Flex Success® Archives - Page 2 of 2 - Diversity & Flexibility Alliance

Spotlight on Flex – Jessica Brown

The Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

This month, we are pleased to share insights from Jessica Brown, Partner, in the Denver, CO Office of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher.

Jessica BrownDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your career?

Jessica Brown: It’s almost surprising to me, but I’ve been at the firm for more than 22 years. I was a summer associate here, clerked for a judge after graduating from law school, and then started as an associate in January 1995.

I made partner effective 2002, had my first child in 2006, and started working a reduced hours schedule in 2007. There have been times when I’ve been working full time hours or traveling extensively, and I have to be able to roll with that. I never expect to work reduced hours on a daily or weekly basis but rather over the course of the year. Fortunately, I have an incredible support system through my husband, our nanny, and the firm.

I’m in the office every day, and I’m required to bill 1300 hours per year. I don’t adhere to a set schedule because I don’t know how that could work in a client services industry. You could have an “aspirational schedule,” where you choose to be off or work from home a certain day of the week, but it’s important to be flexible about your flexibility. Work priorities won’t always align with your schedule, and you have to adjust seamlessly.

For me, working every day makes sense because I’m always busy, though not always with billable work. I recently reviewed my hours for the past five years and was amazed to find that I worked almost the exact same number of total hours each year. The only thing that fluctuated was the ratio of my billable hours to my non-billable (e.g., community service and pro bono) hours.

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Spotlight on Flex – Jennifer Nowlin

The Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

This month, we are pleased to share insights from Jennifer Nowlin, Associate General Counsel, Labor and Employment, in the Bentonville, AR Office of Walmart Legal.

Jennifer NowlinDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your career? 

Jennifer Nowlin: I started practicing law as a commercial litigator at a Dallas firm. I’d been practicing for less than one year when my husband was offered a job at Walmart in Bentonville, AR. We had to decide whether it was time for us to relocate, but I knew my marketability was limited with such little experience under my belt. From the beginning, Walmart supported my family’s needs; the company allowed us to stay in Dallas while my husband traveled back and forth to Bentonville. We kept this arrangement for a year and finally relocated to Bentonville when I joined Walmart’s legal department in 2005. I started with the employment practices legal team, but in 2009, I joined the legal team supporting labor relations, and I’ve been with them ever since.

Walmart had developed a Professional Work Option Program, and when I had my first child in 2007, I was one of the early participants in it. I really wanted to spend time at home with my newborn, but I also wasn’t ready to stop working all together. I talked with my supervisor at the time, and she encouraged me to develop different work scenarios that would work for me. If my first choice wasn’t accepted, then I would move on to my next scenario and so forth. My first choice was to work a 3/5 schedule which meant three days in the office, and two days off.

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Flex Success® – It Takes a Village

This is the fifth in a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success®. Check back as we walk you through the seven steps that will guarantee your success while working flexibly: Define Your Success; Own Your ValueActivate Your Mindset; Create A Strong Personal Brand; Build Your Networks; Expand Your Ideas on Business Development; and Enhance Your Work-Life Control.

Seven Strategies for Flex SuccessMost successful corporations are led by a CEO who is advised and counseled by an experienced Board of Directors. As a professional working a flexible schedule, you should view yourself as the CEO of your own corporation, and you undoubtedly need a “Board of Directors” to support you. No matter how effective you are on your own, it is critical that you surround yourself with a group of experienced people who can advise you, guide you, mentor you, and open doors for you.

Our fifth strategy for Flex Success® is “Build Your Networks and Personal Board of Advisors.” This personal board of advisors should consist of individuals from inside and outside of your organization. It should include both mentors who can give you advice, and sponsors who invest in and advocate for you. The internal perspectives can assist you in your career advancement and help you to address blind spots in your career path, especially those related to your flex schedule. Your external advisors can provide you with outside perspectives from an industry point of view and can help open doors to new opportunities, if necessary.

As you build your network and personal board of advisors, it’s important to keep in mind that you want to find people who you trust, who you respect, and who will be candid with you. These individuals should be open to constructive conversations about your career as well as the challenges and opportunities your flexible schedule might bring. It’s important to value and maintain your relationships with these mentors and advisors and make sure to meet with them on a regular basis.

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It’s All About Marketing

This is the fourth in a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success™. Check back as we walk you through the seven steps that will guarantee your success while working flexibly: Define Your Success; Own Your ValueActivate Your Mindset; Create A Strong Personal Brand; Build Your Networks; Expand Your Ideas on Business Development; and Enhance Your Work-Life Control.

The Fourth Step to Ensuring Your Flex Success™ –
Create A Strong Personal Brand

Seven Strategies For Flex SuccessIn Step Two of our Seven Strategies for Flex Success™ you worked on Owning Your Value. You identified what makes you unique and what only you can bring to the table.   Knowing what makes you special gives you confidence and self-esteem. The fourth strategy revolves around harnessing this self-esteem and creating your personal brand. Just as a corporation would market a product, you need to market yourself to make sure others perceive you the way you want to be perceived.

There is power in perception.

As a professional working a flexible schedule, it’s particularly important to control how others see you to counteract flex stigma that others in your office may harbor.

Make sure that you are speaking positively about your schedule and your work. Remember that how you talk about yourself drives how others are talking about you. Ask for feedback about how people perceive you. In particular, ask your mentor or sponsor if others have a positive perception of you and your work and how you can improve your image. Your career trajectory not only depends on the quality of your work but also your reputation as someone who is serious about your own success and the success of the organization.

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The Third Step to Ensuring Your Flex Success™ – Activate Your Mindset and Grit to Overcome Flex Stigma

This is the third in a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success™. Check back as we walk you through the seven steps that will guarantee your success while working flexibly: Define Your Success; Own Your ValueActivate Your Mindset; Create A Strong Personal Brand; Build Your Networks; Expand Your Ideas on Business Development; and Enhance Your Work-Life Control.

seven-strategies-for-flex-successWe’re not going to lie to you. It’s not always going to be easy to transition from being in the office full-time to a flexible work schedule. While many industries have come a long way in understanding the value flexible work policies provide, biases still exist. No matter where you work, you may come across co-workers who think you’re less committed to the job because you work reduced hours. You may also be faced with supervisors who question your time at home and whether you are actually working when you’re not physically in the office.

It’s best to be prepared for these obstacles, and when they do arise, it’s important to maintain your confidence and harness your grit. You know you are meeting the needs and deadlines of your team and clients. You know you are following your company’s flexible work policy guidelines as well as your own personal flex plan. And, you know the quality of your work has not diminished at all (in fact it may have improved.)

Most of these hurdles and biases should be temporary bumps in the road. Activate your “big-picture,” growth mindset and remind yourself that working flexibly is actually better for you and your organization because it’s helping ensure a longer, more steadfast relationship.

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Once You’ve Defined Your Success, It’s Time to Own Your Value

This is the second in a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success™. Check back as we walk you through the seven steps that will guarantee your success while working flexibly: Define Your Success; Own Your ValueActivate Your Mindset; Create A Strong Personal Brand; Build Your Networks; Expand Your Ideas on Business Development; and Enhance Your Work-Life Control.

seven-strategies-for-flex-successYou’ve now clearly mapped out your plan for working flexibly and reaching your one, three, and five-year professional and personal goals. The second step in our Seven Strategies for Flex Success involves truly understanding what you bring to the table and then capitalizing on it. It’s all about self-reflection and self-esteem.

Over the years we’ve asked attorneys about their roads to flex success. “Even if you don’t feel confident, you have to exude confidence,” said one attorney. The best way to feel confident is by knowing your strengths and identifying what makes you unique. It’s important to find ways to incorporate these assets and skills into everything you do. This is the value-add that will make you a go-to resource for your internal and external clients, and it’s the lever to exercise greater choice, including flexibility in your schedule.

As one attorney working flex advised, “Differentiating yourself is critical if you’re hoping to take advantage of a flexible schedule. Once you earn the reputation as a hard worker who produces high quality work, people will want you on their team no matter what your schedule is.”

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The First Step to Ensuring Your Flex Success™ – Define Your Success

This is the first of a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success. Check back as we walk you through the seven steps that will guarantee your success while working flexibly: Define Your SuccessOwn Your ValueActivate Your Mindset; Create A Strong Personal BrandBuild Your Networks; Expand Your Ideas on Business Development; and Enhance Your Work-Life Control.

seven-strategies-for-flex-successOnce you’ve decided that a flexible schedule is right for you, you need to be able to envision your future plans. As you define your successful, flexible career path you should clearly map out your one, three, and five-year vision. That vision should include what you want personally and professionally and how the two can mesh to define success on your own terms.

Once you are clear on your own goals you can begin to envision your long and short-term plans for your career, your lifestyle, and your family. You’ll also need to think through potential opportunities and obstacles and clearly map out financial and professional development needs. Do you want to be home with your children for an extended leave? Can you afford to work part-time? Do you want to take a sabbatical? Do you have childcare options? Your flexible work plan can then be mapped out to support your aspirations. You’ll be much better able to negotiate the needs of your firm once you have a clear sense of your personal needs.

Over the years we’ve asked countless professionals working flexible schedules about their initial planning stages. Here are some of their words of wisdom…

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Asking for Flex: It’s a Business Negotiation Not a Personal Favor

Note: This post was first published on May 21, 2016 on Mindful Return‘s blog. Mindful Return helps women transition back to work after maternity leave. We are grateful to Lori Mihalich-Levin for asking us to write a guest blog post!

If you are considering asking your company for a flexible work schedule, it’s important to approach it as you would any other business negotiation.  Your reasons for asking for flex might be personal, but you’re not asking for a personal favor.  You are asking for a modification to your schedule that would ultimately benefit everyone – you, the company, the clients, and future business relationships.  Just like preparing for an important meeting, case or new business pitch, providing the rationale for a flexible work schedule takes research, strategic planning, and negotiation.

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