About this time last year, I was more than halfway through my pregnancy and for a variety of reasons, I found myself pursuing a job search. Job searching not pregnant? Daunting. Job searching while growing a human? Daunting — and also doable. Because I’ve had a few girlfriends reach out in similar situations this past year, I’m sharing my (very limited) perspective in case you are someone in a similar situation, looking for advice or comfort in knowing someone else has done it, too.
So, what did I do?
As I began my job search, I applied to a whole host of jobs – a couple I was really excited about and a handful I felt lukewarm on the role or company but interested in learning more – and I was able to land some intro phone interviews. As with any job search, this helped me really perfect my story/pitch before the stakes were much higher for an in-person interview and a pregnant belly harder to hide.
During this time, I was extremely critical in what I was looking for. I knew that changing jobs with 2-3 months before having a baby, I likely wouldn’t have access to maternity leave benefits and certainly not FMLA (have to be employed for 12 months) so I wasn’t going to pursue a job that I wasn’t 100% certain was the right move for me. I considered things like:
- who would be my manager and how much management experience they had
- team size/structure and how many direct reports my manager would have
- any travel requirements
- salary structure (base pay only? base pay and variable? variable based on what?)
- company culture and values
- parental leave policies and any intel about how many/if any parents on the team and at the company
- how buttoned-up the interviewers and recruiters who conducted interviews were
As I whittled down my list to a select handful of companies that had a role I was excited about and a company mission I could get behind, I was fortunate enough to move to in-person interviews with my top choice…at 25 weeks pregnant.
I had definitely started showing at this point and as I prepared for my face-to-face interview, I decided to disguise my belly as much as possible. I had asked what the full interview process looked like and knew if I moved all the way through the process, I would have 2 face-to-face interviews so for the first one, I wanted to minimize my pregnancy so that my skills and experience were front and center. If I made it to the second, I planned to let the hiring team know of my pregnancy at that point. I’d decided that if this was the right company for me, my pregnancy wouldn’t penalize me. I also considered that if I were in their shoes, I would want to know before a candidate started that she would be having a baby pretty quickly after her first day to help inform a ramp up plan.
I couldn’t find much help on the internet for ‘how to disguise a pregnant belly for a job interview’ and as you can see, I am not the most stylish person (and also definitely not a fashion blogger!) so I opted for this high-waisted, flowy skirt and a blazer and crossed my finger that these people who’d never met me before wouldn’t notice my 15-20 extra pounds, primarily at my midsection, too much.
I passed this face-to-face interview session (4 interviews!) and was back on-site later that week for a second round of face-to-face interviews. No photos of this ensemble but I wore black jeans, a black shirt and an oversized kimono-style wool cardigan, again aiming to minimize. My first interview of this session was with the hiring manager and the person who would be my peer — both parents of small kids — and at the end of our discussion, I disclosed that I was pregnant and due mid-January. Fortunately, my disclosure was met with much excitement and I immediately felt at ease and knew I made the right decision.
When the team called to make me an offer soon after my second in-person interview, I was overwhelmed with excitement (a really great role at a really great company), gratitude (for the people who had cheered me on during the process – and for this company taking a chance on a pregnant woman) and pride (in myself – I frickin’ did it!!). I started my new role, 30 weeks pregnant, and worked exactly 10 weeks before giving birth to my baby.
Enough about me, here are some tips for you.
If you find yourself job searching while pregnant, here are some things that helped me and hopefully can help you, yoo.
- Apply to more places than you’re interested in. Because you’ll likely phone screen first, this will give you a chance to internalize/perfect your story and build rapport before you’re in-person. Additionally, this can help get you salary data points in the market to aid in negotiating later.
- Let them know! This is a personal choice – you’ll have to feel out the company from research and your initial phone screens and consider how far along in your pregnancy you are. For me, I do recommend sharing your news with the hiring manager and/or recruiter before you accept an offer. If transparency is a value of the company, work that in!
- I said something to the effect of: ‘I know transparency is important to you and it is for me, too, so I wanted to let you know that I am pregnant; I hope that this reaffirms for you how excited I am about this role! I wouldn’t be interviewing during this season of personal transition if I didn’t feel strongly about this role and company.’
- Own it! It’s easy to jump to a place of speaking timidly during job searching – and especially so when pregnant. It feels riskier so we might want to downplay/minimize the potential negative consequences. But I so encourage you to own it and speak matter-of-factly. If you share the news, own it and speak confidently. You are a badass woman who knows her worth and is about to be an amazing working mama! Any company would be lucky to have you! The fact that you’re interviewing while pregnant speaks volumes – you are unafraid of challenges, you are ready to tackle problems head on and not shy away. Hopefully the folks you interview with will recognize this and if not, that is their loss and they’re not right for you.
- Be excited! As a follow up, talking about your excitement, sharing thoughts about what you’d expect for maternity leave (how you’d ramp up before baby, what you’d plan to tackle after baby), assuring them you’re just as excited to come back after the baby, etc, can all be helpful to share, too. Employers can’t legally make a hiring decision based on your pregnancy but it’s hard to argue it might not affect people’s perception of you (unfair but true). So demonstrating that you’ve put some thought into how it will work for both you and the employer can go a long way in making them feel even better about moving forward with a badass future mama.
- Be deliberate. If you’re job searching while pregnant, you won’t have access to FMLA (12 months at a company) and probably not able to access mat leave benefits (generally, must be employed 6 months), so be deliberate in the companies you choose to focus on. Pursue only roles that are exciting enough to take an unpaid mat leave for and still come back to work after.
Since my job change last year, I’ve known 2 other girlfriends who have applied, interviewed for and changed jobs mid- to late-pregnancy so it *is* doable – so if you’re reading this and if you need a pep talk, email me! Always happy to chat and be a cheerleader in your corner. And if you’ve similarly interviewed for jobs while pregnant, please feel free to share your tips/comments below so we can all learn from and support each other.