15 interviews and no job offers. This is, in a nutshell, the story of Anna, an architect who happened to be a participant in one of my career development workshops in Berlin.
An outstanding portfolio, skills far exceeding requirements, an easy-going personality and - as regularly happened during the interviews - a good chemistry between her and the prospective employers… What could possibly go wrong?
It didn’t take long until Anna figured out what eventually kept her out of the running for desired positions. During one of the last interviews she mentioned, as she usually did, that she wished to work part time. Anna then saw the recruiter putting a cross in the notebook. This probably isn't a good thing, she thought. And in fact, this time it wasn't.
There are many people out there who can’t afford or don’t want to spend 40 hours a week in the office, not even counting lunch time or the daily commute into consideration. The reason varies from one person to another - some, like Anna, just want to spend more time with their young children, others have projects on the side, volunteer, focus on their passions or continue their education. And believe me, those who cherish flexibility are likely to see a cross mark next to their name in recruiters’ notes. Because most of the “cool” jobs really take at least 40 hours a week.
What if there was a way to do both - land a serious full-time job and still work part-time?
Yes, there is a way. It’s called job sharing. It’s a situation in which two people share a single position. In this way, both of them can perform a job matching their qualifications and ambitions and, at the same time, focus on things that matter to them at that moment in their lives.
Yet, job sharing is not common and many people have never heard of it. Anna the architect certainly hadn’t before we met. That’s a shame, because this solution is ingenious in its simplicity. Some of the advantages for employers include:
Do part time what wasn’t possible before
While a part time job is commonly associated with supporting functions and positions with limited or no responsibilities, job sharing works in most work types, also in the upper echelons of a company’s staff roster (top-sharing). In any profession and in any industry.
Work your way up the career ladder
Things you appreciate, be it family, a good cause or another degree, shouldn’t be an obstacle in your career path. Thanks to job sharing you don’t have to accept the option of staying out of the job market and giving up your ambitions.
Career progression while working within the job share model might be more difficult than in a full-time job but it’s not “mission impossible”. And you certainly won’t miss out on the chance to learn and evolve at many levels.
Twice the experience, twice the energy, twice the efficiency
Let’s do the math: You have 8 years of work experience, your partner has 12 years. How many years of work experience are you bringing to a company as a double pack? Yes, it’s that easy. Not only do you have more experience combined, you two also complement each other when it comes to what you have done until now. If you are not that good at something, your partner may have the necessary skills. If your counterpart doesn’t like a part of the job, you might be the one who will be more than excited to do it for them.
Job sharing also makes you more energetic because you have more time to recharge your batteries. Even most cumbersome tasks become a piece of cake when you’re well-rested and not stress-out. Which leads us to...
So much less stress
You don’t become exhausted and you stay motivated despite the heavy workload on all fronts. You don’t need to run and rush every time you have to pick up your daughter from kindergarten or attend a lecture at the university and commit every free minute to accomplishing work duties. Instead, your job-sharing companion will support you in tackling such a crisis. When you are not at work, you can switch off and focus on your life - because another, very capable person, is doing all the necessary work. This is how job sharing may liberate you from chronic stress. What’s not to like?
Have you ever experienced how the right answer or a solution comes once you verbalize your question to another person? Imagine a sparring partner who works on the same projects and has the same goals as you but has a different background and slightly different skills. Chances are, putting both of you in one room will result in a page full of new, maybe revolutionary ideas that would never have come up if you weren’t working as job sharing partners.
If you are like me, you freak out every year before going on your hard-earned vacation. Sure, you look forward to those moments on the beach or at the top of a mountain, but there is a “but” spoiling your sense of excitement and anticipation. The “but” is mostly a result of FOMO - fear of missing out. You know that the company won’t be waiting for you to come back from a paradise in order to change or implement processes or strategies - the machine just keeps on going. Without you. You know that in two weeks you will have to try to catch up.
In job sharing mode, FOMO will never happen to you. After all, your tasks and responsibilities are left in the capable hands of your partner. The same happens in case you get sick.
Off course, there are some drawbacks that you have to consider if you want to take the job sharing route. Half the salary and skepticism of employers being certain. Also, you never know who you come across until you actually start working with your job sharing partner. What if you two don’t get along?
Last but not least: Not everybody makes a perfect candidate to be a job sharer. Even though they work only part-time, job sharing employees are usually hard workers willing to go the extra mile if necessary. To make the work under this model go as smoothly as possible, they both need to be excellent communicators and team players.