Back-to-School Work Hours for Parents

Balancing Work Schedules With Your Kids' School Schedules May Be Getting Easier

Aug. 21, 2007 —

Back to school means a desire or need to go back to work for many parents, but doing so with a flexible schedule — ideally one with hours that mirror the school day — makes life much easier for many families.

A growing group of major employers like Aflac, Cleveland Clinic, Container Store, IKEA, Met Life, among others, have implemented school shifts for full-time positions.

Yet, the reality is these are highly coveted positions that still require a proactive approach to finding them and getting hired.

Check directly with the companies you're interested in. If you're eyeing a particular employer but you're not sure whether it has flexible hours and shifts, first look at the "career or employment" section of its Web site. Usually special perks are often touted if they're available. If you don't see anything — or the company doesn't have a detailed Web site — call. Say you're exceptionally qualified, but before you opt to apply, you are curious to know whether it offers flexible scheduling.

Attend career fairs. Career fairs can be a great place to window shop. I'm gearing up to travel for the next three months for my company's Women for Hire fall career fairs across the country. Even if a company isn't looking for part-timers or to hire people who want flexible schedules, when it meets a great person — and it feels it must have you on the payroll — it will work with you on the scheduling. But it's up to you to position yourself as that "must have, must hire." Google career fairs in your area — and bring a resume and be ready to talk about who you are and what you're looking for. Confidence is a huge factor in striking up successful conversations with recruiters.

Connect with specialized placement agencies. There's a new and quickly expanding crop of headhunters and placement firms that specialize solely in filling openings for companies of all sizes with candidates who only want flexible full-time or part-time assignments.

A word of caution: The biggest mistake applicants make when trying to work with placement agencies is to assume that they're the client. It's the company that's paying a fee for the right candidate that's actually the client. And like any recruiters, agencies are more focused on presenting the most qualified candidates, not on helping you get hired. Recruiters aren't bartenders or best friends; they aren't the people to tell your troubles to. Don't tell them you're a month away from eviction, or that your kids take up all your time. You're selling yourself to these people, and no one wants to buy your baggage. So instead of saying, "What do you have for me," you should take the approach of, "Here's why your clients will want me."

Agencies Here's a small sampling of some of my favorites, but if they don't serve your area, you can cold-call employment agencies in your town to ask about flexible openings:

Aquent is the largest marketing staffing firm nationwide for freelance and full-time positions.

10 til 2 focuses on part-time, hourly positions for small companies in administrative, accounting/bookkeeping, sales support, IT, legal and engineering in Denver, Indianapolis, Columbus, Phoenix, Houston and mid-Michigan.

On-Ramps recruits for mid- to senior-level flexible work arrangements for full-time, part-time and project-based roles, mainly in New York, with expertise in accounting/finance, marketing/PR, business development/sales, various Internet technologies, strategic management/operations, consulting and project management.

Mom Corps serves Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C., to place experienced professionals in permanent part-time and flexible contract opportunities in accounting, finance, marketing, technology, legal and business strategy.

Employ Moms is a regional staffing firm focused on flexible part-time positions in New Hampshire and Vermont.

Career Partners fills job-sharing positions at the executive level in California.

Initiate the conversation. If you're already employed and you like your company, but you dream of some form of flexibility, start the dialogue and introduce the idea of a limited family-friendly shift — even on a trial basis. Company benefits are a direct result of employee need. Will our bosses fulfill all of our needs? No, of course not. But when the need is great and employees can present a strong case for a trial — just a trial — then it's worth asking. Find the right person in the company to approach — it could be your immediate boss or it might be someone in HR — and be confident about why this would be a win-win for the company and for you, as well as other employees.

Start with reasonable requests. Don't walk in and say, "Now that school has started, I want to work the same hours as my daughter is in class." That's a jarring request, especially if you're now working 40 or 50 hours a week. Instead say you want to alter your hours: come in earlier, leave earlier. Or maybe alter your hours to perform some of your specific tasks at home. You might not get this every day of the week, but starting with even one or two can make a very nice difference in lifestyle.

Tory Johnson is the workplace contributor on "Good Morning America" and the CEO of Women for Hire. Connect with her at