Posts

Our 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.

For May 2019, we are pleased to share insights from Teresa Reuter, AssociateSidley Austin LLP (Chicago, IL)

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your career? How has the firm supported this?

TR: After graduating from law school in 2009, I clerked for a year in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and then joined a large law firm in Atlanta. In 2013 my husband’s job took us to the Midwest at which point I joined Sidley as a lateral in its Chicago office. I worked full time until I came back from maternity leave in April 2017. Since then, I’ve been working a 90% reduced hours schedule.

With the addition to our family, I knew I needed to make adjustments to my schedule. I wanted to be fully engaged with work and also have some “give” with my hours to adjust to life with our newborn and a husband who travels for work. My reduced hours gives me that balance. Sidley guaranteed me the option to work a reduced hours schedule upon returning from leave, but I still was nervous to ask for it. Without any hesitation, my practice group leader and Sidley fully supported my request, and I’ve been working reduced hours ever since. I come into the office every day, and I have the flexibility to take care of work and personal matters as they’re scheduled or occur. With my reduced hours, I adjust my schedule to the changing demands of life. For instance, ever since transitioning my son to a daycare, I leave at 5 pm a few days a week to pick him up.

The 10% reduction in billable hours may not seem like a lot, but it has been tremendously helpful in allowing me to meet work and life demands as they arise. I have less pressure to bill and more time to spend with my family and on business development matters. Flex will continue to be a priority for my career, especially starting this summer as we are relocated to Munich, Germany for one year. I’ll be working out of the firm’s Munich office and will further reduce my schedule to 60% – 70% of billable hours.

Sidley has been incredibly supportive of my career and personal development, and that support has manifested in different ways over the years. I transitioned from having more flexibility at home with an in-home caretaker to a more regulated schedule once my son started day care – it was a harder transition than I thought it would be. When discussing some of these issues with a senior partner in my group, she encouraged me to take the time I needed and to let people know I had to leave the office by a certain time to make the transition work. We all have different commitments outside of work, and I have come to learn that it’s important to communicate openly about these matters. The idea is: you’re a professional, we trust your judgment to stand by your clients, the firm, and your family, and you can make your own decisions. That’s not to say that when there’s an emergency you’re not available; you adjust accordingly, and the firm trusts that you are capable of managing this effectively.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable and contributed to your overall internal and external development? How have clients supported your flex journey?

TR: Becoming a parent changes your life in so many ways. I wouldn’t be a good parent and a good attorney without flex, especially with a partner who travels often for work. Flex is a necessity, and it’s helped to make my career sustainable. The 10% fewer billable hours not only gives me the breathing room I need to take care of my family life, it also gives me the room to attend work events and be more present in the legal community. It’s easy to tell people they have to “be out there and get to know people” for development purposes, but it’s a lot harder to do when you’re thinking about it on top of meeting your billable hours.

I see more clients and attorneys talking openly about flexibility and alternative schedules. I work with several women lawyers, and our use of flex is a bonding point. It’s a great feeling to know you can meet your work and personal demands by being open and effective communicators. Clients and opposing counsel will say, “I’m not in the office this day,” or “I have to leave by 3:00 p.m. to pick up my kids,” – the more we talk about flexibility, the more it will become part of the norm.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self?

TR: Before I started working reduced hours, I was too hesitant in communicating openly about deadlines and expectations; instead, I assumed everything was urgent. I also would let everyone know I was still available and reachable when I was out of the office, even if that wasn’t feasible. If I could talk to my former self, I would say that it’s OK to be on vacation; my co-workers could cover for me, and it is OK to take time to recoup and recover. It’s better for me and for the firm. Now I try to take my own advice and untether on vacation and be respectful of others who are out of the office. I want more junior associates to know it’s OK to set boundaries and to stick to them!

I would do less assuming and more communicating – not everything needs a response right away. Be more forthright with asking, “When do you need this by?” I see more junior associates doing this (and doing it well), and I wish I had done that too.

DFA: What do you do to recharge? How do you pay it forward?

TR: To recharge I try to meditate every day for at least 10 minutes; it helps me reset and keep focus. My husband and I also are avid travelers; in the past year we’ve gone scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands, on safari to see lowland gorillas, and forest elephants in Gabon. These trips require us to unplug and enjoy the world’s natural wonders.

Paying it forward, I try to be more cognizant that not everyone is working when I work. When I log in at night and send emails, I try to put them on auto-delay so people don’t feel the pressure to respond if it’s not a true emergency. It’s small things like this that encourage and train us to be better communicators and relieve some of the pressure we feel from our jobs.

 

In this article, our President & CEO, Manar Morales sums up her advice on achieving Flex Success®. It’s not too late to register for our Flex Success Institute, which provides detailed and personalized advice on successfully navigating your flexible schedule.

Over the years, I’ve counseled countless professionals on how to successfully transition to and manage a flexible schedule while maintaining a strong career path. While many professionals can’t imagine cutting back their hours in the office without jeopardizing their careers, I can attest that with the right strategies in place, anyone can achieve Flex Success®.

At the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance, we have developed our Seven Strategies for Flex Success® to help professionals working a flexible schedule to overcome challenges, seize opportunities and advance their careers.

Define What Success Means to You

The first step to ensuring that you will be successful while working a flexible schedule is to envision your future plans and define what success means to you. Take the time to clearly map out your one, three, and five-year vision for your personal life as well as your professional life. Include financial and professional development obstacles and needs, as well as personal goals.

Identify What Makes You Special

The second step is to identify what you bring to the table and then capitalize on it. It’s all about self-reflection and self-esteem. The best way to feel confident is to know your strengths and identify what makes you unique. By developing an area of expertise that’s in demand, you make yourself uniquely valuable to your firm or corporation, regardless of your schedule.

Read more

This is the last in our series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success®. We’ve covered Defining Your SuccessOwning Your ValueActivating your Mindset and GritCreating Your BrandBuilding Your Network and Expanding Your Business Development Efforts.  Finally it’s time to focus on enhancing your work life control and making sure your life in the office functions along side your life outside the office. To learn more about successfully navigating your flexible schedule and maximizing your career potential, register for our virtual Flex Success® Institute.

The first six strategies in our Seven Strategies for Flex Success® focus on getting your day to day flexible schedule in order to set yourself up for success in your career. It’s essential to acknowledge that this is not possible unless you can also find success and happiness outside of your career.

When launching a project at the office there are certain steps you take to ensure all responsibilities are assigned and all goals will be met. You negotiate and decide to which responsibilities you can add high impact and high value and which responsibilities you can delegate to others. You clearly articulate what is expected of your team and you make sure that your commitments are met. Ultimately you know that you can’t and shouldn’t do it all alone.

Read more

This is the sixth in a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success®. We’ve covered Defining Your SuccessOwning Your ValueActivating your Mindset and GritCreating Your Brand and Building Your Network.  Next it’s important to expand your business development efforts. To learn more about successfully navigating your flexible schedule and maximizing your career potential, register for our virtual Flex Success® Institute.

No matter what industry you’re in, it’s always a good idea to stay one step ahead of your business, your clients, your customers or your marketplace. You always want to be thinking about tomorrow and where your career is headed and where your income is coming from. While you might approach business development in a slightly different manner in light of your flexible schedule, it’s still imperative that you dedicate time to business development and to generating your future revenue.

The sixth strategy in our Seven Strategies for Flex Success® is Expand Your Business Development. Whether you’re working with clients or reporting to internal supervisors, make sure you’re demonstrating a deep understanding of their needs, business realities and serving as a trusted advisor to help them accomplish their current and future goals. To help you build future clients, projects and customers, you should turn to the network of colleagues, mentors, sponsors and former classmates that you built in the Fifth Strategy. This network can help you expand your reach and enhance your ideas on business development, key elements to creating more autonomy in your career and ultimately greater work-life control.

You may be concerned about investing time in business development when you’re working a reduced hours schedule and therefore already have less time for work. However, many professionals working a reduced hours schedule have told us that their flexible schedule has allowed them to excel at business development and, in fact, has become integral to their career success. It’s important to incorporate time into your flex schedule for business development as well as for activities that will raise your personal profile such as speaking engagements, publishing articles and papers and networking.

Read more

This is the fifth in a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success®. We’ve covered Defining Your SuccessOwning Your Value, Activating your Mindset and Grit, Creating Your Brand and now it’s time to build your network. To learn more about successfully navigating your flexible schedule and maximizing your career potential, register for our virtual Flex Success® Institute.

Most 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’s 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.

Read more

This is the fourth in a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies foFlex Success®. To learn more, register for our 2019 Flex Success® Institute, a five-part virtual professional development program for professionals working a flexible schedule. 

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.

Read more

This is the third in a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success®. We’ve covered Defining Your Success and Owning Your Value, now it’s time to activate your mindset and grit to overcome any flex bias you may encounter. Register for our online Flex Success® Institute to learn more detailed steps to successfully navigate your flexible schedule and maximize your career potential.

We’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/or 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. Read more

This is the second in a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success®. To learn more, register today for our 2019 Flex Success® Institute, a five-part, virtual professional development program for mid-level professionals working a flexible schedule. Program begins April 2, 2019.

In the first of the seven steps, you developed your definition of success by mapping out 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 professionals about their roads to flex success. “Even if you don’t feel confident, you have to exude confidence,” said one executive. 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 colleagues, supervisors and clients, and it’s the lever that provides you with greater choice, including flexibility in your schedule.

As one professional 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.” Read more

This is the first of a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success®. To learn more, register today for our 2019 Flex Success® Institute, a five-part, virtual professional development program for mid-level professionals working a holistic flex or reduced hours schedule. Program begins April 2, 2019.

The first step to ensuring that you will be successful while working a flexible schedule is to define what success means to you.

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 employer 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… Read more

Our 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.

For January 2019, we are pleased to share insights from Molly Senger, Of Counsel, Gibson Dunn (Washington, DC).

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your career? How has the firm supported this?

Molly Senger: I came to Gibson Dunn in 2011 as a third year associate after I completed a clerkship with the Honorable John D. Bates at the US District Court for the District of Columbia. I started full time, but after I had my son in January 2016, I came back from maternity leave to a 70% reduced hours schedule. The only formalized aspect of my flex schedule is my reduced hours target; what I’ve learned is you have to be flexible with your time and each day is different. I’m generally in the office every day, but my hours vary depending on what’s happening in the matters I’m working on at the time. I’ve had months in which I’ve had an arbitration and far exceeded full-time hours. But I’ve also had months in which my matters have been relatively quiet, and I’ve been able to take advantage of my flex schedule.

One thing I try to keep in mind with my flex schedule is something one of my mentors told me; “it’s unlikely you’ll find a perfect balance every day, but if you strive for it, you can find the balance you want over the long-term.” Once I started working flex, I made it a priority to be more comfortable saying “no.” I enjoy my work and give 110% to all my matters, and I want to say “yes” to a lot of things. But having been in the position of saying “yes” to too many things, I’ve learned to get over the guilt of saying “no” and figure out the right balance of what I can handle at work while also having time for family, friends, and everything else in life.

Thankfully, Gibson Dunn provides a supportive and easy learning environment for flex. I can change my reduced hours percentage at any time, and the firm does an annual true-up when I exceed my agreed-upon hours. More importantly, my colleagues and the partners I work with have helped me become more comfortable finding the right balance for me. When a partner comes to me with a new matter that I’d love to help with but I’m stretched too thin, I’m upfront about my reasons for saying “no.” I remind them to ask me again when the next new matter arises, and they do! Learning that partners understand and trust the reasons behind your “no” – and that they will come to you again – has made the process of saying “no” much easier.

Read more