Working Part-Time and Being Successful

As a working mom with an accounting career, you know a lot about hard work and trying to balance your career with your family.  Sometimes it can seem like it’s just not possible to do it all and especially to do it successfully.

There may come a point where you want to consider working a reduced schedule but aren’t sure how it will affect your career.  You want to be successful in your career but you also want to be happy in other areas of your life.  You begin to question whether working part-time and being successful is possible.

In an article titled “5 Habits of Highly Successful Part-Time Professionals” the author describes helpful tips like being organized, staying connecting, using your voice, etc.

What articles like this don’t discuss is the idea of what success actually means and how to add value to your job in a way that makes working part-time a win/win for both you and your company.

This week I’m going to discuss what success means to you, how to add value as a part-time employee and my own journey with being successful and working part-time throughout my career.

What success means to you

When you look up the definition of success, it’s described as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.  We often equate success and happiness as the same thing, but how many super successful people do you know or have heard of who aren’t happy?  In your accounting career you may have personally come in contact with high net worth individuals who are very successful yet very unhappy.

You may believe you want to be successful but I encourage you to ask how you will know when you have achieved success if you haven’t defined your aim or purpose like the definition above.  If you aren’t the one defining what success means to you, who is?

You may work for a company that has career objectives mapped out therefore the achievement of each level in the organization gives you a level of success under the company’s definition.  Often having things laid out in a clear path seems like a sure fire way to achieve success.

However as a working mother, I want to encourage you to consider defining success on your own terms rather than just on your career’s terms.  Whether you already work part-time or are considering the shift to part-time work, you should start to define success for yourself rather than try to fit into someone else’s definition.

Some interesting research led me to an article about the world’s most financially successful people and how they have vastly different definitions of success:

  • Founder of Virgin Atlantic, Sir Richard Branson, equates success with personal fulfillment
  • Huffington Post owner, Arianna Huffington, adds that well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving are her measures of success
  • Billionaire investor, Mark Cuban, says that waking up in the morning with a smile on your face no matter how much money you have is his definition of success
  • The iconic Warren Buffet describes success by how many people love him
  • Acclaimed poet, Maya Angelou, said that success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it

They had all achieved a level of financial success but none of them mentioned finances in their definitions.  What all of these super successful people have in common is that their definition all came down to their thoughts about intangible things other than finances.

These thoughts fueled their achievement of success, laying the foundation for their tangible financial and career achievements.  Notice how not one person defined success by the number of hours they worked!  I would not be considered financially abundant in terms of society’s view yet I consider myself hugely successful because my definition has never had anything to do with my bank account.

In order to determine if you’ve achieved success, you need to decide what you are aiming for.  You need to know what your goal is in order to determine if you have successfully achieved it.  In the Manage Your Mind Model that I use to coach my clients, success can be a feeling or a result.  Either way, it’s within your control.

So now it’s your turn to create your own definition of success.  Your definition could include:

  • Raising independent children
  • Being able to be a Girl Scout Leader for your daughter’s troop
  • Driving a certain car
  • Not hitting your children like your parents did when you were growing up
  • Being able to get out the door in the morning with very little drama
  • Having your own office
  • Being present to read bed time stories

I encourage you to take some time defining success for yourself and make sure you like your definition.  Remember, how you feel will fuel the actions you take to reach your goal.

Also make sure you take a look at your definition every year or so because the different stages of your life and your children’s lives will factor into redefining success for you.  My definition of success when my career and my children were young is much different than my definition of success now based on my changing desires.

No matter what factors play a role in your definition of success, just know that you are in control of what success means in your career and in your life whether you work full-time, part-time or flex-time.

Adding value

When a company is deciding whether to allow an employee to work part-time, it makes sense that the question they would ask from their point of view is “What’s in it for us?”  It would make sense for them to consider certain factors in making their decision.

You should also be asking yourself “What’s in it for them and for me?” as well in order to have a clear understanding of how your part-time position will be adding value to the company as well as to yourself.  By being clear about the added value you will provide, you will be able to determine if it will be a good choice for everyone.

Adding value to your own life could include:

  • You would have more time with the family
  • Having less money means being more mindful of spending
  • Creating more balance in your relationships
  • Having the opportunity to do other things

Adding value to your company could include:

  • Greater productivity within a shorter amount of time due to the necessity of better time management
  • Having a heightened level of focus while you are at the office
  • With a reduced stress level, you will bring that positive attitude to the office
  • Bringing continuity to your clients by staying on their account
  • Providing consistent client care by being flexible with answering client emails even when not at work
  • Allocating work to make the most out of your time at the office

Remember that you are an asset of the company you work for and as an asset you are being paid for the value you provide, not the time you spend.  The greater the value, the happier your company will be to have you work any amount of hours.

Having an understanding of how a reduced work schedule will add value to your life, to your company’s business, having a clear plan and communicating this to management will confirm that you are a valued employee who is truly an asset to the firm.

My successful part-time story

My accounting career began at Deloitte in the late 1980’s before flexible schedules were main stream.  After having my daughter in 1992 I knew that I didn’t want to work full time but didn’t know what my options were.  I was planning on not returning after my maternity leave but the partner in charge of the tax department had another plan.

He explained that he didn’t want to lose me and that he valued me tremendously.  He wanted to know what kind of schedule I wanted.  I was shocked to say the least!  I explained that I wanted to work 3 days a week.  He said “Done”.  I asked how that was possible and he explained that anything was possible in his mind.

An interesting thing happened when I started working part-time.  My male coworkers would sarcastically say things like “Working a half day?” when I would leave at 5:30 pm to pick up my daughter from the babysitter.   I knew I worked very hard and was extremely productive while I was there from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm yet the perception that I wasn’t a hard worker bothered me.

So I spoke to the partner who created the position for me.  I said “I’m getting some sarcasm from the guys about leaving at 5:30 pm and ‘working a half a day’.  You do realize I do more in 8 hours, 3 days a week than they do 40 hours a week right?’  He said “Of course I do.  Why do you think I created the position for you?  You know how to focus your energy when you are here.  Ignore them.”

That stuck with me throughout my accounting career.  I do know how to make the most out of the time I’m at work which translates to me being very valuable; I know how to be so hyper focused that I get more done than almost anyone working more hours than me; I know how to be indispensable to the partners in any firm I’ve worked for; I know how to be successful no matter how many hours I clock.

So no matter what career path you choose, just know that you are responsible for creating your own definition of success, that you create value at work and at home no matter how many hours you punch in and that anything is possible when you decide it is.


  • If you aren’t the one defining what success means to you, who is?
  • Notice how not one financially successful person in the list above defined success by the number of hours they worked!
  • By being clear about the added value you will provide, you will be able to determine if it will be a good choice for everyone.
  • Remember that you are an asset of the company you work for and as an asset you are being paid for the value you provide, not the time you spend.
  • My career success working part-time has made it possible for me to live a balanced life with no regret

This article was originally featured on If you’d like some help exploring the choice to work part-time, please feel free to schedule a free mini session or email Dawn Goldberg at

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