With the New Year in full swing, many folks have been evaluating their goals and priorities, and for some this includes securing a flexible work arrangement to better fit with their lives. Perhaps you are in the same situation and are more eager than ever to get moving on this goal. But before you dive into your search for such a job, there are a few initial steps to take to set up a solid foundation and lay the path for a successful outcome.

Step 1: Decide what you want in a flexible work arrangement.

The first step in this process of pursuing flexible work is to become very clear on why you want a flexible work arrangement, what that arrangement looks like (e.g., part-time, work from home, a combination of options), and how it integrates with your overall career goals and other life values. You may also want to reflect on your skills, interests, and personality traits, and how these fit with the work you would like to do.

Taking time for this initial step will help you to feel more confident in knowing what you want, assist you in sorting out Step 2, and allow you to better evaluate opportunities as they arise. One helpful exercise that will get you started on this step involves describing your ideal week. What would it look like? How would you spend your time? Where would you be? Write out your answers in detail and look for patterns and insightful clues.

Step 2: Consider whether your current career can be flexible.

The second step in this process is to consider and evaluate your current career field. Are you satisfied with your work? How prevalent are flexible jobs in your field? As you investigate the answers to these questions, you will become more aware of the opportunities in your industry and the career path you want to take.

For example, some individuals realize at this point that they would like to change careers altogether, not only for flexibility but for other reasons as well. Keep in mind that there are alternative arrangements in just about every field.  However, some career paths will naturally offer more flexible job possibilities than others due to the demand of the work, the culture of the field, and the general tasks involved. If you are not sure where to find such information, start by checking out the FlexJobs Quarterly Flexible Jobs Trend Report, which portrays the number of flexible jobs across numerous career fields.

Step 3: Review all your flexible work options.

Once you are aware of your needs and desires as well as your intended career direction, the third step is to review the main paths to flexible work and determine which ones are best for you to pursue at this time.

The three main sources of flexible jobs include:

  1. your current employer by proposing an alternative arrangement;
  2. a new employer by seeking out a flexible position;
  3. opportunities that you create by starting a business or pursuing freelance jobs.

Consider the benefits and drawbacks of each option. Many people immediately dismiss the possibility of approaching their current employers, but before you do so, take some time to research the company and figure out what is already in place. Are other employees working alternative arrangements successfully? Do you have anything to lose by asking?

The second option, finding a new job and employer, allows you to enter into a situation that is already set up with flexibility, which is typically the most secure path one can pursue. Websites listing flexible job postings, such as FlexJobs and MomCorps, also make it easier these days to find such opportunities.

Finally, starting your own business or becoming an “independent contractor” or freelancer can offer a great deal of flexibility and control as your own boss. However, keep in mind the drawbacks of such endeavors, such as increased risk, your personality fit with working on your own, and the loss of benefits.

Put it all together.

Once you have completed these initial preparation steps of becoming clear on what you want and need, evaluating your current career field and situation, and determining the best path to flexible work for you, you will feel more confident and assured of your direction in seeking alternative arrangements. You are now ready to embark on this journey and make your 2014 dreams come true!

photo credit: thinkstockphotos.com