10 Tips for Landing a Flexible Job

The lowdown on finding a job to fit your lifestyle.

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Miriam Salpeter
Miriam Salpeter
When you're job hunting, you want to target organizations and companies with workplaces and cultures conducive to your lifestyle.

And if you're looking for a job with some flexibility, you are in good company:

A 2011 national study, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the flexible staffing firm Mom Corps, found that 42 percent of working adults are willing to forfeit some percent of their salary in exchange for more flexible work options.

[See The Best Jobs of 2012.]

In honor of National Telework Week, here are 10 tips to help you identify and land a flexible job:

1. Decide what flexibility means for you. Are you looking to telecommute? Maybe you just need on-site day care or policies allowing time off during the day in exchange for working later at night? Allison O'Kelly, founder and CEO of Mom Corps, suggests you determine what type of environment you need to be happy and successful.

2. Focus on your skills. What do you offer? If you're looking for a non-traditional job arrangement, you have to be someone who inspires her manager to negotiate traditional expectations in exchange for stellar contributions. Cali Williams Yost, CEO of the Flex+Strategy Group and its subsidiary, Work+Life Fit Inc., and author of Work+Life: Finding the Fit That's Right for You, explains, "Flexible work involves high levels of communication and workflow planning skills, as well as flexibility, trustworthiness, and discipline. These skills will become core performance competencies."

3.Specialize. Identify several specialty areas in your skills and accomplishments. O'Kelly suggests you "Fill your resume with as many high-level project success stories as possible." If you're seeking a coveted flexible work arrangement, you may need to prove that the organization cannot do without you.

4. Research where you're likely to be most successful. Yost suggests investigating the 2012 Guide to Bold New Ideas for Making Work Work, by Families and Work Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management, Working Mother’s Top Employers list, and The Flex Pages, a workplace flexibility directory. iRelaunch.com is another great resource for those returning to work after a break.

5. Plan ahead; be realistic. If you know you can't manage a lot of out-of-town trips, don't look for gigs that require extensive travel. O'Kelly advises, "Consider how your business choices … might affect your desired personal life … For example, choosing a career in law can lead down many paths. An M&A lawyer has different job requirements than an estate lawyer, and one may be more conducive to raising a family and offering desired flexibility."

6.Know the right questions to ask, and what the answers mean. Yost differentiates between the questions you should ask during an informational meeting if the flexibility you're seeking would be nice, but not necessary. For example, you could ask, "Are people able to work from home if needed, or able to shift their hours every now and then?" Interpret their answers carefully, and read between the lines. If they hesitate or "don’t know what you mean," assume flexibility is limited.

If you will only take a job at a flexible workplace, Yost suggests asking in-depth questions during an informational meeting, like:

  • How much flexibility do people have in the way they work?
  • Can people flex their hours or work from home periodically without too much difficulty?
  • What technology do people get to support their flexibility?
  • 7. Be open to temporary positions. O'Kelly explains, "Professional temporary work no longer means what it did 20, or even 10 years ago. It can be highly regarded within the company because you are filling a specific need there, and possibly lead to a more permanent option." She suggests you consider these positions, which allow you to boost your experience to compete for the most specialized and flexible jobs.

    8. Prepare to use technology. "Video will make remote work more personal," Yost says. "As video technology advances and becomes less costly, it will become a main tool in the remote communication and productivity arsenal." Prepare to help identify and use tools to help make your flexible arrangement work efficiently and smoothly.

    [See 7 Ways to Use Email to Nab a Job.]

    9. Prepare your workspace. Are you ready to start work right away–from your own home office, a co-working space, or another site you arrange? You don't want to place an important phone call and worry about noise coming from outside your home office door. Consider issues you may encounter, such as if your organization has special security concerns. Plan ahead so you won't need to slow down to figure out logistics.

    10. Don't sell yourself short. Even in this economy, it's still possible to land flexible work opportunities. In fact, a 2010 study by FlexPaths–LinkedIn Virtual Think Tanks finds hiring managers believe flexible work arrangements are important if they want to stay competitive for top employees. The study anticipates "significant increases in the proportion of … workforces that would be engaging in flexible work" by 2015. You could take advantage of the trend.

    Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success.

    Twitter: @Keppie_Careers