How to upcycle your job

Anna Meller says you don’t need to discard your career. You can upcycle it instead.

Upcycle Career


The introduction of gender pay gap reporting confirmed what many of us had known for years. The majority of women working in the business world are stuck in lower level jobs. Supporting women’s career progression is a complex matter; but in my experience (and confirmed by the Modern Families Index for two years running) one of the key barriers is the work-life balance challenge.

Over the last few years the spotlight has (quite rightly) been on supporting working fathers. But the reality is that it’s still more often than not mothers who compromise their careers in the search for flexible working.

Even those fortunate enough to find a managerial role that offers flexibility continue to face challenges. Employers rarely offer advice on how a full-time job can be worked on a three- or four-day basis. And mobile technology means we run the risk of not being able to disconnect from work even when we’re not there. We’re tempted to show how committed we are to our careers by responding to colleagues’ emails and texts out of working hours.

Beyond job re-design

These are some of the reasons that led me to write my book #Upcycle Your Job: The smart way to balance family life and career.

If we can upcycle clothing and furniture to better fit our 21 st century lifestyles, why not do the same with our jobs? The idea is to go beyond simply redesigning working practices for flexibility and create jobs that are both more productive and support better work-life balance.

In an ideal world the majority of employers would embrace the idea of upcycling jobs, given they will face a degree of restructuring anyway as the impact of Artificial Intelligence increases. But even without employer participation the idea is that my reader can upcycle her own job. The book is built around a six-step process that starts with identifying work-life balance preferences. Thirty years of research has shown how personal these are; and probably explains why we often struggle to follow role models whose preferences may differ from our own.

I deliberately put finding better work-life balance at the core of the process since I know from personal experience over many years that this is the issue with which working mothers struggle the most. Once my reader understands her work-life balance needs she can turn her attention to negotiating a suitable flexible working arrangement.

I also invite my reader to identify (and where necessary enhance) the key skills she will need to work her balanced arrangement successfully; and I offer practical insights from positive psychology into how to go about negotiating flexible working.

I know that many working mothers struggle to keep a foothold on the career ladder. They often feel they have no alternative but to downshift; which is a costly decision both for them and for the business world which so desperately needs their expertise.

I’m hoping the academic evidence and practical tools in my book will encourage mothers to reconsider and upcycle their jobs rather than discarding hard-won careers.

*The book is now available on Amazon. And I’ve also set up a Job #Upcycling Community for people wanting to explore ways of upcycling their job. Please join us and let’s talk about how we can upcycle 20th century jobs to fit 21st century lifestyles.

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