There are the lucky few that end up working for a supportive, family-friendly employer simply by chance (often when they’re not even specifically looking for one). Still, I’d argue that is the advantageous exception. For most of us, we have to seek these employers out, and it can be challenging because not every business’ definition of family-friendly is the same or aligned with your idea of it. So, how do you find one?
Back in 2015, I interviewed for a job and I explicitly told the hiring manager and director that I was looking for something flexible that would allow me to have a family. They touted its culture and promised a good work-life balance (I’m sure you know where this story is headed). It wasn’t long after starting the job that I realized our ideas of flexibility were very different. Six months, and no less than ten mandatory happy hours, later I resigned.
All these years later, that experience sits in the back of my mind whenever I’m looking for a job and leaves me feeling skeptical of any potential employer. I know my story isn’t unique, either. So many other parents have found themselves in similar situations feeling frustrated and possibly even like they’ve been lied to.
It would be nice just to point the finger at the employer and put all of the blame on them, but it’s not exactly that simple. There likely are plenty of employees at those companies who are happy with the flexibility offered because not every parent has the exact needs. To find the employer that’s right for you, you first need to have a pretty good idea of what a supportive employer looks like for you and then go from there.
Keywords To Look For
As you are probably well aware, job postings are usually full of keywords that can be very telling of the position and the company itself. For instance, a “fast-paced environment” can sometimes be a red flag and code for “we will overwork you.” Of course, every company is different, but if you see these words in a job post, then it’s worth looking into the organization a little more:
Remote (or Work From Home)
Paid Maternity/Paternity Leave
The wording in a job post can also give you an idea of the culture of the team (or company). Are there a lot of buzzwords and or mentions of happy hours to attract younger candidates? If so, they may be looking for talent that is willing to work long hours.
Evaluate The Leadership Team
You should always do a little research about a company’s executive team, if for no other reason than to learn about the people leading the company. This research may also tell you about their family lives, which could affect their leadership styles.
Is the team diverse? Are there women? Do any of them mention having kids in their bios? Not all companies offer much information on their executives online, but you can always do a Google search to learn about their backgrounds. Of course, don’t get creepy by digging too much. Know the boundaries.
If people on the executive team have kids and aren’t shy to say so, then at least there are people in leadership who understand what it’s like to be a working parent. Keep in mind, it doesn’t guarantee that an employer is family-friendly, though, but it’s certainly better than a team made up entirely of old white men.
Consider Benefits Offerings
During the job hunting phase, you don’t always have much access to the details of a company’s benefits package. Still, organizations with robust benefits will usually highlight this on their website. Check out their careers page to see if anything is outlined. If so, look for things like paid maternity/paternity leave (bonus if they list how many weeks), family health plans, vision and dental insurance, 401K, and generous holiday and PTO.
Again, there are plenty of wonderful companies out there that support parents but aren’t able to offer these kinds of benefits, so don’t discount a company solely based on this. However, if there do appear to be benefits that are framed for working parents, then that is a good sign.
Seek Out Employee Reviews
This one is tough because unless you know someone who works for the organization (or has someone in your network you can reach out to), you have to rely on online reviews. I often struggle with this because disgruntled employees are known to leave horrible, emotionally charged reviews, and I have worked for more than one employer that offered incentives to employees willing to post positive reviews. It’s like Amazon reviews, what’s fake, real, and how can I spot the difference?
My rule of thumb is that if there is a bundle of company reviews posted around the same time, (either positive or negative), it’s likely because there was a layoff or some kind of incentive. So, look for the outliers and see if you can find a trend. Do they mention having to work long hours? Does work-life balance come up a lot? Are there far more positive than negative (or vice versa)? These reviews might give you some good insight into how the company treats parents.
When In Doubt, Apply For The Job
There are always exceptions to every rule, so if a job looks interesting but has questionable keywords, don’t hesitate to apply. As you move forward into the interview process, for any job, you’ll have to ask questions to get a clear picture of how they support parents, so it’s not going to do you any harm to apply to a job that may have a couple of red flags among a lot of green ones. You may be pleasantly surprised! And, if it’s not a good fit you can simply thank them, withdraw your candidacy, and move on to something else. Finding an employer that genuinely supports parents will take some time, and you’ll have to ask a lot of questions along the way, but you will find something that works for you, so stay optimistic and don’t give up.
Ashley Ziegler is a full-time writer with a passion for telling stories through the lens of motherhood to help fellow moms feel seen and understood (especially the ones who, like her, are totally winging it).
Join a community that cares
The Mom Project supports women throughout their working motherhood journey. Search for career opportunities with vetted, family-friendly employers, and get access to job search tools, career development resources, and a thriving community of moms and allies.