Even though I’m not a mom now, I want to be one day. So, I can’t help but notice the news about continued pregnancy bias and even the “motherhood penalty” in the workplace. If women stopped having children, the human race would one day cease to exist. Why do we continue to punish them for taking on such an important task?
I am incredibly lucky to work from home now, and I’ve been blessed with various other flexible work arrangements in the past. While I do understand not all jobs (nor people) lend themselves to telecommuting, I think the conversation about it should be one companies don’t immediately shut down.
With Mother’s Day approaching this weekend, I spoke with Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs, about the steps women should take to become work-at-home moms (or moms-to-be).
1. Do some self-reflection and think about what you actually want to DO as a work-at-home mom.
What are your best skills/abilities? What are your passions? If you’ve had a career outside the home, do you want to get back into that or try something new? You don’t have to pick just one job or career to pursue, and having more than one career idea can actually help your job search because it opens you up to more possibilities. The other thing to consider is what you want out of it. A return to your professional career? A way to add money to your family’s budget? A chance to meet people and have more adult time? Your main motivations may help clarify which career options are a good fit for you.
2. Think about how much time you want to devote to a work-at-home job. There are part-time and full-time telecommuting jobs out there, offering anywhere from five to 40+ hours per week. As a mom, your schedule is probably based on your kids’ and childcare schedules, so it’s important to think about how a job can fit with that too. How often do you want to work, or how much time do you actually have to give to a job? What hours are you available to work? Weekdays? Weekends? There are definitely telecommuting jobs to fit all sorts of schedules (and flexible schedule jobs too!), but if you know what you want/need ahead of time, it makes your search much easier and sets you up for long-term success.
3. Once you figure out the career areas you’d like to focus on, it’s time to do some research. To find companies that are telecommuting-friendly, the FlexJobs Guide to the Best Companies for Flexible Jobs is a free database you can use to research thousands of companies that have been screened, verified as legitimate, and that have offered telecommuting and/or flexible jobs in the past. Another great way to pinpoint companies is to talk to your social and professional network. Ask friends and family what they’ve heard of, or create a LinkedIn profile and link back up with your professional network online. The more folks you talk to about your career goals, the more ideas you’ll receive. And it’s so important to involve your family in this process because their support isn’t only important while you’re job searching, but once you’ve got the job as well.
4. Seek the support of fellow working moms. Talk regularly with other moms who have gone back to work about their experiences and challenges, both practical and emotional. Going back to work is a common choice, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy and that you won’t feel occasional heartache to be away from your kids (you will!). But there is safety and support in numbers, and speaking to people who have been where you’re about to go will be extremely helpful in plotting your own return to the working world.
5. Be aware of scams. Telecommuting is a job niche that is loaded with scams, but you can protect yourself by learning the warning signs of scam jobs. Job listings that promise easy money for easy work, don’t have the hiring company’s name identified, use public email domains as the “respond to” address (such as @hotmail.com, @gmail.com, or the anonymous @craigslist.com emails), or use all capitalized letters or lots of !!! and $$$ punctuation, are all red flags that should warrant more research on the company. Also, be careful of the keywords you use to search. “Work at home” is a keyword that the FBI has identified as a common scam and risky keyword*, so instead, try safer words like “remote work,” “telecommute,” and “telecommuting.” Common work-from-home scams include payment processing, repackaging products, survey taking, stuffing envelopes, and building crafts. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
6. When you apply to jobs, focus on your skills and abilities and what you can offer the company. Take time to reconnect with your professional persona, so that you’re a “woman returning to work” instead of a “mom returning to work.” Translate your time as a mom into skills that employers want like time management, organization, leadership, decision making, and management. Your professional self is the one that should be portrayed to employers, both in your application materials and during the interview process, but it can be difficult to locate and dust off the professional-you, when the parent-you has been in charge for so long. Take some time to return to your professional self.
Are you a mom who works from home either part-time or full-time? What else has worked for you? Please share your advice below!