We have been working ‘together’ as a successful job share partnership for 10 years. As we look back over this time, we feel proud of achieving this milestone, but never for a second thought the journey together would last quite so long.
How it started
We formed our partnership when both of us were returning to work following maternity leave and wished to maintain a level of balance between work and our newly changed home lives. Working in Investment Banking, our arrangement was unusual at the time, but how we formed and how we’ve worked at that partnership throughout the years is still as relevant today as it was in the beginning: Finding a compatible partner; presenting the ‘solution’ to our employer (who, in this case, knew us very well); ensuring that we present as ‘one team’, with a seamless service to your stakeholders. All bound together by sheer self-interest in keeping this arrangement alive.
In the early years of our partnership, we were focused on making the arrangement work alongside our family commitments. Of course, we wanted our role to be interesting and rewarding, but it was not always the priority, and sometimes we felt we were “settling” in order to keep our work life balance intact. Following an unsuccessful bid to ‘step up’ into a more senior role internally as a job share, we started to reflect on what we wanted professionally, and whether this was enough. However, when there are two people to consider, your aspirations are unlikely to always be aligned.
One of us decided it was time for a change. It happened quickly and decisively. It didn’t take long for the other to come to the same conclusion (24 hours pretty much!), and it’s fair to say that the thought of breaking our partnership was a significant factor. And so five years after our partnership had been formed, we decided to both leave our long standing employer and look for a new challenge. Together.
We had interviewed as a job share with our current employer, but now we were to test this in unknown territory. We separately went out into the market, meeting with HR Agencies and using our expansive HR network to meet with other Businesses of interest to us.
At these separate meetings, we would always test the water with the ‘Job Share’ scenario and 100% of the time, we were met with positivity about our story.
Now, we know recruiters generally are a positive bunch, but we soon found that whilst everyone seemed to love the concept of a proven job share marketed as a ‘full time’ option, and we did make it as far as interview stage on several occasions, we could never quite make it over the line. The main challenge was overcoming client concerns around the concept actually working. We were still mostly interviewing in the world of Banking and it still seemed a step too far to ‘take the risk’ at that time.
There is a happy ending here of course.
We met with our current employer within a week of leaving our previous organisation, and were very quickly guaranteed a role in the organisation. They were very enthusiastic about hiring a job-share, and willing to give it a go presenting us to clients as a pair.
And, we did get hired, though not strictly speaking as a job share initially. We were hired as two part time professionals working in the same team, partnering with the same client group, covering each other’s non-working days, but not officially in a job share capacity as we had distinct stakeholder groups. This seemed to appease any concerns about our arrangement.
Very quickly we proved our capabilities and within a year we had moved into a new role and reinstated our original job-share arrangement. And this is where we have been for a few years now as we come to celebrate the 10 year anniversary.
During our job share, we have worked for two organisations, and have just embarked on our fourth change of role. We have recently moved from a Talent Acquisition role into a Talent Partner role where we are responsible for managing Internal Talent around our business. Of course, one component of that will be challenging our managers to think differently about how they accommodate our talent, and we will do our best to influence further change in our Business around flexible working arrangements. I should say at this point, that our current organisation proudly supports flexible working even at a very senior level.
As time goes on, our aspirations may well change again, and of course, the day will come when we finally go our separate ways…..
We want to share our story because we are immensely passionate about flexibility and the positive impact it has on both employers and employees. More importantly for us, we have children – of both sexes – and our dream is that when they embark on their own career, they will have the balance in their lives that we have been afforded.
Sharing our story we hope will convince the doubters in some small way, so that one day, our story no longer sounds out of the ordinary. It will be the ordinary.
Jo Hardiman & Sara Swift