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The pros and cons of flexible jobs

Sixty percent of Americans are completely satisfied with the level of flexibility that their jobs offer, and another 26 percent are somewhat satisfied, according to Gallup. But if you're in the group that isn't happy, you're probably looking for something better. It may seem impossible to be able to find something that both pays the bills and allows you to be home in time to greet the school bus, but it's not. Those jobs are out there.

If you're searching for increased flexibility, telecommuting, or a part time position, the first thing you need to do is step away from the ads that proclaim, "Make $8,000 a month working from home!" Jobs that pay those types of salaries are available at home, but they don't advertise like that. They focus on the knowledge and skills needed to do the job. Anything that doesn't focus on that is most likely a scam.

Also, don't think that only bad or low level jobs are available on a part time or flexible basis. Remember, that 86 percent of your fellow workers are at least mostly satisfied with their level of flexibility, so there are jobs available that suit your lifestyle. For instance, just came out with a list of the 100 Most Surprising Flexible Jobs. These are real jobs, requiring real skills. Here are 10 of those jobs -- all of which were posted in the past 2 weeks:

  • Captioning Assistant
  • Senior Spacecraft Mechanical Engineer
  • Zookeeper
  • Ecologist
  • Senior Director, Biostatistics
  • Vet Assistant / Customer Assistant
  • Director of Education
  • Dance School Accreditation Specialist
  • Interview/Match Support Specialist
  • Chief Technology Strategist

These are the types of flexible jobs that are careers. If you need more flexibility, you should go for it. However, keep in mind, there are some drawbacks to flexible schedules, telecommuting, and part time jobs. Here are the drawbacks.

Telecommuting drawbacks. Even if the job is advertised as telecommuting, if your coworkers are in the same office as your boss, you may have to work harder than they do, just for the same level of recognition. Bosses often reward "face time" even if they don't mean to. And, it's easier for them to bounce ideas off someone that they pass in the hall than it is to make a phone call or even send an instant message. While it's certainly convenient to have your office in your home, it's also a drawback to have your home be your office. For some people, it can be difficult to separate out their work life and their home life when they are all smushed together.

Flexibility drawbacks. If you're a night owl, not having to come in to work until 10:30 may be a dream come true, but do so at your own peril. Many managers see early birds as harder workers than their late arriving co-workers. Additionally, if you are the early bird and come in at 6:00 a.m. so you can be home to meet the kids' school bus at 3:00, your coworkers may resent how "little" you work. Both situations can be managed, but it takes work.

Part-time drawbacks. Pay, of course, tends to be part time with part time work, which makes sense, but is definitely a drawback. Additionally, no matter how hard you work, you work less than your full time counterparts, which means you're likely to get passed over for promotions and projects. Don't expect to be made partner on the same schedule as your full time colleagues. You also need to be wary of the manager that wants to hire you for "part time" work, but expects you to put in full time or close to full time hours -- without a raise in pay. If you're legally exempt, your boss can legally require you to work more hours, but make sure that you're not tricked into a 20 hour a week salary with a 40 hour a week schedule.

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