By Amanda Augustine, careers expert, TopCV
Babies and job opportunities are two things that often come unexpectedly.
People say there’s no right time to become a parent (whether it’s your first or your third), but having a baby on the way may make you re-evaluate aspects of your life – particularly your career.
It could be a simple thing – like wanting to cut your commute in half. Or, it might be a fundamental change of heart about the role you want or the type of company that appeals to you.
Of course, for many expectant mothers, job security with a company they know and trust may be exactly what they want during this time. But, all too often, pregnancy is seen as a limitation in professional advancement, stopping women from seizing career-related opportunities.
Pregnancy and professional ambition shouldn’t be mutually exclusive – and women should feel empowered to pursue the next step in their career at a time that feels right for them, regardless of whether they’re pregnant.
A recent article by Jen Watts Walsh in the US filled me with new hope that times are, in fact, changing. In the story, she talks positively about her own experience of applying for – and landing – a senior position whilst six months pregnant. Jen’s story doesn’t involve anything subversive or controversial – she simply goes against the grain of, in her own words, ‘acceptable pregnant lady behaviour’.
Despite this success story – and my own positive experience of negotiating my current role whilst I was pregnant – the reality is that working environments are still tricky territory for mothers-to-be. Not every woman will feel emboldened to take the steps that Jen did, and it’s important for expectant mothers to do what makes them comfortable. So, if you’re not ready to disclose your pregnancy – particularly during the early stages – then here are four pieces of advice to help you confidently navigate the job market during this time in your life.
Changing jobs won’t affect your maternity leave
The first issue you’ll consider before switching jobs is your maternity arrangements, so it’s important to know if leaving your original post will alter your eligibility in any way. All pregnant employees are entitled to 52 weeks’ maternity leave, regardless of how long they’ve been employed by their current company. So, if you secured a new job during your pregnancy, neither your maternity pay nor your leave will be affected.
Do your research
As with any prospective job, it’s important to conduct your own research into the company. Now that you’re an expectant mother, you probably have new criteria for your dream job, and may prioritise organisations that boast of family-friendly policies such as flexible working hours or opportunities to work from home. Sites such as Glassdoor, WorkAdvisor and Trustpilot are good places to start. Although employers are now being urged to be more transparent about pay and parental leave, it’s worth asking questions about the company culture during your interviews to help you determine whether the company truly values work-life balance and if it’s a good fit for you at this stage in your life.
Treat an interview like any other
If you’re nervous that your pregnancy will preclude an employer’s interest in your candidacy, you should know that under The Equality Act (2010), it is illegal to discriminate on the grounds of any of the following; age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, maternity, pregnancy, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.
You should feel unpressurised to disclose the fact you’re pregnant to an interviewer. Relax, be your professional self, and treat the interview as you would any other: show that you’re informed about the company, be enthusiastic about the role and be prepared to explain why you’re qualified for the role. At the end of the day, the interview is about you and your suitability to perform the job.
Check your online profile
If you don’t want a prospective employer to know about your pregnancy during your initial interview, then be sure to check your online profile for any glaring giveaways, as this is one of the first things they will check. While it would constitute an inappropriate or ‘off-limit’ question for them to ask if you are expecting, unfortunately, it is more common than you may think and many companies still approach the hiring of pregnant candidates with the wrong attitudes and preconceived ideas. To avoid any unwanted awkwardness, make sure your online image aligns with how you present in real life, until you’re ready to have the conversation.
Clearly, there is still a long way to go in changing the attitudes of employers. But, women should feel empowered to do what feels right for them. Be bold in your pursuit of career development during pregnancy, if that is what you want, as it will be instrumental in engendering a necessary and positive change in the future of our workplaces. Both sides need to be more open in order for this to happen – expectant mothers should feel confident that they’ll be received appropriately if they choose to disclose their pregnancy, and employers must start treating mothers-to-be to the same standard as any other candidate. In fact, recognising the many benefits of employing mumpreneurs in their workforce is part of this evolution.
With more open-mindedness among job seekers and recruiters, alike, hopefully stories like Jen’s will become the norm, not the exception.