Transcript: What is Job Sharing? Melissa Nicholson’s Job Share Story

Melissa Nicholson

MELISSA NICHOLSON: I realized that, you know, having kids and starting a family was part of my dream too. I just wanted to figure out a way that I could keep my creative life alive and be this incredible mom at the same time. So I gave the radio industry one more shot.


INTRO: Welcome to Job Share Revolution. The show about job sharing—a partnership between two people to bring two minds and skill sets to one full-time position. I’m Melissa Nicholson, former job sharer turned founder of the first U.S. job share company. But it wasn’t long ago that I felt like an utter failure at work and as a new parent. Job sharing was my game-changer. I reclaimed four days a week to fully engage in my life while my capable partner handled everything. Together, we achieved more than I ever could solo. Fast forward to many lessons learned to bring you the training and support I wish I’d had to change lives and the modern-day workplace. Let’s live life and slay work.


MELISSA: Hey, beautiful human, welcome to Jobshare Revolution. I’m your host, Melissa Nicholson. I’m the CEO and Founder of Work Muse the first U.S. job share company, and I’m so excited that you are here. I can’t wait to dive into all things job sharing with you. I job shared for nearly a decade in the crazy, insane 24/7 radio industry, starting when my daughter Iris was just six months old. And it was life-changing for me and my family.

I’ve made it my mission to help others find the true work-life balance I found job sharing. Work-life integration, work-life fit, and even work-life conflict describes most of our lives a lot more than work-life balance. And I want to tell you the reason that I use the term work-life balance. Job sharing is a work practice that uniquely allows people to separate and prioritize their work lives from their personal lives. And there is really no other work practice that allows you to do the same. And that’s the reason that job sharers almost explode telling me what amazing work-life balance they have. If I hadn’t experienced it firsthand myself, I’d be skeptical.

In this episode, I’m going to share my personal job share story. But before I do, I want to do a little Job Share 101 so we’re all on the same page. Whether this concept of job sharing is brand new to you or you have been thinking about job sharing for awhile but you can’t quite wrap your head around it, or even, whether you’re a job sharing—I’ve got you covered. 

If you’re an employer, DIY professional, HR professional, or manager, and you’re looking to learn more about job sharing to retain and recruit diverse talent… Maybe you even have a job share policy, but there are so few people doing it that it doesn’t really have a huge impact, I’ve got you covered. 

So, let’s dive in! What the heck is job sharing? That’s what you might be thinking. What is job sharing?

I mean, it’s quite literally what it sounds like. At Work Muse, our definition of job sharing is a partnership between two people to share the responsibility of one full-time position. It’s a way for committed professionals to work in a part-time capacity with a supportive partner while keeping their careers on track.

It’s part-time work without being “part-timed.” You work in a completely different way. When I job shared, I worked three hyper-focused, efficient, productive work days, and then I took off my work hat and handed it over to my amazing job share partner so that I could unplug and engage fully in my personal life. I had the ability to rest, recharge, and return to work every single week, brimming with ideas and excited to be there.

So now that we’ve covered the definition of job sharing, it’s important to note that job sharing itself is very flexible. Job shares can be designed in all kinds of different ways. Someone might be working a Monday, Wednesday, Friday and the other person works a Tuesday and Thursday, and then they flip-flop. Somebody might be working Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and the other person works a Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday and they have a full-day overlap. That’s the most common type of job share and that’s the kind of job share I had.

One thing all job shares have in common is a handover process and a seamless communication system. It works in nearly any role and any industry from administrative roles right on up to CEO. Job sharing has been around since the seventies, but it might be the least known, least utilized, yet most innovative flexible work practice. It’s really a talent practice where two people are bringing two skill sets and two minds to be better in that job than they ever could solo.

So here’s the thing you need to know about job sharing—job shares are very flexible and they should be designed with the needs of the role and the company first. 

And while job sharing is an amazing practice for many, many people, job sharing is not for everybody. The people who are most successful job sharing work well in a small team environment. They’re committed high achievers who put a lot of value on doing a job and doing it well. They’re often organized, detail-oriented, conscientious, flexible-minded, open and trusting individuals. Because when you’re job sharing, you’re sharing your income, you’re sharing your profession, and oftentimes, your personal lives even overlap.

So it’s really like having a business partnership in some ways. And in fact, it’s not only open to people who work in the corporate world. Job sharing is an incredible practice for founders of startups, especially for caregivers. It’s for business owners who went into business for themselves in the first place so they’d have more time and flexibility with their families.

And there are so many creative uses of job sharing that you’ll find when you start job sharing your job share in every area of your life. Talk about getting women on boards who ordinarily would never be able to devote that kind of time to that kind of work.

And when you job share, you’ll find a more equitable co-parenting situation. You’re going to be working hyper-focused, productive workdays where you are nose to the ground and your partner is going to become the lead parent those days. Then when you take off your work hat and give it to your amazing job share partner, you’ll become the lead parent for the other half of the week. What we found in my home, was that it set up a very equal co-parenting situation from the get-go.

Now you might be thinking, “This sounds amazing, Melissa, but why haven’t I ever heard of job sharing? Where are all the job sharers? How do I get a job share?” It might blow your mind to know that around 20% of companies in the U.S. have job sharing. But here’s the reality: Almost none of them have a robust job sharing program with policies and training. That’s why I created the Jobshare Revolution podcast.

So now we’re all on the same page. We all know what job sharing is, how it works, who it’s for, and what it takes to make it work well.

So I’m going to get a little raw, and I’m going to dive into my personal job share story. It kind of starts to be honest… It starts all the way back to my early twenties before I even had an inkling that I was going to get married, have kids, or job share down the line. 

I worked in the fast-paced, crazy radio industry in advertising and marketing sales. It was the late nineties and I worked under one of the very few female GMs in the country. Her name was Judy Lake. Judy was an innovative leader. She was a mom. She was a complete go-getter. And she was a boss. She put in place one of the very first job share teams in Austin, Texas in the media industry. And it was incredible to watch.

I worked a few desks down… Actually, if I’m going to be honest, we worked in cubes. So, I worked a few cubicles down from Pam McElroy and Dana Montgomery. And in fact, I interviewed Pam about her experience. I’ll share a link to Pam’s job share story in the show notes of this episode.

Just seeing that job share team in place, seeing what that was really. That’s key for a lot of people who job share. They don’t even know what it is beforehand, but if they see a job share team working, and they know that it’s possible, it makes it possible for them. Seeing a job share in place, I’m sure, was part of the reason that I kept job sharing at the back of my mind and whenever I wanted to job share later, I did it.

In fact, I’ve talked to so many job shares and they knew somebody—a team who job shared. It was just the seed they needed to know that job sharing was possible for them. So I had no idea that I would job share. But I did see this amazing job share team in practice, on a weekly basis. But I had my eyes on an acting career when I was about 24 years old.

I saved 10 grand, quit my job, and started a film production company because it’s so easy to start a business while getting your SAG-AFTRA and you know… When we’re young, oh my gosh, we can do so many things when we’re young because we don’t know what we don’t know, and we just throw ourselves in.

And honestly, for people who want to job share, that’s kind of what it takes. It takes a leap of faith. You have to throw yourself in and take the chance. Take the chance on approaching your employer—on creating your own job share.

That’s how I started my film production company, saved 10 grand, quit my job, and started a business thinking that I was going to go off to New York once I got my SAG-AFTRA and start my acting career. And I would get a lot of experience along the way.

Fast forward to five years down the line, and my business partner (who was also my boyfriend at the time) and I, really thought about it, and we assessed our goals and what we wanted. And we realized…I realized, that, you know, having kids and starting a family was part of my dreams too. I just wanted to figure out a way that I could keep my creative life alive and be this incredible mom at the same time.

So I gave the radio industry one more shot knowing that there was a possibility to job share. I didn’t know for sure that I could get in a job share. I just thought, “I think I can work my way into a job share.” 

I worked myself into an incredible group of radio stations and there was even a job share team there. They’d been job sharing six years, but there was a caveat—it was kind of a boys club. The middle management, all four of them, had stay-at-home wives. And while there was a job share there, it was clear they didn’t want any more job shares. The mentality was very much, you either are here and you work in this extremely demanding, often 50-hours-a-week job or, you know, you can work part-time, but you’re not going to get your benefits.

I just kept my eye on the job share ball. I waited my time, I worked my butt off. I just busted it. And I waited for my moment. I waited and waited, and waited…for the right timing, the right moment.

And you know what? Almost all job shares say that they waited far too long. And that’s one of the reasons that I created this podcast—so you don’t have to wait for the right timing, the right boss, the right company even.

Cut to, here I am pregnant, and we were so excited to be pregnant with Iris. Really, I kind of put the idea of job sharing on the back burner. I mean, it was still there. It was still an idea, but it didn’t seem like there was going to be a possibility.

I went on maternity leave and when I was on maternity leave there was a company buyout and when I got back from maternity leave, all of the middle managers were gone. A brand new company with a young CEO and a job share program with a policy were there when I returned.

I got a brand new boss, and he was awesome. He had so much belief in me and so much confidence in my abilities. He was in a similar place in life, his wife was pregnant with twins. And the difference was that he’d worked with a high-performing job share team. He knew what job sharing was. And when I got back, he actually proposed the work practice to me.

Now, you might be thinking, “Oh great, Melissa. This is wonderful, pie in the sky. There’s no way that my boss is going to propose a job share for me.” Here’s the deal: You don’t have to wait for a boss to propose a job share to you. I waited around for years. 

I nearly fell out of my chair when Greg asked me about job sharing. Greg looked at the only two women in the office who’d just had babies and he thought, “These two people could job share together.” I only had stars in my eyes for Iris. All I wanted to do was not miss a single moment—the first smile, the first crawl. I wanted to be there for all of it. 

So when Greg proposed the idea of job sharing to me, yeah, I jumped at it. I looked at him and I said, “That’s amazing!” And he said, “Well, I know how much you make. I didn’t think that you would be able to take the pay cut and do it.”

And I said, “Greg, I’ve been dreaming of this for years. I would love to job share. The one caveat is I need insurance for my family.” He picked up the phone, called HR, they had a policy, and both job share partners got full-time benefits.

I really have to throw my hat at Entercom, the company I worked for because they were visionaries. So I looked at my job share partner, she looked at me. We were super excited. 

We negotiated our job share. We worked in advertising sales, so we were 100% commission. We split our commission 50/50, but, we got to go through our list of clients and figure out which clients we wanted to keep and which clients we wanted to give. And we had 100% benefits—both of us, health insurance—and then 60% vacation and sick.

They moved the company-wide sales meetings to Wednesdays so we had our one one-on-one with our boss on Wednesdays. And we got to work figuring out what responsibilities we were going to divide, what were we going to do together, what was our communication system going to look like, what was our handover system going to look like. And we were super excited.

But it wasn’t all rosy. One of the reasons that I started Work Muse was that nobody trained me in job sharing. There was no training before Work Muse.

My managers didn’t have any training. HR didn’t have any training. The job sharers didn’t have any training. We didn’t know the best practices. We didn’t know the paradigm shift needed to work in an intimate team of two. We didn’t even know if we were a fit for job sharing.

And that’s kind of where this story gets interesting. 

So my first week of job sharing rolls around, and I’m so excited. I’m home with Iris. I can’t believe it, I have my first day off, I’ve got Saturday off. I’ve got Sunday off. My third day off rolls around, Monday, and I was like, “Oh my God, this is amazing!” I can’t believe how just like, freeing it was. How wonderful it felt just to have that time—unplugged time being present with my newborn infant—it was just amazing.

My job—it was so intense. Radio didn’t stop. It didn’t stop for the holidays, it didn’t stop for the weekend, people’s ads were always, going creative always needed to be done. It’s the advertising world; it is a really an intense world. Just having that third day to shrug off work… And then the fourth day rolled around and I was like, “I’m never going back. This is the most flippin amazing thing that I’ve ever experienced in my life.”

That magic of that job share, it didn’t last long.

I quickly realized, “Oh no, something’s not right.” My job share partner was not a fit for job sharing, and it wound up being a very stressful experience. And then I wondered, “What have I done? What have I done? My family depends on me financially. They depend on me. I can’t just up and quit my job.” 

And I’d combined my job with another person. There wasn’t a way to easily get out of it. And then on top of that, radio is a high churn and burn industry. I had eight managers in ten years. While Greg was amazing and super supportive, he’d moved to a different position. He was no longer my manager, I had a brand new manager.

The new managers would always come in with skepticism and concerns and worries. They hadn’t managed a job share team. And, my job share partner and I always spent a lot of time teaching them how to work with our job share. 

Now, after a couple of months they realized, “These guys are always the first ones to the office. They’re always on top of and ahead of their deadlines. Everybody loves working with them. Their clients love that they bring these innovative, incredible ideas because they’re using both of their brains. They come to me much less because they manage one another. They’re accountable to one another.” That’s the truth about how job sharing works in practice. But in this job share, I wound up very unhappy.

It really wasn’t the fault of Greg, he didn’t know better. It wasn’t the fault of my partner, she certainly didn’t know. And it wasn’t my fault. We just didn’t have the ‘know-how.’ And what you don’t know, you don’t know. 

We all know what happened in 2008—the (Great) Recession. The housing market fell off. The economy fell off. And it was a very unstable place. And in advertising sales, your income is directly tied to the economy.

I ended up going back full time this time pregnant with kiddo number two. I was so unhappy working full-time. I cried every morning. My baby, I mean, she was a real early talker, she was very verbal. And she would beg me, “Mommy, stay home, Mommy, stay home,” and it just broke my heart.

I got into my second job share while I was on maternity leave. And again, an ideal maternity leave because the economy had taken a downturn, and a lot of people were quitting and leaving and stressed out, and it was unstable at work. But I left right in time. I had him Christmas Eve and I was really looking to who I could job share with. I didn’t know that you didn’t have to know your job share partner before job sharing. You didn’t have to work with somebody who worked at the same place as you. I was looking around, you know, the office for who I could job share with. 

And I found my second partner, Ginny. She was wonderful. But again, it wasn’t a completely perfect fit.

Now she had worked in an autonomous position before, she was the national sales manager. And she was used to working by herself. She didn’t really have that high-trust personality. She really appreciated how professional I was and she really respected me. And we really complemented one another. It was so funny because I’m a type-A personality and wow, Ginny was a type-A too, so I almost became a Type-B personality in the relationship.

Working with Ginny really taught me a lot. She was super organized, very detail-oriented. That’s where she kind of filled in some of my gaps. We job shared for about a year, I believe. 

And so first job share, not a great fit. Second job share, a little bit better. If you’re catching my point of the story here, it’s that I had to learn all of this on my own. We were on a ship with no oars. We really had no one to show us through this job share world—no training, no support. It didn’t matter because we loved job sharing. 

But Ginny was in a different place, her kids were much older and with the down economy, she needed a full-time income. Again, I don’t want to have you think that you can’t make great money job sharing. And we had full-time benefits. In truth, we were making close to six figures. I mean, it was pretty good—working three days a week, four days completely unplugged and engaged in our personal lives.

I got a phone call one day and the person on the other end said, “Ginny thinks I should job share with you.” And I was like, “What? Where’s Ginny going?”

I didn’t even know that Ginny was thinking of leaving. But, she had my back, she was taking care of me. And that person on the other end of the line was my dear friend Kelli—the one that I told you about, who I dreamed about job sharing with before I even had kids. And by this time, she’d left the place that I went to. We were just ships in the night when it came to the radio world. I got out, she got in…I got back in, she got out. And she was a stay at home mom, so I had no idea that she would even consider a job sharing. This was like a huge blessing.

Kelli came in and my God, it was like a match made in heaven. Kelli was more of a Type B personality. She was just so fun; we had so much fun job sharing together. It was just a joy.

Every single week we would just bust it. We’d come in on our Wednesday so excited because you actually miss your job share partner when you’re not there all the time together. And we would just knock it out. We’d go visit ten clients in a day. It’s so much easier when you’ve got two people. People feel much more comfortable. They love visiting with both of you and you can really knock out your deals left and right. Sometimes we’d work on proposals or big projects, and we’d divide and conquer and work side by side. It was a little like Cagney and Lacey. I don’t know, is that silly? 

We job shared for like, I don’t know, two and a half (or) three years. And Kelli had some things going on in her personal life. She came to me and said, “I’m going to leave. I just need to leave.”

And she gave me several months of a heads up, which was amazing because it takes time to find an amazing job share partner to replace your other job share partner. I mean, you’re going from one workwife to another workwife. Honestly, you are each other’s work BFF, so it’s not like you can just put anybody in there. 

She and I went on the hunt together. In fact, I considered going to a completely new company and did some interviewing. Then, it turned out, there was someone right under our noses. Her name was Stacy, and she didn’t have as much experience as my other job share partners, but she had the exact right attitude, and she had the right personality. And she was such a go-getter. She just really rose to the occasion. She was ready. Working with Stacy was a dream. 

I started job sharing and it was rocky rivers in the beginning, you know? Partnership number one—not so great. Partnership number two—better. Partnership number three and four—golden. We had to learn on our own what made for a great job share partnership. And remember, I had eight bosses in those ten years.

Despite all the challenges, I never wanted to work any other way. I knew that there was no way that I could be better in my job than I was job sharing. Every one of those job share partners made me better in my job. I learned from my job share partners. I had fun in my job. It was an amazing experience. And it was a different way to work. 

So if there’s anything that I want you to take away from this, it’s that job sharing is not just a flexible work practice, it’s a different way to work. You work in this hyper-productive, focused, efficient work week—the flexibility and the time that you gain back—the way that you’re able to engage with your family, with yourself, have time for yourself. I mean, my goodness, I actually had three days for work every week, one day for myself, and three days with my family.

I had my kiddos in daycare that one extra day and I took acting lessons. I took dance lessons. I really connected with myself again. I became a board member of a nonprofit that I was super-passionate about. I would never have had the time if I was working my full-time radio job and I had kids. I would never be able to volunteer on a nonprofit board.

So job sharing changed my life. The best part of job sharingm beyond all those things, was the relationship with my job share partners. I loved it. It made going to work a joy. And that’s why I started this podcast—to empower you to create your own job share. 

So that’s my job share story—the good, the bad, the ugly. So you can learn from my mistakes. You don’t have to wait years to job share like I did. You can go out there and create your own job share. 

So if you’re just getting started with job sharing, don’t wait. Don’t wait like I did. Grab my free cheat sheet: 3 Keys to Job Share Success & 3 Steps to Get the Job Share Greenlight. Get it right now in the show notes. Don’t wait. Get into action.

If this has been enlightening to you, and you’re excited to learn more about job sharing, stick with me, friend. I’ll hold your hand through everything. You’ll hear from job sharers and work changemakers. You’ll get lessons on how to create your own job share and so much more. I’m so excited that you’re here starting this journey with me—the podcast journey—and we’ve got so many good things ahead.

If you would share this episode with someone whose life may benefit from job sharing too, it would mean the world to me.

Bye for now.

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