There comes a point for many working moms where she questions her motives to continue working. Perhaps the hours are too long, travel is constant, the work is unrewarding, there’s a lack of support at home or at work, or a difficult manager is making life unbearable.
Whatever her circumstances, she’s unhappy, worn out, unfilled.
What’s worse, the stress of her workday comes home with her. Making even time with her family stressful. It leaves her wishing she could just leave her job and everything it brings behind.
Some choose to opt out of the workforce – a trend that a Pew Research Center study says is on the rise.
But, a lot of moms can’t stop working outright.
Their families depend on them financially – 40% of women are the sole or primary earners (at least that’s the case in the US and the UK). And, there’s a growing cohort of women who feel better suited to the workplace where they can keep chasing their career goals.
For these women, then, the natural next step may be to search for a new job.
Finding and starting a new job is daunting task. It takes time and effort – two luxuries many working moms don’t have in excess. Plus, how can you be sure that the next place will bring better balance to your life as you grow your career?
That’s why I believe it’s important to not merely look for a new job, but a company that aligns with the values you’ll need most as a working mom as you grow your career.
Values like the three listed here:
1. True flexibility
A lot of companies now offer flexible work arrangements. These programs allow employees to work a reduced number of hours or spend part of their week working from home.
It’s a great perk, but not all working moms need or want such formal flexibility. Many of us just want the ability to leave the office should our child get sick without repercussion and still get our work done for the day.
And, the truth is, depending on the company’s culture, formal flexible programs can come at a cost to the participant: a reduction in pay, limits in opportunity and a stigma that screams you’re no longer serious about your work.
If your new job needs to also provide a more flexible approach to flexibility, you’ll need to keep a look out for some telltale signs. Laptops, for example, are good ones to look for. If your prospective company doesn’t offer laptops to its employees, it’s unlikely you’ll have the freedom to work around your family obligations.
You’ll also want to find out what other technologies they use. Skype or other video conferencing capabilities could hint that remote employees are welcome to engage in meetings without needing to travel.
Another sign is the office set-up. An office that has been designed with shared desks, open workspaces and other interactive features may be a signal to the freedom bestowed on employees to responsibly come and go as their work and life require. Traditional spaces, on the other hand, make it easier for higher ups to take attendance and notice if you’ve had to leave work earlier.
2. Family-friendly values
There still remains this idea that employers have the upper hand in the employer-employee relationship. They hold the purse strings, after all.
But, here’s the thing: just like a company can’t survive without paying customers, they can’t survive without employees. We need to stop seeing employment as a transaction where duties are performed in exchange for a paycheck. Instead, we have to come to see employment as a social contract where an employee gives their time and talent in return for benefits and opportunities that allows both parties to achieve their goals.
A good many companies agree with this vision and the results are paying off. Top performing companies are the ones that offer benefits that more closely align to the values important to employees.
So, when you’re looking for prospective companies, look for those that offer values that align with yours. Do they offer family (not only maternity) leave, are there facilities for breastfeeding moms, are there affinity or support groups available, and what other benefits are available to help employees manage the demands of work and family?
3. A company that deserves your loyalty
It’s no longer common practice for an employee to dedicate their career to one employer. In part, that’s due to today’s impatience. But, I’d say, it’s more a symbol of the lack of loyalty among employees.
And, loyalty, going back to the idea of the social contract, can only come if employees are provided the very things they need at every stage of their life. That may be aligning with family values as discussed above, but it can also be opportunities to direct your career. A direction that could be upward on the corporate ladder during periods when you’re looking to grow or laterally when you may need to lean back a bit to create a more harmonious work-life balance.
So, how can you tell if a potential employer will offer you the room you need to grow in a way that will work through all the stages of your life? Look at the make-up of employees. Long-tenured employees could be a clue that the company has won the loyalty game – at least enough that people have chosen not to leave.
A bigger indicator, at least for working moms, is the presence of women. Women of different ages occupying different ranks at the company is a good sign that a company is willing and able to support you through each phase of your life.
A company that offers these values will be worthy of your time and energy and effort and will more likely provide you with the support you need today and perhaps the opportunities you’ll want to get to the next stage of your career.
Yet, these values will be hard to evaluate during a regular interview process. So, be sure to take the time to research prospective companies, ask pointed questions to those interviewing you and try to take a look around at the people and things you see in the office as you make your way to and from the interview room. And, if possible, try to speak with other employees – in the elevator, perhaps or at reception when you check in.
Are these the values you’d look for in a company? Are there any other you think working moms should consider? Share them in the comments below.
All the best to you on your job hunt.