A few months ago, there was a lot of discussion in the news about moms who had opted out of the workforce ten years ago. They now wanted to opt back in, but the doors weren’t opening as easily as expected. I am one of those moms. No, I wasn’t one of the moms written about in the articles, but it is still my story. And I’m living proof that flexible work is the way to opt back in.

I went to a highly-regarded women’s college in Boston, where I not only honed the leadership qualities and skills I would need for my career, I also developed the belief that I was the only one responsible for making my own living. I couldn’t ever imagine relying on someone else for an income. So it came as quite a surprise when, 12 years later, my husband and I had our first baby, and I realized I wanted to be the one to take care of her on a daily basis. Opting out of the workforce went against everything I had believed up until then, but when faced with having to make the decision, I had no doubt about it.

There were so many other reasons I decided to opt out, and it’s not a decision I made easily. But I believed wholeheartedly that I would be back in the workforce within a year or two. Once my daughter was walking and talking (back), and ready for some socialization, I knew I would head back into the workforce. Not in a million years did I ever think it would actually be TEN YEARS later.

When I opted back in a year ago, I hadn’t even made the conscious decision to do so yet. An amazing opportunity came up for me that was a part-time, work-from-home position with a company that I could easily say I believed in 100 percent. I didn’t think twice and leapt at the chance.

Many people think positions like these are few and far between, but I’m here to tell you that they exist. But before you dive back in, here are 3 tips for opting back in with flexible work:

1. Make sure the work is something you LOVE. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been out of the workforce. The transition back to work—and dealing with the added stressors in your life—will be so much easier if you enjoy your work. If you’re returning to the same career, but you’re planning to work a part-time schedule, you could zero in on the parts of your career that you loved and see if there’s more of a specialist position available. If you are looking for a new career entirely, now’s the time for you to go for the big dream.

Don’t settle. Take the necessary time and decide exactly what it is you want to do. Determine which skills you have that could transfer to a related position while you gain the new training or schooling you need. If you’ve always loved the idea of working for a non-profit organization, start with a really broad search of national nonprofits to see what kinds of jobs they have available. You might be surprised by what you find.

2. Decide what kind of flexible work options you want. Where and when you want to work is just as important as what you want to do. If you want to drop off and pick up your kids from school, then you’ll want to find a part-time job with hours you can work during the day while they’re at school. Or find a work-from-home job with flexible hours that allows you to take quick breaks for school runs. Freelance or temporary work might be best if you’re trying out a new career and want to make sure you like the work before committing to anything long-term.

Or if you want the option of finishing a project for one company and taking a break before starting another project. Seasonal positions are another option to consider. If you have always wanted to work outside, you could combine a winter position with a ski resort and a summer position as a park ranger. The options are limitless. It just takes a bit of introspection first to decide which type of flexible work is most important to you.

3. Consider the company you want to work for. There are companies out there who have proven time and time again that they support flexible work. There are also companies who haven’t yet come to terms with the changing world of work. Usually, if a company supports flexible work options, they are proud of it and state it on the benefits page of their corporate website at a minimum.

There are many organizations supporting 1 Million for Work Flexibility that go above & beyond offering flexible work—they are champions of flexible work. But there are many other organizations who don’t. There are no guarantees. Companies that have historically provided flexible work options could change their tune abruptly and yank the work-life balance carpet out from under your feet without a second thought. Do your research and find out if the companies’ values and practices seem aligned with your own. And help make flexibility the workplace norm by joining our movement.

Readers, what flexible work options would be best for your situation? Sound off in the comments!

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