Flexible working and the skills gap in 2018
I keep reading about a skills gap being a hamper to growth for businesses. There are without doubt talented people out there, but where are they? Well, many of them are balancing work, childcare and for some, care of elderly parents. I’m one of those people, the so-called sandwich generation, but I’m doing it in a different way and absolutely loving it.
This is my story.
I worked full-time as a Sales and Marketing Director for five years when my kids were very young. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my job, but I had this constant feeling of guilt. Guilty about never being able to pick the kids up from school, missing the occasional birthday because I had to be at a client meeting, picking the kids up from childminders and hearing second hand about their day. The guilt persisted at work – feeling bad for having to leave leadership meetings half an hour early to get back before the childminder shut, or having to leave when a sales proposal had to go (albeit I’d be working after the kids were in bed). Where did it all leave me? Exhausted and deeply unhappy with nothing left in the tank for family and friends. At the (ahem!) tender age of 41, I decided enough was enough.
So, like many before me, I set up on my own as a freelance marketer. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard work. But the difference is that I can do it around family. If I don’t get everything done in the day, I can work when the kids are in bed. This means I get to spend time with them, hear about their day, and still hit my client’s deadlines.
I love what I do, and I’ve worked hard to become CIM qualified and keep my skills up. Working as a freelancer allows me to keep my skills up to date and work on some fantastic marketing projects. But crucially, I get to decide how much work I take on and when I do it. For me, work-life balance isn’t necessarily about working less, but working on fulfilling projects, in a way that fits with family. I still work full-time hours, but the difference is that I can do school runs and be there for the important events in my children’s lives. I couldn’t go back to the old me!
But, there’s an untapped workforce out there who want to work flexibly but can’t find opportunities to do so. I chat with them at the school gates. There’s the Finance Director who’s doing a bit of bookkeeping because her employer wouldn’t accept her request for part-time working, there’s the Sales Director who had to resign because of all the travel required to do her job.
Imagine the impact people like this could have on businesses who are willing to embrace flexible working? So, is there a skills gap, or are the skills right under our noses?
Ciara Wood is a Freelance Marketing Consultant based in Devon. With over 18 years practical marketing experience gained in a range of companies, from large corporates to SMEs, she provides business to business marketing consultancy, campaign management and tactical support to help businesses achieve their goals through her company – CJW Marketing.