In my last post, “How to Tell Your Boss You’re Pregnant,” I addressed this common concern for pregnant women in the workforce. That spurred this related question from a reader: “How do I look for a job when I’m pregnant?” – the subject of this post.
It’s not an ideal situation, but due to circumstances — such as layoffs, pay cuts, a chance to jump a sinking ship — you may have to look for a job while pregnant. And while your impulse may be to do an immediate email blast of your resume, first take some time do to some strategic planning.
I had to conduct my own job search when I was pregnant, and it was daunting. I was upfront with the hiring manager, who probably wasn't sure whether I was pregnant or not. But it was a relief to get past the subject. I was offered the job at this large firm, on a contract basis. That worked for me in the short term and post-pregnancy there because I had more flexible hours and didn't know initially how much time I'd need post-pregnancy.
If you're facing this job search dilemma, there are some wise steps to take. First, consider the type of schedule you think you might want at work. Identify employers with a desirable maternity leave, prenatal, medical and daycare plan.
Before you launch your search, consider what might be the perfect fit for you and your baby; flexible schedule, daycare benefits, short commute, ability to work from home?
If possible, job hunt before your baby bump shows so you increase your odds. It’s illegal to discriminate; but unfortunately, at less progressive companies, being pregnant may put you at a disadvantage.
If you're like me, you may not know your exact plans. You may actually prefer contract work, especially if you like having an independent status or have spousal medical coverage. Everyone's situation is different. But even deciding to make your post-pregnancy decisions later is a strategy. Just know that if you're looking for full-time work, you'll need to be more definitive about your plans for optimal success. Having a general sense of direction will help you become more empowered in your search, too - and also convey that confidence.
Note: There is some positive news on the maternity leave landscape. In a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) study, 21 percent of large U.S. corporations offered paid maternity leave in 2015, up from 12 percent in 2014. Clearly, however, there’s much more work to be done in corporate America.
Here are some other suggestions to consider:
Let your conscience be your guide. During the interview, you’re not obligated to say you’re pregnant, but when an offer is made it’s best to go with full disclosure. If your baby bump is showing, then be direct about what you can offer the company and how soon you’re willing to return. If you can be proactive and get issues on the table and resolved, then the company and you can focus on the mutually beneficial relationship. Meaning less stress for you.
Focus on your skill sets and contributions. Avoid making your pregnancy an issue. If you are extremely qualified person for the job, you want your employer to be flexible just as they would with anyone who needs to take some time off. Carry yourself with pride and confidence. Stay empowered by reviewing your credentials and great accomplishments as a reminder - and by talking to trusted colleagues or a even a career coach.
Offer at least a rough idea of your plans. Lay out some ideas and proposals that demonstrate your commitment. Clarify during the interview that you have a plan for childcare, which supports the fact that you’re proactive in making arrangements. Emphasize why you're particularly qualified for the position; know your Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
Look professional. Whether your baby bump is showing or not, this is an important time to look professional and choose your wardrobe carefully. (First impressions count for any job candidate.) Try to extend your existing professional wardrobe as long as you can. Consider wearing accent scarves, or if you're early on in your pregnancy - comfortable wide belts that conceal that classic open pant button on your favorite business pants. You can still look fashionable. And when you look your best, you usually feel your best.
Restate your commitment afterwards. In your interview thank you email, take the opportunity to remind the hiring manager of your key skills that match the job, your enthusiasm and strong work ethic.
If your prospective manager becomes distant or, while you seem to be the perfect candidate, they dismiss you, discriminatory issues aside— you may be better off not working for a boss or company with that thinking.
Savvy interviewers who put great talent first and see the long-term picture make the best employers. Companies that champion a positive, nurturing and trusting work culture experience the fastest growth. That’s something you want and deserve.