Flexible work is one of the top benefits so many veterans and spouses want from their new civilian jobs. And why not? Whether you have kids at home or not, flexible work sounds like the answer to problems around work/life balance.
You might prefer to put in a four-day work week at an office. Or, work mostly from your home. Or, live year-round in a ski lodge in Utah with your laptop and a pack of wolves for company. Whatever you want, a little more flexibility at work is said to be the most empowering benefit today.
"Hi, nice to meet you. I MUST HAVE REMOTE WORK."
Veterans and spouses don't always understand how to make that benefit appear in their job offer. They often blurt out the need or desire for flexibility right away when talking to anyone about the job hunt.
It is as if we think we will be forever locked in a cubicle if we don't immediately get flexible work on the table.
Stop blurting. Start planning.
As Military.com's transition master coach, I can tell you that blurting does not make you seem honest, authentic or sincere. Instead, it makes you look like you are not interested in working very hard, which is not like you at all. This behavior drives potential employers away without you ever knowing why they fled.
To help you get the work that will suit you best, put together everything you need to know about flexible work right here -- and then use it in your job interviews.
What kind of remote work do you want?
First, you have to know what kind of flexible work you want to do. In the post-COVID environment, there are three kinds of work outside the building. Here are the terms used on Military.com, Monster, Linkedin or Flexjobs.
1. Remote work. If the job is classified as “remote,” it means you can live anywhere. This is usually stated in the job description. It is the least common version of flexible work.
2. Hybrid work or telework. This combination of work is conducted mostly from home, but you need to live in the area to come in for certain events.
3. Flexible work. The kind of flexibility available on a particular job can vary widely, from a three or four-day work week, to summer and holiday hours, to flexible start or stop times, to official no-meetings days.
Sorry, secret squirrels.
Even though there is far more flexibility at work than there was before the COVID crisis, certain kinds of jobs do not offer work from home opportunities.
For example, if a job requires a TS/SCI security clearance and you will be a secret squirrel who will be working in a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility), remote jobs are extremely rare.
Ditto if you are a surgical nurse, a physical therapist, a barista or you do something else that requires being in the same room as your client. In those cases flexible work really is not possible.
Best categories for flexible work.
If flexibility is really important to you, know that the competition for these jobs is fierce. Even though remote jobs represent less than 20% of the jobs available on Linkedin, they accounted for more than 50% of applications in 2022.
Your best bet for flexible work is to zoom in your focus on remote categories where there is more work available than people qualified to do it. According to Flexjobs.com, these are the job categories that have the greatest opportunity for you:
- Computer & IT: data analyst, program manager
- Sales: broadcast media sales, director strategic planning
- Medical and health: medical coder, mental health and wellness specialist
- Math and economics: senior data scientist, ux researcher
- Bilingual: customer service rep, communications lead
- Pharmaceutical: claims processing, director of medical writing and publications
- Business development: functional analyst, procurement specialist
- Internet and ecommerce: web developer, digital marketing specialist
- Marketing: digital content producer, growth strategist
- Social work: case management analyst, behavioral health liaison
The power of expectation for flexible work
In the unspoken dance of the job hunt, introducing your desire for flexible work into the process can be tricky. The way to do this is to keep it as an unstated expectation. Like medical, dental, a good company culture and a place to park your car, flexibility is the kind of benefit that you can legitimately expect to be available in today’s work climate.
While truly remote work is explicitly stated in the job listing, other flexibility is generally not mentioned. Know that it is perfectly fair to go into initial conversations with the expectation that there is more flexibility in the civilian world than in the military.
When to ask for flexible work
So when should you talk about flexible hours or locations? The norm for initially introducing flexible work to the conversation is to wait until the interview with the hiring manager (not the recruiter or HR). Ease into the topic of flexibility during the section of the formal interview where they ask if you have any questions for them. You can then ask something like "How much of your workforce is back in the office?"
The hiring manager will then typically give you chapter and verse about what they are doing and the current plan which will probably answer most of your questions.
Wait for negotiation
Still, the best place to score flexibility is in the negotiation. (Find out more about negotiating your job offer with class at our transition master class Next Level Negotiation: How to Get Your Biggest Paycheck Ever.)
Know that you are in your best bargaining position when you have an offer in hand. When you are putting together your counteroffer (which you always will!), discuss your current understanding of company policies, then ask if the position warrants a little more flexibility.
You might be surprised to find that your new bosses were expecting you to work from home most of the time already. You might also find that a limited amount of flexibility at first changes as your boss gets to know you and as you get to know more about the pace and progress of your new team.
Flexibility might be the gold standard benefit of the 21st century, but it requires a little emotional intelligence, sensitivity and timing to get it all right. It is just one of the benefits you can look forward to in your new civilian career.
Jacey Eckhart is Military.com's Transition Master Coach. She is a Certified Professional Career Coach and military sociologist who helps military members get their first civilian job by offering career-level Master Classes through our Veteran Employment Project and on her website SeniorMilitaryTransition.com. Reach her at Jacey.Eckhart@Monster.com.
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