Sometimes your ability to manage your time well may look a lot like a family-friendly schedule.
But when you’re applying for a new job, or appealing to a new boss for a continuance of your flexible work arrangements, you may want to paint it in the colors of productivity, focus and connections, not children who need taxiing to tennis lessons.
“You don’t lead with work-life. You first sell yourself on your capabilities,” said Ellen Ernst Kossek, a Michigan State University professor of organizational behavior and author of The CEO of Me. “The deal is for you and your talent and what you bring” to your future employer, not for your zeal to foster or train dogs or spend time with your nieces or children.
Sometimes what you bring is a keen ability to focus and complete tasks quickly and effectively, so you can leave every day by 4:30. In a job interview, you’d tell about your time management skills and your efficiency, and how that led to superior results for your current boss.
So here’s five ways to make your flexible schedule sound like a smart management strategy:
1. I am incredibly productive and often finish work in six and a half hours when others may take eight or nine.
2. I set clear priorities and help my team manage theirs deliberately.
3. I arrange deadlines that give me time for interruptions and delays.
4. My laser focus allows me to get out of the office and be involved in community activities.
5. My personal connections have proven beneficial to my employer. Show how the PTA has helped your company promote a new line or how a bicycling group member just placed a $25,000 order.
It helps to understand the culture where you hope to land: Do they make a lot of work-life deals and special arrangements for many people, or do they have a pattern and one approach to it? Understand their approach to customizing work and finding and retaining really talented people, said Kossek.
Kossek and a McGill University professor have presented a paper at the Academy of Management that is also under review for publication. It covers the main reasons managers are willing to “break the mold on what is an ideal worker” and support what she calls “customized work.”
This means hiring or promoting someone with young children, or giving a career-making assignment to someone who is outside the traditional model for the organization, or granting other work-life accommodations. The three reasons managers support these are that person’s “exceptional talent,” including deep knowledge or a strong connection to clients; their flexibility on flexible arrangements and the notion that they’re in a “conducive job,” which varies from firm to firm but usually means a non-core function, she said.
The bottom line: If you have that kind of talent and flexibility on flexible arrangements, then it’s fine to say “I’m looking for a 40-hour a week gig” or ” I am interested in this job, provided I can live X.” Make sure though you sell yourself and your talents first.
Vickie Elmer regularly contributes articles on careers and small business to the Washington Post. She has collected a slew of journalism awards, large and small. Her career and workplace articles also have appeared in Fortune, Parents, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, the Financial Times, the Chicago Tribune, Newsday and many more. She has been called “dazzling,” “incredibly competitive” “creative” and “prolific and feisty” by those who work with her. Elmer is the mother of three children and the co-owner of Mity Nice, a start-up that employs teens to sell Italian ice and sweet treats from a shiny silver cart in Ann Arbor, Mich. An active volunteer, she encourages kindness and creativity and embracing change, and she blogs and tweets under the moniker WorkingKind.