Life is a journey. As we move through it, we experience key milestones that fundamentally change our lives. Marriage, moving to a new city, having children and changing jobs are a few of those life events that have the potential to bring about profound change. Individually, each of those events can be incredibly rewarding and challenging at the same time. When two such events overlap or happen simultaneously the situation can become overwhelming.
So does that mean looking for a new job while you are pregnant is just plain crazy? No, it doesn’t. Many women have done it and have been very happy with the outcome. What it does mean is that you need to go into it with your eyes wide open and be prepared for everything it entails. In short, you need a good plan, lots of energy and a strong support structure. Here are some tips to help guide you.
1. Consider Your Options: You may not necessarily be happy at your job, however, be sure you have looked into all the options at your current workplace. Could you move to another department that offers more flexibility? Could you afford to take a pay-cut and reduce your hours? Would you be able to negotiate a different schedule? Remember, while your current work situation may not be ideal, it is a known quantity. Starting a new job is stressful and you are dealing with new situations, expectations and demands. Balance your desire to find a new job with the knowledge that your pregnancy represents a whole new set of changes on the home front. Still determined to land that new job? Keep reading.
2. Prioritize Your Needs: Take some time to really think about what you want, and more importantly—what you need—from a future employer. Higher pay is an obvious goal but that can be counterproductive if other, equally important needs are not met. Decide what is truly important for you and your expanding family. Is it a flexible schedule? On-site daycare? A short commute so you aren’t spending hours in the car each morning and evening? A structured and predictable 9-5 work day? Work from home options? Knowing what’s most important to you will help you make the right the choices when it comes to pursuing opportunities and accepting an offer.
3. Start Early and Be Realistic: If you are intent on looking for a new job while pregnant, get started as soon as possible. Why? Your bump is less noticeable and you’ll likely have more energy the earlier it is in your pregnancy. Remember, every contact with a potential employer is important so be sure to rest and keep your energy up so that you are at your best during each step of the interview process. It’s also important to be realistic about your situation. Legally, employers are not allowed to discriminate because you are pregnant. Legal issues asides, the reality is that some potential employers may not hire you simply because you are expecting. Is this ideal? No. It is legal? No. Is it reality? Yes. So getting started early will help ensure that potential employers are focused on you and your qualifications rather than your soon-to-be-a-mom status.
4. Leverage Your Network: This advice applies to both your personal and professional networks. Talk to friends and family who are also working moms. While most people can relate to your situation, only another working mom can truly understand. Talk, listen and seek advice. On the professional front, your network is composed of people who know you and are familiar with your skills and qualifications. This is definitely a time to seek out professional connections that can help you identify opportunities and vouch for you and the value you can deliver to a potential employer.
5. Understand the Benefits Package: With doctor visits in full swing and a birth down the road it’s more important than ever to understand what benefits a potential employer offers. Health insurance is an obvious benefit but so are maternity leave, flexible work hours, pre-tax child and healthcare spending accounts and a host of other benefits. Be sure to review all materials related to benefits carefully. If there are any questions or concerns, speak to someone in HR.
6. When to Tell Your Employer: You are not legally required to disclose your pregnancy during the interview process. When to share the news is a personal decision that should include some basic considerations. How relevant is your pregnancy to your job performance—does the job require physical activity, extensive business travel, long hours at the office or on-call type of availability? Your employer will eventually find out about the pregnancy so ask yourself what the impact might be if it’s a surprise or something that you have kept hidden. Will this add stress to your new job or create unnecessary tension that could otherwise have been avoided? On the other hand, good people are harder to find than you might imagine so if you have received an offer it is likely that your employer will be thrilled to have you regardless of the pregnancy. There is no right or wrong answer here, so take the path that you are most comfortable with. Talk to friends, take a look at online discussion groups for working moms. Chances are you will find a lot of good advice on when to share the news.
7. Plan Ahead: This is another area where being proactive will pay big dividends later. With a new job and a baby on the way you know your life is about to undergo a significant change. Look for ways to eliminate as much stress as possible. Ask for help—cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping—all of these things will become more challenging when balancing the needs of a newborn with the demands of your new job. Identifying people who can help, even if you don’t end up using them, will give you peace of mind. If you will be returning to work shortly after the baby is born, start looking into day care options. This can be a lengthy process and many day care sites have a waiting list. So eliminate the stress that comes with last-minute decisions by starting this process early.