What to Expect When You're Job Hunting While Expecting
Pregnancy can be wonderful and exciting time in a woman's life. However, if you are also out of work, it can add a great deal of worry to what is already a stressful time. There are a lot of questions that arise for expectant women when they are looking for a job. When do you tell the company? What kind of benefits package and time off can you expect? How will the pregnancy effect the employer's impression of you? If you are expecting a baby and expecting to land a new job, consider this advice:
1. Know what you are looking for.
Just like any job seeker, you need to establish what you are looking for and what you want out of a company. Figure out what you need financially, what your goals are for childcare, and what kind of benefits, such as medical coverage and maternity leave, you want. Knowing what you want will help you know what questions to ask and what to look for as you research.
2. Know your rights.
There are laws that protect pregnant women in the workplace, says Linda Meric, executive director of 9to5, the National Association of Working Women (www.9to5.org). For example, she says women should be familiar with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which makes it illegal to fire, demote or deny work to women solely on the basis of pregnancy. You should also be familiar with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which grants eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for pregnancy or other medical situations. Not all individuals are covered under FMLA, however, so it is a good idea to research the law by checking with the Department of Labor (www.dol.gov). You can also learn more about your rights through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (www.eeoc.gov).
3. To tell or not to tell... plan it ahead of time.
> Whether you let an interviewer know you are pregnant or not is up to you, but Meric says you are not obligated to tell. She says it is important for every woman to weigh her own situation individually. "We recommend that women wait until after the company has made a job offer," Meric says. This will help ensure that the company is considering you only on your skills and qualifications. If they offer you a position, it is because they have realized that you are a valuable employee who can benefit their organization. You can also find out a lot about a company based on how they react to the news. "If they rescind the offer at that point, it is pretty clear what is going on," Meric says. In this case, you should take your situation to an organization that can help.
4. Be confident.
Obviously, some women do not have the option of keeping a pregnancy under wraps. For example, if you are interviewing late in your pregnancy, the interviewer will likely know. The best thing to do if you are obviously pregnant is to exude confidence in your skills and decisions. Be prepared to address your pregnancy, but do so in a way that shows you are excited about the opportunity, confident in your abilities and committed to the company in the long run.
5. Interview just like you always would.
Meric says it is important for pregnant women to emphasize the same things they would emphasize if they were not pregnant, such as their skills, qualifications, accomplishments and reliability. You are there to sell yourself as an employee first. Meric adds that it is also important to demonstrate that you are willing to work with the company, just as you expect the company to work with you. You can do this by preparing your work so someone else will understand it while you are out, volunteering to help train someone to take over for you while on leave, or letting the company know you are available for limited questions during your leave. "If you work with an employer and meet their needs as well as your own, you are reinforcing your value to them," Meric says.
6. Know where to turn for help.
There are many organizations that can offer advice and assistance to women who have questions about the workplace and work/life balance issues. For example, 9to5 has a toll-free number that women can call for advice (800-522-0925). Individuals can also contact the EEOC for help with discrimination issues or to learn more about their rights and responsibilities.
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