Career Coach: Looking for work, starting a new job while pregnant

Question: My husband and I want to start a family soon; however, because my current job is time limited, unless we wait over two years, I will be either looking for a job while pregnant or starting a new job while pregnant.

I'm not really sure how to approach the situation. Do I just say we will figure it out?

I know it's illegal to discriminate against someone who is pregnant, but I worry that it will put me at a disadvantage. What considerations would you say are most important? Am I crazy to consider job hunting while pregnant?

Answer: Great questions, and ones that many women think about. Today, the work environment is much more understanding about women and families than in the past, although still much more needs to be done.

I would say you should just plan your family as you want (in terms of timing) and then look for firms that are more receptive to women and parents.

There are definitely differences among companies in this regard.

Often, there are publications about the best companies for mothers to work for. Start there and look at firms that are more receptive or have policies about working at home, maternity and paternity leave, child care, etc.

You did not say what your career area or field is, but that may also make a difference in terms of which industries are more receptive. I also would do what I could to get the job (good resume, cover letter, interviewing, etc). Then, depending on your situation at that time, you can bring up the issue of family.

Question: I am about 10 weeks pregnant with my first baby, and I have some anxiety about telling my employer.

It's not because I don't work in an understanding place — I do, and will get eight weeks paid maternity leave — it's just that it's nerve-wracking in general!

Plus, I work in a small subset of a larger department, so my boss would be without me for those eight weeks. How do I get over this?!

Answer: Many women might say to just wait to let your employer know since you are only 10 weeks along. There is time.

Since you are worried about the eight weeks you will take off, why not try to figure out what might need to be done for your company to get along without you?

Is there some way to break up parts of your job to others during that time? Can someone assume some of those responsibilities?

While it is not your responsibility to figure all this out, it sounds like you have a strong sense of commitment to the firm and want to make sure they are OK.

So, since this is your personality, maybe thinking through some options to make your time away easier for your boss right now might make your own anxiety level go down.

If you have a good relationship with your boss, you could also have that conversation soon, but I would still have thought of options for your boss so you can share those with him or her.

We often believe no one can survive without us, and yet somehow they do.

Question: I am nine months pregnant and have a job interview prior to my anticipated due date. Other than the commonly asked question of "When can you start?" do I need to address anything else?

Answer: An employer may ask when you can start and you need to think about your answer to that question.

I am a little confused about why you are doing these job interviews at such a late stage of pregnancy. Why not wait until after your baby is born and you are ready to start working? Or are you planning on working right away after your baby's birth (within a few weeks)?

If you are not going to work for several months, you may want to just wait to interview.

If, however, you are going to start working soon after your baby's birth, and the job field you are in necessitates that you interview now, then you will need to at least answer when your start date would be. An employer's primary concern is when you can start working and whether you will be 100% committed to the job.

Joyce E.A. Russell is vice dean at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business and director of its Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Program. In a weekly Career Coach column for the Washington Post, she answers reader questions.

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