The Unofficial Rules of Job Hunting While You’re Pregnant
Let’s be honest: Looking for a job when you’re pregnant isn’t exactly an ideal situation. Besides the fact that your suit jacket doesn’t button up quite like it used to, you’ll face some tough decisions throughout the process, including if and when to reveal your pregnancy to your future employer.
But it can be done, and successfully (I’m a recent example!). If you’re miserable in your current gig or a recent casualty of company layoffs , there is no reason you can’t look for a better situation, even with a bun in the oven. That being said, before you start scouring websites for open positions, there are few additional things you need to consider, for the benefit of you, your little one, and your future employer.
Manage Your Obligations
Before you start your search, make sure your current schedule can accommodate job-hunting duties in addition to your pregnancy-related responsibilities. Remember, you’ll be out of the office not only for all those doctor’s appointments, but also for job interviews. Do you have the flexibility to be out that often, stay on top of your duties, and keep your supervisor happy? You definitely don’t want to get fired for slacking on the job at this particular junction in your life.
You’ll also want to think about how your (soon-to-be changing) lifestyle will impact a new job. When you’re considering potential positions, be honest with yourself about what you’re looking for. A flexible schedule? Proximity to a good daycare? The ability to work from home ? Maybe you’re striving for a structured day with regular 9-to-5 hours, or want a short commute so you can make it home to your family without sitting in hours of traffic. Factors like these will have a direct impact on how happy you’ll be in your new position (especially after having your baby)—so consider them carefully.
Make Sure You’re Covered
Along similar lines, your medical insurance options will be more important now than ever before, so as you’re evaluating potential employers, make sure they offer the coverage you need. Same goes for maternity leave. Sadly, many companies in America don’t even have an official leave policy for new moms, so you could be forced to use a combination of paid time off and short-term disability—especially if you or the organization doesn’t meet the requirements for Family Leave and Medical Act (FMLA) coverage, which typically only applies to companies over 50 employees. And company policy may require you to work a certain length of time (sometimes a year or more) before you’re eligible for maternity leave.
While you may not get a peek at a company’s full benefits package until you get a written offer, you should try to do some covert research online or by talking to current employees. And you’ll definitely want to fully evaluate the maternity leave policy and prenatal care coverage before accepting any offer.
To be honest, the whole job-hunting process, as well as your chances of scoring a new gig, will be easier the earlier on you are in your pregnancy. For one, you’ll have more energy to put toward submitting resumes and attending interviews (let’s face it—growing a tiny human inside of you can seriously zap your energy). But what’s more, if you’re not overly showing, the hiring manager will be able to focus on your skills, not your bump.
Now, by law, a company can’t deny you employment because you’re pregnant, and you’re not legally required to let potential employers know that you’re expecting. But keep in mind, if you waltz into an interview with a burgeoning bump, you may receive some raised eyebrows—or a swift guide to the exit. Even if you’re a star candidate, the unfortunate truth is that some hiring managers may view your pregnancy (and upcoming maternity leave) as an inconvenience, and won’t make you an offer.
Yes, this is illegal, but even if you decided to take action, it could be very difficult to prove that your pregnancy was the reason behind the company’s rejection. Ideal? No. But it’s definitely something to be prepared for—and it’s a good reason to start the job search process early.
Decide Whether to Disclose (Or Not)
That said, particularly if you’re further along, you’ll face the tough decision of if and when to reveal your pregnancy to your potential employer. In my case, I was offered a job during my first trimester, so I accepted without alluding to my pregnancy. Like many women, I was nervous to tell anyone until I felt more confident that everything was going well with the pregnancy, so I held off.
But what if you’re in your second or third trimester? Should you try and hide your pregnancy until after you receive an offer, or be upfront with your potential employer? Obviously, this is a very personal decision and quite dependent upon your specific situation. At some point, though, you’re better off being honest—if you don’t acknowledge your bump, the interviewer might assume you’re attempting to cover it up, and that certainly won’t do you any favors.
You may feel more comfortable bringing it up at later stages in the interview process, once you’re certain you’re a finalist for the position. On the other hand, it also may be easier to put it out there in the phone interview , to avoid the in-person awkwardness, and just see where the process goes from there.
When I did end up revealing the news to my boss (after I had started the job, but several weeks earlier than I had planned, thanks to a bout of morning sickness), she was awesome. In fact, she was very flexible and compassionate throughout my entire pregnancy. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome, and I’m confident that there are many other supervisors who would react the same way.
Now that you know what you’re in for, you should have a better idea whether it’s really the right time for you to search for a new job. You may decide that it’s less of a hassle to suck it up and stay where you are until after your little one arrives. But if you just can’t take it anymore, put on your (slightly snug) power suit, and get searching—there are plenty of companies out there ready and willing to bring you on.
Looking for a new gig? Check out these companies that are hiring now!
Photo of pregnant job seeker courtesy of Shutterstock .
Elizabeth Lowman is a freelance writer whose work has been featured on national outlets such as Forbes and The Huffington Post. She spends time wearing out her AP Stylebook and navigating life’s little challenges as well as championing young, professional women and supporting children’s causes.More from this Author