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Finding a Job That Has Fewer Work Hours Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit

Dear Mark:

I worked in sales at the same company for 19 years earning an average of $115,000/year the last six years. I want a less stress job which earns about $50K, since I need to have more time with the kids. How do I convince an employer that I will be happy at lower pay and less stressful environment, without telling them my issues at home?

-- Martha O., Montreal, Quebec
Dear Martha,

Isn't it such a shame that we live in a world where even top notch employees, with a track record of adding value, feel that they must apologize for wanting to have a life outside of work?

The issue you're bringing to light here applies to employees of all ages and genders. You would think that once you've proven yourself and are competent in your field, you could start to pick and choose the assignments you take on, and how much life balance you incorporate into your work week.

Thank goodness there are options. For instance, there are plenty of companies who offer flexible hours and telecommuting policies. In the former, employees are able to shift their work hours around to some degree in order to take into account outside commitments. As for the latter, this is where employees work from home for either the full week or a portion thereof.

Even if you're already in a job and want to cut back without quitting, there are alternatives to explore. In your own case, Martha, had you considered asking your most recent employer if they would accommodate you in one, or both, of the above mentioned ways? And if they weren't able to, perhaps you might have requested scaling back to less than full-time, for instance three days a week (or maybe mornings or afternoons only). This might have involved some heavy-duty juggling at first. And you could likely expect to have your pay pro-rated accordingly (e.g. if you work four days a week, you might earn 80% of a full-timer's salary).

Another way to have reduced your hours is to ask for a step downward in terms of job responsibilities. Maybe some up and coming, super hungry co-worker would have happily taken a few of your existing accounts off your hands, leaving you to focus on your established client relationships that take less time to nurture.

Mind you, revealing to an employer that you want to step off the fast track after you've set expectations otherwise comes with built-in risks. So you would have had to be prepared to find another job if they'd refused your requests.

As for your next employer, given your strong sales history and assuming you have decent references, there are plenty of other places who might be glad to have you on the terms you've described. No need to mention particulars when interviewing, other than to say that you are devoted to your work, and will continue to be so - only now you want to spend the other 50% of your week with your children. There are enough enlightened firms out there that you should ultimately be able to find a place for yourself

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