For current or returning professionals, a job search doesn’t require a degree in rocket science, but it does require a game plan, tenacity, and a strong commitment to keep at it in every possible way. If you don’t want to prolong your search unnecessarily, treat it with as much care, focus and professionalism as you would a paid project.

Your strategy starts by defining the criteria for your ideal flexible job:

Desirable locations. Given all your family responsibilities and how close you need to be to home, write down key locations where you’d be willing to work. Take into account likely travel routes and how long your commute could take during rush hours.  

Number of hours you can devote to work. Back into a number noting the earliest time you can leave your home in the morning, the latest time you could leave the office, and the likely commuting time. Even if you’re prepared to work a full-time schedule, don’t skip this exercise. You still have to determine if you need a very predictable 40-hour-a-week schedule or if you could find the time to work many more hours as long as your schedule is flexible. 

Type of flexwork. Knowing how many hours you can devote to work, what’s your ideal work structure? A flexible full-time job? A 30-hour part-time job that includes benefits? A part-time job with fewer than 30 hours? Occasional freelance work? An independent consulting practice? A job that includes partial or full work at home? 

Compensation. Decide how much money you need or want to earn each month. Consider these factors: 

  • Whether you file taxes jointly or separately, how much of your salary will be taxed, and roughly what you will clear
  • The cost of commuting
  • The cost of childcare or eldercare, if needed (weighed against the long-term cost of staying out of the workforce for any period of time)
  • The cost of additional household help, if needed. 

Size of company. For flexwork, you’re usually better off at a company that is not a huge corporation with tons of bureaucratic red tape. Managers at smaller companies often have more leeway to set their own rules. A small company situation might involve working for a “solopreneur,” working for a small startup, or working for a company that has up to 100 employees. 

Industries that interest you. Zero in on a maximum of three industries you’d like to research. During your research and networking phase, you might add and delete industries. Keep your focus fairly narrow to avoid research overload and confusion.

Job functions that fit your profile. Think about the job functions or titles that most likely fit your skills and experience. Again, keep it to a maximum of three if you’re interested in several industries. If you’re interested in only one industry, however, it’s not as difficult to research multiple job functions that might have overlapping responsibilities requiring similar experience and skill sets. 

The most successful job seekers have a clear game plan on Day 1 of their search. It’s not a plan that’s carved in stone—it will change over time as you gather more and more information during your networking research. But, for flexible work especially, your goal can’t just vaguely be “I just want to work in a flexible way”.