When I got the call to help Mary Kaye and Sommer job share, I knew we were going ALL IN — selling the job share with full-time benefits for both, a policy to protect the partnership, and training to ramp up the team’s communication, handover, and ability to work seamlessly together job sharing on day one.
I was lucky to have Mary Kaye train me in the nineties, fresh-out-of-college eager to make it in radio. Although a generation apart, we became fast friends. And when she transitioned to sales, we worked in tandem selling our two stations as a team, uncommon in the highly competitive radio scene. We hit the streets with her CHR and my Classic Rock station and joked we should be selling opposite formats.
We also worked alongside Pam McElroy & Dana Montgomery, the first media job share team in Austin, and for Judy Lakin—a working mom and one of the few female GMs in the country — who gave the job share her seal of approval.
I can look back now knowing both made an impression and laid the groundwork for my job share, and likely Mary Kaye’s too. To know Mary Kaye is to love her; she’s all heart, a passionate no-nonsense gal who doesn’t take life all that seriously. And there was no way I would let this client down.
Company: Emmis Communications
Role: Senior Account Executive
Type: Client facing, fast-paced, high-pressure environment, creative & strategic
Getting started: Mary Kaye and Sommer worked with Work Muse to make sure they were right for job sharing and one another, learn best practices and how to build their business case to pitch the partnership. Sommer was returning from a career break to join Mary Kaye. The team splits commissions 50/50 and receive full-time benefits with 50% vacation, sick, and personal time.
How it works: Mary Kaye and Sommer work three consecutive days with a shared day on Wednesday. They are interchangeable and responsible for all aspects of the role. They work toward their strengths, dividing and sharing responsibilities based on how to most effectively achieve their goals.
Work Muse: I once approached you to job share and recall you saying, “What would I do with all that time?” What changed in your life to make job sharing a practice you wanted to pursue?
Mary Kaye: As most of us baby boomers know, time does become a more precious commodity, not to mention those that you spend that time with, and my long commute was literally taking years off my life according to my cardiologist. I came home one evening and decided right then and there I was going to job share and I knew exactly who was going to share with me!
Sommer: We met at work of course! We sat across from each other for six years before I made the leap of leaving radio to be a full-time mommy. She’s seen me get married, have two kids, and move to the country; I’ve seen her lose her soul mate, give away her daughter, and enjoy time with new additions (grandchildren) to her family. Our talks were genuine and our friendship flourished.
Mary Kaye: We worked for the same boss with only a copier separating us and observed each other working for years.
Sommer: Everyone said I was a “mini-MK.”
Mary Kaye: Sommer had taken a career break and had come back three days a week to cover a client list while an account executive was out on maternity leave. I can still hear her say, “I can do anything three days a week!”
Sommer: One day Mary Kaye turned to me with a mischievous look and said, “You wanna job share?” At that point, I was not looking for a job share and still enjoyed being a full-time mom. I soon left after the AE returned from leave, but several months later we talked again and decided we both needed this work-life balance and came to you for help
Work Muse: What considerations did you have when deciding to become job share partners?
Mary Kaye: Health insurance coverage for both of us was a real sticking point.
Sommer: I wanted and needed insurance for my family.
Mary Kaye: We agreed to keep our original reason for job sharing in the forefront—more quality time not more money. Radio is commission-based and seasonal and we had to remember why we chose to do this, even during the beginning lean times.
Sommer: Since it wasn’t a new workplace and I’d worked with the entire staff and knew the product (radio), the only learning curve was learning about Mary Kaye’s clients’ needs and a new station, BOB-FM. I also thought of the commute, expenses, and family scheduling needed before committing to this adventure.
One day Mary Kaye turned to me with a mischievous look and said, “You wanna job share?”
Work Muse: It’s an honor to help people that I care about job share. How did Work Muse’s guidance add to your partnership?
Mary Kaye: Work Muse made the process something tangible and real. Our confidence was strong going in for the job share because we had been well prepped and given the air of professionalism. We’d done our homework—presented a contract of what we expected and what was expected of us—and we got the position!
Sommer: You gave us the confidence to ask for what we deserved! You had the experience and knowledge to get us everything we needed to prepare for our negotiations.
Once we got our job share approved with all of the benefits we needed, you prepared us for the inter-office problems that might pop, which made our bond stronger. You gave us the tools to make the job share cohesive and stomp out any bumps that may have made us look weak or disorganized. Even though we’ve set sail and don’t need coaching as often, having Work Muse in our corner gives us comfort. We know we can reach out and you are there!
Work Muse: One of the most satisfying parts of working together was continuing to be a source of support. What were the unique challenges you had to work through at the start of your partnership?
Sommer: We feel the reason we ramped up so quickly because of Work Muse. You gave us the tools and foresight we needed to acknowledge and squash any negativity or roadblocks.
Mary Kaye: We came out of the gate strong and the focus was on building business and not on internal office drama. We listened and put your tactics to use!
Sommer: The biggest challenge was fine-tuning our communication process. We had to create the rules and then follow them. A few mistakes were made and a few things were lost in translation, but we learned from them and improved our process.
Work Muse: How do you share & divide responsibilities?
Sommer & Mary Kaye: We share a lot! We both are creative and love synergizing for better ideas, and we both do all day-to-day account duties, but we also work toward our strengths.
Sommer: Mary Kaye is on top of copy, order entry, and order revisions. I work more of the custom, event, and digital business to build a greater value than a client’s radio schedule alone. We both are creative and brainstorm client solutions together.
Work Muse: What does your communication and handover process look like?
Sommer: We have a book.
Mary Kaye: It’s our ‘Bible’. (Throwing a playful look at Sommer whose smile can’t contain itself. Two sets of belly-laughs commence.)
Sommer: We write everything in it. Daily. Writing daily has been more of a struggle for Mary Kaye than me (winking, these two clearly aren’t fond of one another). We normally talk on Monday for about ten minutes to go over questions. This jogs my memory of anything I forgot over the weekend. We now have one-on-one meetings with our manager together every time! This just happened since the company re-structure.
It’s all in the process of picking your partner. Be prepared to ask the hard questions and answer them yourself too.
Work Muse: What is the most surprising thing you learned during the first year of job sharing?
Sommer: Highs or lows, happy or sad, positive or negative—your partner has your back. Through 365 days of working together, we’ve hit our highest point, then fallen to our lowest point. The best part of the radio roller coaster is the constant, my work wifey.
We have proven to each other, through actions and words, that we are a strong unit that can do better work together.
Work Muse: What are the most important things an employer can do to support a job share team they manage?
Sommer: If there are problems, you must address them with both job share partners. Managers should hold meetings about anything job-related with both partners—they’re a unit and share the responsibilities of the role. Don’t break us apart as ‘part-timers’ because we are not. I am always getting asked if this jobshare dissolves would I come back to work full time. Well…I may not work five days but I put my time in!
Work Muse: What advice would you give people interested in job sharing?
Mary Kaye: It’s all in the process of picking your partner. You have to find the right match! Be prepared to ask the hard questions and answer them yourself too.
Sommer: Then, when you get what you want from your hiring manager and company, be ready to educate co-workers on how your job share works because it’s new to them as well. Be the cream! Stay focused on your partnership, knowing that a job share is very much like a marriage. You’ve gotta work at it and grow with it, re-invent it, and make it fun again. You should have a mentor…someone like Work Muse.
Melissa Nicholson is the Founder & CEO of Work Muse, a job share solutions firm. Job sharing is a partnership between two people to share the responsibilities of one full-time position. Work Muse drives adoption of job sharing in business as a source of competitive advantage while helping individuals find work-life balance. Join the#JobshareRevolution here –– events, resources, and relevant content to empower you in work and life! For more info, firstname.lastname@example.org.