How to Find a Family-Friendly Job, with Lauren Bell
If you are a working parent seeking a better work-life balance, a family-friendly job can make all the difference. In fact, many companies now offer flexible hours and the option to work remotely. The key to finding a family-friendly job, says Find Your Dream Job guest Lauren Bell, is to figure out what “family-friendly” means to you. Lauren suggests being transparent about your needs, and communicating them to both current and future employers.
About Our Guest:
Lauren Bell is a career strategist with Projectline Services, a staffing and consulting company. She’s passionate about inclusive hiring practices, parents re-entering the workforce, and remote work.
Resources in This Episode:
- Visit projectline.com to find out more about how Lauren helps working parents find jobs they love.
Find Your Dream Job, Episode 229:
How to Find a Family-Friendly Job, with Lauren Bell
Airdate: February 5, 2020
This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.
I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.
Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to find the work you want.
Are you missing important events in your children’s lives because of work?
You can find a family-friendly job, says this week’s guest.
Here to talk about this is Lauren Bell.
Lauren is a career strategist with Projectline Services. It’s a staffing and consulting company.
She’s passionate about inclusive hiring practices, parents re-entering the workforce, and remote work.
She joins us today from Seattle, Washington.
Lauren, let’s jump right into it. Let’s start with definitions. What does a family-friendly job look like?
That’s a really great question, and I really think that it stems from the uniqueness that families have. It really depends, and in my experience, a family-friendly workplace is what makes your work-life balance happen.
So, if you are able to understand what your dynamic is that you need for your family, you know, maybe you are trying to take your kids to baseball practice after school or you need to be able to go to numerous doctor’s appointments, whatever works best for your family, that is what I think is important to know, and also what makes finding that job and having a job that understands what your family needs are, a friendly workplace.
While we started with examples about children, both you and I, I want to go back to your point about what family means to you because it’s not just parents who might be interested in a family-friendly job, it might be people who need to care for family members other than their children, too, isn’t it, Lauren?
Yes, I completely agree with that. It is really becoming more and more that we need to look at care-givers overall and not just care-givers for children, but any kind of family member.
I’ve had many, many consultants work with us that have ailing parents or, in one instance, we had someone who had an aunt that needed to go to numerous doctor’s appointments, and so really needed that job that could help accommodate their family.
Whether it is children or extended family members that you need to care for, and that is something that is someone’s responsibility and in a way, is a job, from your family perspective. So, being able to broaden it to be more than just for kids, I think is important when we look at what organizations are really tailoring themselves to a family-friendly culture and workplace.
Well, let’s talk about those organizations; what do you see family-friendly employers do differently?
I think it really stems back to having open communication about what the expectations of a job are and being able to be flexible and not have people be in a seat from eight to five.
I think that with the future of work, we’re seeing a lot of things change in terms of what people need in order to be successful. It’s a lot more of, “What is happening in my life and my work?” And not just one or the other, and so I think the organizations that really are doing the best job are looking at a whole person and not just what they are at work and not just what they are at home, but what that combination is and everyone’s a little bit unique and I really want to stress that there’s not a one size fits all approach to this. I think that it’s important that an organization has that flexibility and is willing to work with people, and by doing that, they’re going to get a benefit which is getting the most out of that talented individual.
Okay, well, let’s talk about specific policies that a family-friendly employer might offer. Can you give us an example? I know you touched on flexibility and not requiring somebody to sit in a chair from eight to five, but turn that, when you work with your clients, what are, give us one or two examples of specific policies that family-friendly employers adopt.
Yes, I think that probably one of the most common would be a form of parental leave, or even in some states, just paid family leave. I think having that as an option is something that a family-friendly workplace would offer. I think, in some cases, we maybe even take for granted even just paid personal or sick leave in certain roles or companies that isn’t even necessarily always offered and so that is something that I would say another policy would be something a company that is looking for family-friendly employees would offer.
I also see some more child-specific benefits in terms of some daycare spending options that you can pay into, kind of similar to an HSA plan and then also I think, again, just really honing in on the flexible work schedule, so having somebody who can…or a company that will allow for people to kind of design their day, as long as they’re getting their work done. So, policies that managers can even put into place around someone’s workday or even flexibility around that workday is something that I also have seen.
Lauren, can you share an example of a client you’ve worked with who has that kind of flexible schedule? What does it look like and what might a typical day or week look like for that person?
Yeah, so what I would say that specifically at Projectline, we have a lot of different consultants that are working onsite with clients, and depending on the role, there is a lot of variation. I would say that one example that really comes to mind is we have a consultant who, he coaches his son’s baseball team, and so he has an agreement with his client, you know, he works regularly with and makes a plan to be able to leave a little bit early that day, the day that he needs to be doing the coaching.
And he will make up that time and make up that work at a different time or get his work done early, but he will block that time off of his calendar, so people know not to schedule meetings and he feels the autonomy and the trust to be able to do that without worrying that somebody thinks that he’s not getting his job done and I think that that’s another piece that is important. There has to be a lot of trust in the relationship and that comes both ways, the employer at the company needs to be able to trust that you’re going to get your work done, and then you need to be able to trust that the employer will support you to let you do that.
You’ve shared examples of different policies, of HSA accounts, flexible schedules, parental leave, paid sick and vacation time. Why do employers offer these family-friendly benefits, Lauren? What’s the benefit to the company and ultimately, to the bottom line?
So, I think that as we’re looking at the future of work and how that is evolving, we’re seeing a lot of blended workforce and in some areas, shortage of really good talent. And so, when I talk with my clients, I really try to emphasize that working parents is a fabulous talent resource.
I mean, there’s a lot of different untapped talents out there and I would say working parents is a very large pool of people. And if we can provide the environment where they can be successful, they are very loyal, they are very hardworking, they’re certainly great at multitasking, any parent I know has always been great at that, and so I think that there are tremendous benefits for employers to really cultivate both a talent pipeline of working parents and then also making sure that they are building a place where working parents want to stay and grow. Because, especially depending on the caregiver situation, that can kind of fluctuate throughout their time in a job.
What objections do your clients hear? Perhaps they’re in an existing position and they want to see more family-friendly policies, what objections do they get from either managers or employers in general? And what are your suggestions about overcoming them?
Yes, that’s a really great question. I think that there’s been a lot of different things that have come up. I would say, I talk a lot with new parents, people who have just recently had a child and really wanting to come back into the workforce, and being a little bit concerned that they may not have a resume that allows them as good of a chance to either get their foot in the door or even, they worry that they’re going to raise concerns because they took some time off. And I, having gone through taking time off to be with my children, I know how important that time is and I know you’re not just taking a break.
You are very much working during that time, and so, I really try to talk with people and coach them that just because you’ve had some time off does not mean that you can’t get back into the workforce, and that you cannot be successful, and have a place. So really doing some sessions around even just building confidence, around knowing your worth and your value, and being able to translate some of the things that you may have been doing while you were on your leave into skill sets that are relevant to the career that you want to go into next.
Well, that’s a great moment to pause. I want to take a break because when we come back Lauren, I want to talk about looking for these family-friendly jobs and I’m glad that you brought up the example of getting back into the workforce and wants to be able to talk about why they took the break and is going to be especially interested in finding a family-friendly job.
Stay with us. When we come back, Lauren Bell will continue to share her advice on how to find a family-friendly job.
As Lauren has emphasized, to find a family-friendly job, you need to be clear about your goals.
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Now, let’s get back to the show.
We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Lauren Bell. Lauren is a career strategist with Projectline Services. It’s a staffing and consulting company in Seattle, Washington.
Lauren, before the break we talked about family-friendly employers, the policies they adopt, and why companies do this, and the benefits to employers.
Now, let’s talk about looking for these kinds of jobs.
Let’s start with I think a concern many listeners might have, which is it’s going to be hard to find a family-friendly employer. What’s your experience?
I mentioned earlier that a family-friendly employer could mean a lot of things to different people. And so, I think that, you know, figuring out what that means to you is key. I think that it is important for you to really have a realistic and deep understanding of what that looks like.
Once you know that, then it makes things a lot easier in terms of seeking out those employers. And then once you have that understanding of which employer you’re wanting to work with or which type of role you’re looking for, then you can tailor your approach or your resume to that particular role.
How do you recommend, Lauren, that people define what “family-friendly” means to them? Is there an exercise you recommend to your clients?
Yeah, I work a lot with consultants and we spend a lot of time going through, “What does your ideal day look like? What does that…you know, if you could have any kind of schedule, what does that look like?”
As I mentioned before, for one consultant it was, “I really want to be able to get done with work a little bit early so that I can help coach my son’s baseball team.” For others, it may mean they want to start the day late because they need to drop off their kids at school. And so, being able to understand, what are the important things in your life, and kind of starting on a day because it’s easy to focus on a day versus “What do you want your whole year to look like?”
Just sort of starting small and what would that one day look like for you, and then figuring out, what are the different things that might need to be accommodated to fit those needs? And that’s where I think the key is, is in terms of trying to understand what those accommodations are and then being really open, honest, and transparent with what those things are that you need, I think is the best start.
Once you have those definitions, I’m thinking of three kinds of listeners who might be out there. One is the person who’s scanning the “Help Wanted” job postings. Another might be someone who’s working now and wants a more family-friendly schedule. And the third is somebody who’s coming back to work after a leave.
Why don’t we go through all three of those? Any tips about how to research employers if you’re looking for those kinds of practices that you mentioned? Say, a flexible work schedule, how do you find an employer like that when you’re looking at a job board listing?
Yeah, so, I actually would suggest that everyone start by looking at a company’s Glassdoor page. I think that it’s very important to see what other people who have worked at a company have to say. You know, and of course, you can take some of the more extremes out of the mix, but for the most part, I feel like looking at those reviews of a company gives you a lot of key insights, and you can even notice some trends around that information.
The other thing that I would suggest, and I have had a lot of people come back to me and say this was successful, is setting up informational interviews with people who work at that company.
So, once you’ve identified, you’ve seen some job board postings, you’re seeing some roles that you are looking at, reach out to…use LinkedIn and reach out to people in your network and set up some informational interviews so that you can get a feel for that company’s culture. You can ask questions that maybe you wouldn’t necessarily ask in an interview. So maybe, “Are people here until seven o’clock at night? Do executive leaders encourage people to take time off? Do they take time off themselves?”
Things like that can be maybe easier to discuss in an informational interview than if you get much further down the line, and being able to have those pre-conversations to help you figure out what the culture is like before you even get in the door.
Okay, and let’s talk, I know one question that is on the mind of a listener is likely, “Do I jeopardize my prospects for a position at a company if I raise these questions at some point during the interview process or even in an informational interview?” What would you say to someone like that?
I am a big believer in being very transparent about what your needs are and when people are interviewing, I feel like you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Because you don’t want to mislead someone as to your skillsets and you don’t want them to mislead you, so if you’re feeling like, “I can’t bring my true self to work,” then you probably don’t want to work at that place is my personal opinion.
I’m really a big proponent of finding the best fit, and in the cases where you…of course, there are some situations where we may not have the ability to not have a job or have some time between jobs and in those cases, of course, you want to have some flexibility and make sure that you’re doing what you can but when you do have that opportunity to find that best fit, don’t sell yourself short, don’t try to change something about yourself if you can find a place that will help you be your true self, and bring that authentic self to work.
That goes back to your original point about the importance of setting goals and knowing what you want and being specific about what your ideal day might look like.
Let’s explore this just a little more because we’ve talked about doing this research, looking on Glassdoor, having conversations with promising leads at companies through informational interviews.
Let’s take it into the interview room itself. What do you recommend someone say or ask about in an interview to explore their interest in a family-friendly job?
I think that you can ask a lot of questions without running into too many HR conflicts, just about, what is it like to work at the company?
So, you know, I mentioned a little bit around, are people in the office Friday afternoons? That might be a question that you can ask and can be telling, whether you’re looking for a family-friendly or just a regular job. If people say, “Oh yeah, there’s usually a lot of people here Friday afternoons. Maybe even into the evening.” That may not indicate as flexible of a work schedule as you might be looking for.
Asking a little bit about, do executives typically take vacation time? That might be something to consider. Asking about the team environment. Again, all of these will be really tied to those family-friendly things that you personally have identified, so it can be really unique to you, but trying to think outside the box around, “What are some broad questions that if I worked there and somebody was coming in, I would want them to ask me?”
What are your best tips…I want to go back to the people who might be returning to work after, say, taking a leave or they’re in a position now and both of these parties may want more family-friendly arrangements at the office but perhaps there’s not a culture that supports that or those practices aren’t in place. What suggestions do you have for listeners in those situations about how they might make their jobs more family-friendly?
I personally have a lot of interest in, if you really love your job and you love your company, be an advocate for change. If there’s something that you feel that somebody could be doing better, talk with the HR department. Figure out if there’s something that you could do or encourage others to do.
I know that one thing that is pretty common across mothers returning to the workforce is needing to pump after they’ve come back after having a baby. So, in that instance, really reaching out and making sure that there are accommodations, for example, to make sure that they have a space, letting your manager or your team know, “I have to take these calls remotely.” Or, “I need to block off this time every day to do that.”
Again, kind of going back to the things that you need, asking for those accommodations. Now, if you’re running into issues where you’re asking for accommodations and people are not willing to help you or allow for those accommodations, then I think at that point, you may want to start looking for a new company altogether. But I also think that sometimes we have to be the change agent that we want for our own lives and there’s probably a lot of benefit to others for us to take those actions.
Well, it’s been a terrific conversation, Lauren. Now, tell us, what’s next for you?
That’s actually a really great question. I am very passionate about launching a parents-employee resource group at my company, Yesler Inc., and that has been a really great challenge and exciting thing for me over the past, almost, year, and the other thing that is next is just continuing to really enjoy my role at Projectline. I love being able to use my expertise and also my connections to really help working parents find jobs that they love. Because I love my job and I want to help others find something they love as well.
Well, I know people can learn more about your company by visiting www.projectlineservices.com and I know you also encourage people to connect with you on LinkedIn.
Lauren, given all the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing that you want a listener to remember when looking for a family-friendly job?
I think the best thing is to start with knowing your family because everyone is going to have a unique situation, and so the more you really know what you need, the better you will be able to communicate and the better others will be able to help accommodate those needs.
As you talk to employers about your interest in a family-friendly job, you also need to be ready for behavioral interview questions.
When you interview for any position, in fact, employers will want you to share examples and stories of what you did for past managers.
Are you ready for that conversation? If not, get your copy today of 100 Behavioral Interview Questions You Need to Know.
Go to macslist.org/questions.
Again, that’s mac’s list.org/questions.
On our next episode, our guest will be Kanika Tolver. She’s a professional coach, author, and speaker, who lives in Washington, DC.
Video interviews have become a common hiring practice for many employers and Kanika has very practical suggestions about what you can do to stand out in an on-camera interview.
I hope you’ll join us. Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.