How to job hunt when you’re pregnant

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I am pregnant. Due on June 21.

The last time I had a baby was not a great moment in the history of gender discrimination in America. For one thing, as soon as I announced I was pregnant, my editor at a business magazine fired me and recommended that I “try writing for women's magazines.”

I also got laid off from my corporate job right before I got pregnant, so I found myself job hunting when I was five months along. No one mentioned the pregnancy in the interviews, (after all, it would be illegal,) but I gave new meaning to “the elephant in the room.” And why, really, would anyone hire a pregnant woman when there surely are other qualified people who would not take maternity leave?

What I learned from that pregnancy was that there is no good time in one's career to get pregnant because there are so many things you cannot control.

But there are some things you can control, and this pregnancy I have tried to do better planning. For one thing, I have set up my life so that I can work at my home while I eat ice cream, and wear maternity pants that look like pajamas. And I thought I was a genius during my book auction when I went from publisher to publisher hiding a three-month pregnancy under a very-hip poncho, selling myself as an author who could get the book written quickly: “By June 1st” I'd say. And the publishers always said, “Great.” No one said, “Why? Are you pregnant?”

I finally told my agent about the pregnancy right before I accepted the winning bid. “I want to make sure I'm not doing anything dishonest by hiding the pregnancy,” I told her.

Before I tell you what my agent said, let me just say that I would never advise anyone to tell a perspective employer about a pregnancy. You are under no legal obligation to disclose this information. And it can only hurt you, so employers are insane to think anyone would disclose until negotiations are done.

That said, more than one woman has written to me that she feels guilty hiding the information. And I have to admit that I had that guilt, too.

But my agent said, “By all means, don't tell anyone yet!” She said, “Congratulations!” and “You have a right to get pregnant and work too!” I loved my agent as much for her reaction to my pregnancy as I did for her selling my book.

Then reality set in. A TV agent wants to represent me, but he can't work with me until I'm not pregnant. He doesn't want to tell me this himself, so my agent tells me.
“In July?” I ask.
“No,” she says, “When you lose the weight.”

I've gained 40 pounds and I'm not even done. And yes, it's my own fault. I admit it. I have not counted a calorie since the second month. But here's my point. Pregnancy is always a problem in a career, no matter where you are, no matter how much you plan.

The best thing I did this time, though, was to get myself into a situation where I would not be fired for being pregnant (yes, it's illegal, but it happens all the time). I also set up my life so that I can take things as slowly as I want to after the pregnancy. (The cost, of course, is that my family is taking a huge financial hit. But at least we have our sanity.)

For those of you who are trying to plan, flexibility is important. The more flexibility you have the better. But it's the kind of thing you have to build into a career way before the day you conceive. Essentially, I have been planning my current pregnancy ever since I got pregnant the first time, three years ago, and saw that starting a plan in the first month is about two years too late.

Pregnancy planning for careerists should begin before you even have a partner, let alone conceive. But most of the women who contact me about pregnancy planning are already pregnant. And to you, I say, the worst thing I ever did was think I could job hunt while I was showing, and the best thing I ever did was buy a poncho.

4 replies
  1. Lindsay
    Lindsay says:

    I’m almost 5 months pregnant myself. I got laid off from a large corporation just before I hit my 3-month mark where I was going to tell my boss. But, since I was laid off, I never had to. Then, my job search began. I decided to take only temp positions mixed with unemployment checks in between until the baby is born in October and then start my full-time job search in January 09 when I am ready. Since that plan was announced to my networking/family circle, I have been called for interviews for full-time positions. This one job that I’m hoping I’ll get has been a phone interview, a face-to-face, then a marketing project, then coaching and revision on the project, and now day-long interviews with 5 different people and lunch with the hiring manager. Out of the guilt factor, and wanting to be honest with the guy, I told him I am pregnant. I told him that this should in no way overshadow my qualifications for the position, etc., etc. I didn’t want to get the offer for the job (which I am one of two people left) and then drop the bomb because I didn’t want them to have this stigma about me. I know that companies discriminate regardless of it being illegal. So, now, they seem to be progressing in the interview process regardless of my status, but it’s a catch 22 because they can always say the other candidate was more qualified. I’ll never know, but do I want to work for a place that doesn’t want to accommodate for someone who is pregnant? NO! If it doesn’t work out, I can always go back to my original plan of temp work, of which I have a position now. Thanks for your insightful article.

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