How We Changed Careers In A Job Share Partnership

This article first appeared on Trapeze HR.

Have you ever had a really good thing just to lose it? Due to the rarity of job sharing, making a career change together can be an uphill battle. At the start, most job share teams feel grateful to share their job, believing they have a privileged perk. They soon realize they can achieve stronger results by job sharing and never want to work another way. Then there are some who might want to move through their professional lives together, as career partners.

Add This Proven Tool to Your Organization’s Toolkit: Career Partnerships

Moving in and out of a job share is a rare job share superpower. Career partners Jo Hardiman and Sara Swift have graciously shared how they’ve done it, so you can too.


Written by Jo Hardiman & Sara Swift

We have been working together as a successful job share partnership for ten years.  As we look back over this time, we feel proud of achieving this milestone. But never for a second, did we think the journey together would last quite so long. 

Our background

We formed our partnership when both of us were returning to work following maternity leave. At the time, we wished to maintain a level of balance between work and our newly changed home lives.  Our job share in investment banking was more unusual at the time, but how we formed and worked together is still as relevant today.

Our steps to job sharing:

  • You find a compatible partner,
  • Present the ‘solution’ to your employer (who in this case, we had a long history with),
  • And become ‘one team’ with a seamless service to your stakeholders. 

All bound together by a mutual goal of keeping this arrangement alive — you have a bond through self-interest to make it work.

Aspirations 

In the early years of our partnership, we were focused on making the arrangement work.  Of course, we wanted our role to be interesting and rewarding, but it was not always the priority.  Following an unsuccessful bid to ‘step up’ into a more senior role internally together, we started to reflect on what we wanted professionally. We wondered whether this was enough. Not surprisingly, we learned 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.  

However, it didn’t take long for the other to come to the same conclusion (24 hours pretty much!). So five years after our partnership had been formed, we decided to both leave our long-standing employer and look for a new challenge.    

changing careers as a job share partnership

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. Surprisingly, 100% of the time, we were met with positivity about our story.

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, the reality was different. We did make it to the interview on several occasions but never quite made it over the line due to client concerns over the concept actually working.  We interviewed mostly in the world of banking, and it seemed to be a step too far to ‘take the risk.’  

There is a happy ending here of course. We met with our current employer and were hired within a week of leaving our previous organisation.

We weren’t hired initially as a job share strictly speaking, but as two part-time professionals working in the same team with distinct stakeholder groups. This seemed to appease any concerns about our arrangement. Once we proved our capabilities, within a year, we were back to our original job share arrangement. After several years, we are celebrating our ten year anniversary of job sharing together.

our future career goals and how we advocate for job sharing

During our job share, we have worked for two organisations and held four different roles.  We have recently moved into a talent partner role where we are responsible for managing Internal talent.  One component of that will be challenging our managers to think about different ways to do this. That’s why we will do our best to influence further change in our business around different working arrangements.  I should say at this point, that our current organisation proudly supports flexible working even at a senior level.

As time goes on, our aspirations may well change again. And of course, there will be the day when we do go our separate ways…..

We want to share this story to help employers to see the success and the benefits to their employees and the business of this type of arrangement.  We are immensely passionate about flexibility and the positive impact it has. Not least, we have children — of both sexes — and it’s our dream that they have the balance in their lives that we have been afforded.

We hope sharing our story will convince the doubters in some small way, so that one day, our story will no longer sound out of the ordinary.  But it will be the ordinary.

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Melissa Nicholson job shared for nearly a decade and is the Founder & CEO of Work Muse. Work Muse drives the adoption of job sharing in business as a source of competitive advantage while helping individuals find work-life balance. Join the #JobshareRevolution here.

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