prepared to say they were interested in me as a candidate but often not enough to set an uncommon example.
In the end, after my current employer made me an offer I requested an in-person meeting to discuss the schedule and benefits. They began this meeting by stating that the job was indeed a full time position with a premium on being present during normal working hours. I acknowledged their description of the ideal worker and offered the understanding that they would be taking on some additional risk if they were to settle for less than the ideal. However, I pointed out that every hire includes many risks. I stressed my qualifications, my stable work history, and my desire to find a job that fit in my life. When they pinned me down to a specific schedule request, I gave them two options. Either four 8 hour days or three 8 hour days and two days where I left at noon. They left me alone for about 15 minutes while they discussed the offer with others and then returned to accept the five day option. I agreed to adjust their salary offer down by the same percentage as the reduction in hours.
This whole process has been a fabulous experience and learning opportunity for both Amy and me. We got to stare down both the male breadwinner and the female nurturer roles, not without some difficulty. We struggled to maintain our equality as we recognized the benefits and pull of having a parent available for more home duties. And we solidified our belief in ESP as we entertained other options.
Thanks to many of you who have encouraged us along the way. We couldn't be happier!