The Problem with Short-Time Working

I suppose I always knew this day would come, I just didn’t realise quite how soon it would arrive. For those of you who know me or who follow my blog with any regularity (and rest assured, you are loved!) you’ll already know that I currently split my time between two jobs. There’s my “proper job” as a recruiter in the construction industry, and my “freelance job” consulting with a university on graduates and the buzz word of the day: Employability. This came about because my “proper job” had to put me on short-time working just under a year ago due to the recession. I held off looking for any other work for a long time in order to avoid the complications that have now arisen… Plus, you know, it was nice being a part-time lady of leisure for a while (albeit a poor one)! But here I am… Between a rock and a hard place.

Yesterday my “proper job” said that they’d like to increase my days from three a week to four a week. I am genuinely really pleased – though it’s partly due to the fact that another member of staff has left, it’s great that they’re in a position to ask me rather than letting the days go as “natural wastage,” and hopefully-maybe-possibly it means the beginning of the end and an eventual upturn in business for us. But I only started the university work a little over three months ago and I’m deep into it now. I sincerely doubt it could cope with just one day a week’s attention. In fact, I was only saying the other day that it could do with more really.

So here I am. Contractually the recruitment job can ask me back at any time, however I did ask permission before taking on the freelance work and it’s not fair to just walk out on the university. But what to do?! My recruitment job can still only offer four days a week and is still not as secure as it once was. But the freelance work, while guaranteed for another two months (and possibly to be extended a further six on top of that) is still freelance and is not really any more secure itself.

The university were kind enough to take me on on very flexible terms due to my situation and I enjoy the work – it’s a new, interesting challenge for me and really good for my professional development. I don’t want to burn my bridges with them. But, likewise, my employer has been flexible about my getting another role and has kept me on where others have fallen by the wayside. I love the company and everything they stand for. And I don’t want to burn my bridges with them either!

So what to do… Until I can speak to the university later in the week I don’t really know where they stand on the issue but, presuming they’d still like my services for two days a week, I’m not really sure where that leaves me. The worst thing is that I don’t even know what I want really. I like both jobs. A lot. And I like working for both companies. And I actually enjoy splitting my week in two, too!

I always knew this day would come. I knew that taking on a second job would ultimately end up complicating things and it was for exactly this reason that I shied away from finding one sooner. But in the end I didn’t really have a choice. And now I have to lay my cards out on the table for all to see, and see where the tide takes me…


8 Responses to “The Problem with Short-Time Working”

  1. 1 michellefischer February 3, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Ouch. My heart goes out to you Wendy. What a dilemma!

    Taking my career coaching hat off as from what you’ve written I think you’re already sure in your gut of what you want to do here and are looking for a bit of reassurance.

    Either way, you should know you’re utterly brilliant at what you do and there will be opportunities whatever you decide.

    Give me a call (07786 622344) for a chat if you want to.

    Some decisions happen without us realising.

    • 2 Wendy February 9, 2010 at 11:32 am

      Thanks Michelle! It’s so funny – I woke up the morning after writing this, read your comments and thought – she’s right! I do know what I want!

      Of course, what we want and what we get are not always aligned, but it’s nice to at least be clear about what I want now.

      Thanks for your support!

      -W x

  2. 3 Alconcalcia February 4, 2010 at 11:32 am

    If it were me I would probably tell the recruitment firm very politely that you appreciate their offer of the extra day but it was because of a downturn in work that you went and found yourself the two day university role and you feel it’s only fair to see out the rest of that contract, which runs for another two to six months. After all. you’ve been resourceful enough to find the other work and can;t be expected to just drop it overnight. Good luck!

    • 4 Wendy February 9, 2010 at 11:34 am

      I’m inclined to agree with you Alasdair, however my university work is at a bit of a crossroads at the moment so i think they really need to decide where (if anywhere) they want me to go next with the work too. Obviously I committed to them for six months, but it’s always been a very flexible arrangement (both ways) so if they decide they no longer need me or would like my focus elsewhere then I’d sooner know before making a decision!

      Thanks for your comments!

  3. 5 Paul February 4, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    mmm, dilema, I’m going to leave my work/practical/mr fixit head on, yes I have three heads in one, a bit like those coloured pens you had as a child. Anyway I digress.
    So, IF you had to make a choice, and as yet you don’t, which way would you LIKE your career to go, at this point take money out of the equation and lets do the heart thing…
    Consider the role, the opportunity and the satisfaction.
    (Crikey its easier to say this rather than write but hey ho,) so after much soul searching you probably have an IDEAL.
    From this point you have to bring in the practicalities, Money, career, hours and then satisfaction this will give you a Head decision.
    Are they the same – If yes then whoopy do, If not, and its unlikely they will be, you need to decide on a plan of action.
    Ask yourself – will your recruitment employer mind if you turn down the extra day If they don’t – no problem.
    If they do? can you add an hour to the three days you do? saturday morning, evening calls, sure you do anyway but just meandering.
    Once you have established what you would LIKE, and then what your employers need, you are able to find a balance. I have cramp, be happy to discuss over the telephone as I’m not sure how helpful this will be when read out loud!!

    • 6 Wendy February 9, 2010 at 11:38 am

      You’re so right, Paul – it’s about deciding what I want and then deciding what’s practical! I know what I want now, however I’m still unclear about exactly what both parties need from me, so I’m on a two week rain check while the university review the situation at their end.

      Thankfully I have excellent relationships with both employers so I think that, as long as I’m open and honest with them, we should be able to work something amicable out.

      Thanks for your comments – your Mr Fixit head really is very useful, you know… You have a fantastically logical approach to problems! 🙂

  4. 7 Jane C Woods February 9, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    Well, it is a nice problem to have. Two employers want you!
    When I was counselling (many moons ago in something totally unrelated to careers but health) one of my first questions was to ask people to get in touch with their immediate instinctive reaction before the practical sensible head kicks in.

    Do you have a JD for each role? Maybe a little exercise looking at what each has given you in terms of satifsfaction, personal and professional growth,career development etc? Also, where do either fit with your longer term aims and aspirations?
    You’ll make the right decision for you; meanwhile enjoy the fact that both want you! Brilliant woman!

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About Me

Over ten years’ recruitment, employability, HR and sales experience in both the private and public sectors. I've worked in construction recruitment, FMCG headhunting, and in higher education on the employability agenda.

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