There are many issues that face women who find themselves in the job search while expecting. The additional complexity during an already stressful phase of life can be overwhelming, frustrating and intimidating.
It is important to recognize that you have some decisions to make related to your own values, career path, stage of pregnancy, and life situation. The aim of this guide is to help you make informed choices that best represent your unique needs and professional goals.
Evaluate Your Short-Term Limitations
Take some time to carefully evaluate if pregnancy, birth and early childcare present temporary limitations that are likely to impact your job performance. It is important to realize that your needs in this next phase of your life are relatively short-term and may be very different once you are a mom.
There are no right or wrong answers here. Your needs are unique to your situation. The most important thing is to just be as honest with yourself as you can about the realities of your life for the next several months. Taking time to get clarity on this issue is critical to making sound decisions for your next career move.
If you believe that your needs for the short term are likely to significantly impact your ability to be at your best in a new and challenging job, then consider shifting your immediate job search towards a lower demand, temporary position. It may do more damage to get off on the wrong foot in a job central to your career trajectory than it will to take a brief hiatus from the professional ladder.
If you decide that a temporary job is your best bet, then make the most of it for your overall career goals. Here are some practical tips:
- Plan to increase your networking during this transitional period. Be explicit with people in your social and professional circles that you are still eager to find the right fit for your career aspirations.
- Seek temporary jobs that have useful benefits such as on-site child care, family friendly policies, flexibility of scheduling, or the potential to work from home. Note that in many cases, depending on where you live, benefits like paid family leave are only available after a year of employment with a company.
- Make the most of extra time and/or energy to pursue training and skill building in a way that fits your life. Consider an online class or volunteer work that adds to your resume during this period.
Broaching the Subject: When and How
If you decide that you are going to be able to handle the demands of your next big career move after an honest appraisal of your situation then, by all means, trust your instincts and go for it! The strategies for your next move will depend on your stage of pregnancy and weighing some important issues regarding disclosure.
If You Are Showing: Control the Narrative
Politicians often scramble to be the first to get to the media so they can influence the public’s perception of an issue. If you are already showing, then putting it on the table early and directly in an interview serves a similar purpose. Here are some tips for doing that well:
- When you raise the issue of your pregnancy you can control the narrative, frame it in the best light, and prevent interviewers from spending too much time imagining you through their own biases and assumptions. Get this story right ahead of time so you will not have to invent it on the spot and under pressure.
- Make your story about how prepared and organized you are. Have a clear plan for the logistics you will be facing in the coming months: scheduling appointments, arranging childcare, and transportation considerations. This will turn the focus of your “baby story” into a reminder about how efficient and on-the-ball you are as a job candidate.
- Practice sharing your story with a friend and get some feedback. Get it trimmed down to 1-2 minutes. The end of the story should change the subject to what really matters: Your qualifications, passion and credentials for the position that is on the table.
If You Are Not Showing: Decide and Commit
It is important to realize that disclosing your pregnancy is not a legal obligation. In fact, any questions raised by employers in the job search about your family status are illegal. This includes questions about family planning, marital status, pregnancy or current children.
There are differing opinions regarding disclosure in the hiring process:
- Some career counsellors have argued that disclosing pregnancy immediately is a moral obligation for candidates during the application process and that not doing so is deceitful and will destroy the relationship of trust with an employer moving forward.
- A differing, equally valid, opinion is that your moral obligation to yourself and your well-being supersedes your moral obligation to the bottom line of an employer. Managers do not hesitate to lay off employees to protect profits. Rational self-interest goes both ways.
- Still another perspective is one many feminists hold: The right to not disclose or have your family situation be part of a hiring decision is a hard-won civil right that you have every reason to exercise without guilt.
In truth, all of these opinions are worth considering. You will have to weigh your options, examine your values, and make choices that are ultimately in line with factors that only you can evaluate in the context of your own life. Once you make a decision that is right for you, accept it and move on.
If you decide you want to disclose during the interview process, use the tips from the previous section to make sure you practice a strong, unapologetic and concise narrative. Use your disclosure as an opportunity to show off your qualities as a go-getter and keep it brief.
If you decide not to divulge during the interview process, most experts recommend disclosing at the time an offer is made. At this point the employer has already made a decision based on your qualifications. Rescinding a job offer based on your pregnancy is grounds for a discrimination lawsuit. Although you are still not obligated to disclose at this point in the process, it is a good way to establish trust with your new employer moving forward.
You do not need to apologize for being pregnant. Having children and working are both normal human activities, and they collide all the time in modern society. It may feel a bit awkward to reveal your pregnancy at this stage of the hiring process, however, experienced employers are well equipped to handle this common occurrence.
Be Patient and Persistent
Finding a job, even under the best of circumstances, is a numbers and luck game as much as it is about your performance in a job interview, your specific qualifications, or how interviewers perceive you. If you choose to disclose upfront, or are obviously showing, you can expect that it is likely to take you more tries to find the job of your dreams. Don’t allow that to wear you down.
One way to focus on the positive during your search is to realize that the employers that are able to see past stereotypes about pregnant women and new mothers are likely the very best employers to work for as a person with a family. A longer job search may well pay you intrinsic dividends for years to come.