When to talk flex: landing a job when you have a life

I get a lot of questions about landing a new job. People ask me this: when do I break the news that I have commitments outside of work?

First, let’s step back and acknowledge how dysfunctional our relationship with work has become (personal mission: working on it).

Why is this even a question? Well, because of the work cultures many of us have experienced (North America, I’m raising our collective hand here). We feel nervous and ashamed, like, how dare we have commitments outside of work? And we assume that most jobs, most workplaces, won’t or can’t tolerate flexing to accommodate that fact.

Certain life commitments make us squeamish when interviewing.

The most prominent example is childcare drop off and pickup. For working parents, this can be a huge concern. Not to mention spending time with said child(ren) outside of work.

But there are other examples: like the fact you have vacation booked shortly after your potential start date, or you’ve signed on to take a course that happens every Tuesday at 11:00am for the next year.

Often the instinct (especially for women!) is to bring these little “limitations” up early in the process, so that if it’s a non-starter, then we can all stop “wasting our time” and part ways in mutual understanding. Ladies. Please stop doing that.

Remember how recruiting works.

The recruiting process is not perfect. In the early stages, it’s a numbers game: the goal is to narrow the candidate pool to those who have very strong experience and, often, no complications. Think about the whole “I saw a typo on the resume and I threw it away” mentality.

Imagine how leading with the logistics of your life is going to feel to your potential employer. Yes, it might be FINE… if they’re one of the progressive ones who have navigated this before, and/or have and understand their own policies on this topic, and/or have precedents, etc. But for a lot of employers? Potentially a roadblock. Potentially a headache. Potentially not worth it.

But you, my friend, ARE worth it! So you need to sell yourself first.

I’m going to assume you want the role because of the role (not because of the hours). I’m going to assume you’ve done the hard work to figure out what you want to be doing with your +/-2,000 working hours per year, and that this role really interests you (*and if that’s not the case, let me help you!).

Assuming you want the role, I want you to have the best shot you can. AKA your first and only task in the interview process is to sell yourself as the best candidate for the role (sidenote: I created an amazing free resource to help you do that – you can grab it HERE). Along the way you’ll come to a view about whether you like the company, the mission, the manager, and anything else that matters to you, enough to actually take it.

I want you to think about the circumstances around your childcare, vacation, and hobbies (not putting these on equal footing BTW, just listing outside-of-work demands) as being personal to you and your life – because they are. When it comes to interviewing and landing your next role, they are a footnote. If you lead with them, I’m here to tell you that you are self-sabotaging.

A Thanksgiving metaphor.

Imagine you’re cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. And if you’ve done this, you know you’re probably all over Pinterest researching oven temperatures, times and monitoring procedures (and if you haven’t, you’d be amazed the range of possibilities on this topic!).

Is the temperature and cooking time important to your guests? No. They are interested in eating a delicious turkey. And that’s the same with your boss.

What you have to offer is your output. Let’s say that again: what you have to offer is your output. So, how you cook your turkey does not matter. If you plan to leave at 3:50pm every day, well, that is a minor factor that you probably will want to tell your boss, eventually, simply so she doesn’t wonder where you’ve gone (and pretty sure where you’re going, there’s cell reception, if absolutely needed).

Worst case scenario.

If you follow this advice, the absolute worst case scenario is that you land the job (confidence boost!), and then it doesn’t work out, and you won’t have it anymore. Which is the position you were willing to accept when you considered sharing your “inconvenient life needs” earlier in the process.

Except in this scenario, you will have had the opportunity to go through a process, meet some people, and if absolutely required, navigate an amicable exit. I’m telling you: this is unlikely. And if you’re in the tiny percentage of people who is going through it and in a panic: you can always contact me and I’ll get you through it 🙂

Bottom line.

A few truths: workplace cultures and individual managers vary on this, and some aren’t there yet. Also, things won’t change unless we start to demand what we need, and then demonstrate that it is possible to do great work AND live our lives the way we want to.

So, when do you bring up your life logistics during the interview process, keeping in mind they may (note: they may not) impact your work? My advice is to first consider the the actual extent of said impact (likely minimal). If you do anticipate an impact, and you actually need to have that conversation, then do so as late in the game as possible.

Raise it only after your (potential) manager knows you, trusts you, and is solidly invested in having your turkey on the team. Then, how you cook it will truly be an afterthought. And when you do bring it up, do so like the competent adult you are: clear, unapologetic, and with a proposed solution if required.

We need to start thinking about work differently, and with your brains and motivation and today’s technology, you will get the work done! Let’s not sweat the details so much.

Talk soon, Warriors x


PS! If you’re preparing for an interview, grab my Ultimate Interview Prep Guide HERE. It’s a two page form with space to pre-think and jot down all your best stories and experiences, based on the most common interview questions out there. I designed it based on my experience conducting hundreds of interviews (and being interviewed a few times, too!). If you want to get super clear and confident, grab it (it’s free!).


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2 thoughts on “When to talk flex: landing a job when you have a life

  1. This is such an important thing to keep in mind! An old boss once said, “I own you” when I was bumped to salary. He expected me to go in early, work late, and go in on the weekend…since then, I’ve learned to say “no” to the work-first mindset. The term balance is overused, but I do think we (especially women!) need to exercise more assertiveness in interviews and prove our value. You nailed it in your bottom line!

  2. “I own you” ICK!! Getting boundaries with work has been a gradual process for me. When I first started out in consulting out of school, I believed what made me valuable was the number of hours I was willing to work. Over time, I realized my output was the value, and I started to balance out a little. Glad you found your way to a more “balanced” (agree we need a new term here) place 🙂

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