Nothing says job hunting like a big ol’ pregnant belly, right? Ha!
All jokes aside, being pregnant and on the job hunt is about as fun as it sounds. But sometimes it’s necessary, and while it seems like an insurmountable challenge, I had to do it (7-month-pregnant belly and all).
Here’s what you should know:
In regards to your rights, you are not legally required to disclose your pregnancy (even if you are in the very visible stages like I was). Yes, that can make things awkward, but technically, you’ve got the law on your side. With that being said, however, choosing to disclose is a decision you have to make for yourself. You have to think about the practical implications of revealing your pregnancy status.
When I was about five months pregnant, I got a call from a recruiter about a job at a big tech company in the Bay Area. I’m one of those people that doesn’t say no to any opportunity and figured it couldn’t hurt to try, never in a million years thinking I’d land the job. As the process continued to move forward, I was getting more and more nervous. You see, I’d never disclosed that I was pregnant. Legally, I knew I didn’t have to. But I wrestled about whether or not that would eliminate my candidacy. I was also incredibly worried about looking like I was unprofessional or unreliable because I hadn’t said anything. The emotions were a true rollercoaster.
Going through this experience really highlighted the difficulties women face in the working world. I went back and forth about whether or not to disclose, and if so, at what stage of the job-hunting process? Do I let them know right away? Do I wait until an offer is on the table? I talked with all my friends and got conflicting feedback. Scanning the web for guidance proved fruitless as well. Some websites advised saying something, while others advised waiting. I read success stories of women accepting job offers nine months pregnant and then returning to the role after maternity leave. And I also read stories of women who were ultimately not offered roles or offers were rescinded after revealing their pregnancies.
Needless to say, after all this conflicting information, I was back to square one.
I didn’t want to look like I was lying, but I also didn’t want to remove myself from candidacy simply because I was pregnant. After all, I knew that I was well qualified for the role and thought I deserved a chance to prove myself. Pregnancy didn’t influence my abilities in any way, it simply altered my timeline about when my employment could begin. I was confident in my abilities and knew if I could just start working and prove myself, I would alleviate any of their fears about how committed I was to the role.
However, I could understand the situation from an employer’s perspective as well. I know that companies have to make practical decisions about who can fill a role and for how long. But eliminating women from the workforce simply because they’re pregnant does a huge disservice not only to those women but society at large. Studies have shown that moms are actually some of the best employees to have.
Ultimately, I decided against revealing my pregnancy status during the job application process. My previous experience of being laid off while pregnant with my first child influenced my decision to not reveal my pregnancy status until I had the job in hand and began working. I knew it was a risk, but I gambled that I can prove myself as a committed and talented employee once I started working. (Spoiler alert: That’s exactly what ended up happening.)
Though I never came out and told my hiring manager that I was pregnant, I didn’t lie about it either. I have a personal blog and social media handles on which I was publicly speaking about my pregnancy. I had links to my website on my resume that I’d sent to my manager, so I knew chances were very high she’d click through and see that I was indeed pregnant. I wasn’t trying to hide it in any way, but I decided that in regards to the role I was applying for, discussing my pregnancy status was irrelevant. If they wanted to do their due diligence and google my name and see my profiles, they can easily see that I was pregnant. My professional experience was the only thing that mattered within the interview process, and I knew that my qualifications were in line with the job description.
Luckily, when my pregnancy was revealed face to face, I felt nothing but support. I feel very lucky that my pregnancy did not end up hindering my job-hunting abilities and that I wasn’t discriminated against due to my pregnancy status after the fact. I know this is not the case for everyone.
I completely understand why women are hesitant to go through the job-hunting process while pregnant. Here’s what I recommend to any pregnant women seeking employment.
1. Know your options
Research the laws in your state so you have a good working knowledge of your rights. It’s helpful to be armed with information that you can bring up if you sense even the tiniest amount of concern from potential employers. (For instance, did you know employers are not legally allowed to ask if you are pregnant even if you are visibly so?)
2. Determine when to reveal your pregnancy status
If you’re in the early stages of your pregnancy, you might decide to wait to reveal for a variety of reasons. And if you’re in later stages, for practical purposes, it might be better to reveal sooner so you can create a plan for your maternity leave and return.
3. Have a plan for your return
If you’re job-hunting while visibly pregnant, it’s a good idea to have a general plan for the timeline of your return to work. If you decide to disclose your pregnancy status, you can do so in a way that also includes how you’ll address your maternity leave and eventual return. You can also speak with your employer about remote work until you’re ready to return to the office. Showing that you’re thinking ahead will let your potential employer know your committed to the role.
4. Trust your gut
If you feel like your potential employer is not supportive of your pregnancy, it might be time to move on to the next role. Working for a company that you feel supported by will make your journey that much easier.
5. Make it count
I knew I only had a few months to prove myself as an employee before I’d have to leave to give birth, so I really made it count. Pay attention to detail, listen, and really try to make a positive impact during your time there. By showing your employer what you’re capable of, you’ll be setting yourself up for future success.