Find Your Dream Job, Episode 339:
How to Juggle a Job Search When You’re a Working Mom, with Mona Johnson
Airdate: March 16, 2022
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Finding a great job takes time. So does being a great parent. How can you do both at once?
Mona Johnson is here to talk about how to juggle a job search when you’re a working mom.
She’s a career coach at Merit America. It’s a nonprofit that provides a path to skilled careers in technology for adults without bachelor’s degrees.
Mona joins us from Portland, Oregon.
Well, Mona, let’s jump right into it. What’s the biggest challenge working moms face when they’re doing a job search and juggling that with other responsibilities?
I think the biggest challenge is just making time for it. Busy working moms prioritize their kids, their partners, their communities, their extended families before they prioritize themselves, so just making the time and doing that consistently every day is the biggest challenge, for sure.
I want to talk about time management. But working moms, do they face more challenges than, say, working dads? Is it harder for them to find the time to do the search?
I don’t wanna discount the work that working dads do at home. Things have really changed over the decades, for sure. But when you look at the data, it shows us over and over and over again that women are doing more of the care-taking at home. And so, that puts more demands on their time, and carving out time can be really rough. So, I think for a lot of busy working moms, finding the time is a rough one.
How much time do you encourage the working moms you coach to spend on a job search every week?
Yes, we have to customize that. You know, we make our suggestions in order to be successful in a job search, but it really is based on the individual and their needs. Consistency’s really important. So, building momentum and networking, over time, yields results. So, you have to be willing to commit at least four or five days a week, at least an hour or two a day. Some days, that’s not gonna happen. Some days, you’ll be lucky to get ten minutes in. But on average, by the end of the week, you should have several hours in.
Do you find, Mona, that some moms think that they should spend more time on a job search than that? And do they feel guilted that they’re not doing it?
I love the word guilt. So, I always tell my clients- guilt is not mandatory. It’s entirely optional. So we want to drop the guilt. Again, we want to prioritize ourselves and our job search. Any work that we invest right now is gonna benefit our family in the future. So, it is in their best interest for you to have a happy, productive career, and if you’re really interested in a short job search, the more you can up your hours, the more that you’ll gain as far as traction and making those connections, getting those interviews. So, the more you can do, the better.
Some busy working moms find that they do have extra time, or maybe they’re only working part-time, and they can devote, you know, two to three hours a day. A full-time job search really does take, you know, thirty-five, forty hours a week. So, that’s not realistic for a lot of working moms, obviously. So, you know, being strategic, figuring out what you can do each day, and tracking that can be really helpful.
You mentioned consistency, doing something every day. Why is that so important? Why will working moms see benefits to a job search if she does something every day?
Well, it’s important because you have to connect with people at the companies that you’re targeting, and ideally, you’re building relationships with these folks before you apply. So, that needs to happen in the weeks or months, ideally, before you apply, and it’s that consistent behavior that really builds those relationships over time.
Also, you want to be, you know, one of the firsts to see when a job does post on a job board because you do have a better chance of interviewing if you’re in that, you know, first few days of something being posted. So, it can help you land interviews if you catch it early.
So, that can, and, you know, it’s a habit. You want to build the habit. You want to make sure, you know, it doesn’t seem like such a big task if you’re doing a little bit every day. So, that consistency is key.
I want to talk about time management and get to that. But first, what strengths do you see working moms bring to a job search, particularly when they’re juggling multiple priorities?
Parents bring a lot of empathy. Employers are telling us that they want empathetic managers and staff. So, they bring a ton of empathy.
They bring a ton of patience. They understand, you know, managing time, prioritizing, multi-tasking when needed. They just bring such a strong skillset to any job. All of it’s transferable in my book.
And this is meant in a constructive spirit, but what mistakes do you see working moms make when they’re trying to juggle that job search and the needs of their family and other obligations?
Really, it boils down to consistency and sometimes feeling guilty that they are taking the time for themselves to do that, and it’s usually, people have a hard time just building that behavior. That I’m gonna, you know, do X, Y, or Z in the morning, at lunch, in the evening, and sticking to it. Like any behavior change, it’s that consistency that really helps. So, guilt and consistency usually are the two big ones.
Well, let’s talk about time management, Mona. What does good time management look like for a working mom who’s doing a job search?
I love that. So, it’s really helpful if you do a time audit. So, just becoming aware of how you do spend your time. A lot of times, people aren’t aware how often they’re checking emails, or how much they’re on social media, how much they’re streaming, you know, on Netflix. Time has a way of slipping away if we’re not mindful about it.
Setting a time limit for each task is really important. Using to-do lists for each task or goal. So, breaking it up into smaller bits can be helpful. Of course, working parents are great at planning ahead, bringing that same mentality to your job search.
So, in the evening, you know, looking to see what you need to do for the next day. In the morning, assessing what’s most important, what’s most urgent, and getting those things done. Spending your best time on your most important tasks, so those MITs. For a lot of people, that’s in the morning, so getting those most important tasks done can make you feel great. It sets momentum for the rest of the day.
And then, we need to learn, especially you super moms out there. We need to learn how to delegate, outsource, delete, say no. Learning how to say no to things.
Minimizing distractions to avoid what we call half-work. So, sometimes things can feel like work, but they really are counterproductive. So, for example, maybe you’re sending out LinkedIn messages to folks at your target companies, but then you slip into your other social media and check to see what’s going on, or maybe you pick up a phone call, or maybe you, you know, watch a little bit of what the kids are watching while they’re on, you know, tv. So, we want to avoid that, that half-work. Because it can be really a time zap.
And then, experiment. Experiment with your schedule. See what works, tweak it, drop what doesn’t. You know, no judgment. You just follow where the results take you and keep that going.
What’s your best advice, Mona, for a listener who might be struggling with saying no, or delegating work to others?
Yeah, this can be really tricky, especially for you super moms out there. Start small, start with friends and family. Start saying no to your kids, start saying no to your partner, start saying no to that PTO request, or that volunteer work, or the community organization where you’re at, and we can be gracious in our no.
So, along with a no, “I don’t have the time right now, but I would love to help out in the future, or maybe next time,” or, you know, something like that. So, we can still say the no but offer up an opportunity for later, and that softens it a little bit.
So practice, just practice saying no.
That’s terrific, Mona. Now, we’re gonna take a break. When we come back, stay with us, Mona Johnson will continue to share her advice on how to juggle a job search when you’re a working mom.
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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 Mona Johnson. She’s a career coach at Merit America.
It’s a nonprofit that provides a path to skilled careers in technology for adults without bachelor’s degrees.
She joins us from Portland, Oregon.
Mona, before the break, we were talking about how to juggle a job search when you’re a working mom, and we were talking about time management. I’m curious, what are your top recommended time management tools that you share with your clients?
For me, Google calendar is superior for my situation, and, you know, I’ve experimented with a lot of different things. It works well. It integrates well with other calendars. But there are a lot of products out there, so explore.
Any.do is great. Focus Booster, which is based on the Pomodoro technique, can be really helpful. Clear is great for chunking tasks and organizing goals. A lot of your listeners will be familiar with Evernote, Asana is a great one to master because a lot of businesses use Asana; that’s used for project management. Big Time is great for team budgeting or tracking or family, you know, budgeting and tracking.
RescueTime is a great app for time training, becoming more aware of how you’re using your time, and then a lot of families are masters at the good old standby, so, you know, the large whiteboards with the, you know, all the family members listed and all their weekly activities, and I, personally, still use a paper agenda, in conjunction with my Google calendar because it’s great for a quick weekly glance or a monthly, you know, glance when I’m making appointments.
So, I use the Google Calendar and a paper agenda together.
What is the best way to use some of these tools, particularly the calendars, when you’re doing a job search? How can they help you in your- look for work?
I like to chunk work blocks. If you know your best time is in the morning, you know, do, again, that most important task in the morning. If you’ve got a thirty-minute window at lunch, block that for whatever task you want to do in your job search, and then, when the kids go to bed at night, you know, there are often two or three hours right there that you can block for different tasks. So, blocking time on your calendars and making it a repeating meeting, week-to-week, can be really helpful for that consistency.
Are there other ways that these tools can help you both make your job search a consistent practice but also priority too? Other tips you have?
Yeah, absolutely. So, you can, you know, set up reminders. There’s, you know, you can integrate notes. I mean, the possibilities are really endless. So, if you just start exploring different things, note the features that are most important to help you be productive, you know, experiment, tweak, and, you know, and again, toss what’s not working. So, just really pay attention to what encourages your productivity and your job search.
Another step you recommend to working moms who are juggling a job search is to ask for help. Tell us more about this, Mona. Why is it important to ask for help?
Well, everyone comes to us. Right? As a mother, as a working mother. So, people come to us in our family, in our community, people come to us at work, you know, and they’re asking for a lot of things. So, we need to get into the practice of reciprocating that. We need to ask for help. We need to let others know what’s going on. People want to help, and they often don’t know that you need, you know, additional support.
So, you know, get connected with your friends, family, neighbors around your job search. Let people know. This is also great for networking, and then, you know, check out platforms like The Mom Project, where there’s a community of moms supporting each other. You know, and just get on your social media, look for mom groups. You know, just really talk about what’s going on in your life so that you get help and that you get the word out.
It’s the second and third-degree connections where the opportunities lie. So, let your friends and family know what’s going on.
What stops working moms from asking for help with their job search?
Sometimes, we fall into perfectionism, and we think we have to do it all ourselves. That, for some reason, it’s a weakness when we ask for help. But really, there’s a lot of strength in that, and like I said before, it can impact so many other parts of your job search, like networking and finding those hidden opportunities. So, yeah, getting comfortable with that, and again, start small.
The third step you recommend to working moms is to focus on companies that value parents. How does this help to target your job search and look at those firms that value parenthood?
The pandemic has offered a cultural awakening in corporate America. More and more companies are jumping on with flexibility, offering remote or hybrid work. They’re offering more family-friendly work benefits. So, you know, that paid time off.
Typically, you want to target small or mid-sized employers that are committed to gender equality. It’s, you know, the big Fortune 500s that make the news, but usually, that’s where more people have the most success. You don’t want to assume that a full-time position can’t be done on a flexible basis.
Fifty percent of those flex jobs are negotiated. You should wait towards the end of the interview process to bring it up, and if they’re not biting, you can always suggest a trial run.
A lot of people or companies are offering returnships, and you can Google returnships. Basically, these are return to work programs or adult internships, and they offer a lot of flexibility.
Flexjobs.com is a resource. They do ask for a fee for that one. The Mom Project does not have a fee associated with that. So, those employers signed up on that job board are looking for moms and are offering a lot of flexibility.
And then, you want to optimize your settings on your LinkedIn and the job posting platforms that you’re using. Make sure you’re hitting remote and hybrid, whatever is appropriate for you.
And sometimes, it’s helpful to be open to contract work because you never know where it might lead. You know, that contract part-time work can offer a lot of flexibility and then you can step into something else.
So, go into it with an open mind. Get curious. See what companies are offering, and it really has never been more flexible than it is right now.
Do you find it’s hard to find these companies? You just laid out a number of steps you can take. It would seem like there must be many of these employers now.
Oh my goodness, yes. So, some of the big ones are Accenture, Cedar Sanai, GM, IBM, JP Morgan Chase, Microsoft, PayPal, Amazon, Meta has a program for lawyer parents. So, and I mean, it’s just they’re very abundant right now. It’s never been a better time to look for a flexible job.
Once you identify those employers, what’s the best way to approach them? What do you do next?
You know, networking is really important before the job even posts or that returnship posts. So, try to find, you know, five to seven people in the department where you might be working, and just ask them, you know, about their career path, how they like working there. Don’t ask about a job. You know, really try to nurture that relationship, which I think moms are great at doing.
And then, of course, you know, check out their postings on their websites or on the job boards, and then reach out to the recruiter, and you can also send an email, a LinkedIn direct message to the hiring manager. Try to build that relationship.
So, lots of different ways to go about doing that, and you should be using multiple strategies, not just one, as you’re trying to reach out to folks at your target companies.
Finally, Mona, you encourage working moms doing a job search to embrace their professional identity. Tell us more about that. What do you mean by this?
It really gets down to values and what you prioritize. If you’re in a job and it’s paying the bills, and you’re not feeling fulfilled, there are lots of ways to go to work and feel like you’re really making a difference in the way that you see as important in the world. So, if you can tap into the values, what is most important to you, how you want to make a difference in the world.
Where are you energized? You know? What sort of settings? What are you doing? What kind of people are you interacting with? Are you interacting with people at all? You know, just be more mindful about what brings you energy, what excites you, you know, following that curiosity. It doesn’t hurt to look. You can be looking while you’re working. Just see what’s out there, and if you do that sooner rather than later, you get to see where the opportunity is and see where there might be some overlap.
Well, it’s been a terrific conversation, Mona. Now, tell us what’s next for you?
Well, Merit America is hiring. We have positions from operational administrators, managers, career coaches, job success specialists, and we really bring an open mind to the experience and expertise people might bring to the role. So, we don’t always require that traditional degree or that traditional experience. So, we really walk the talk.
So, we’re busy hiring at Merit America, and we’re expanding our programs, and, you know, I’m really excited for that. So, yeah, more to come at Merit America. I just love our social justice mission and our efforts to diversify tech. So, if you’re at all interested in social justice or anything like that, check us out meritamerica.org.
Terrific, I know listeners can learn more about Merit America and you by connecting with you on LinkedIn, and if you do reach out to Mona on LinkedIn, be sure to mention you heard her on Find Your Dream Job.
Now, Mona, given all the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how to juggle a job search when you’re a working mom.
You are not alone. You have more support than you know. Reach out to others. And do a little bit every day.
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Next week, our guest will be Dan Hahn.
He’s the owner of A Portland Career. Dan helps his clients get unstuck and find new careers and better jobs.
You need to answer an employer’s questions in a job interview. But you also need to tell your career story.
What’s the most effective way to do this?
Join us next Wednesday when Dan Hahn and I talk about how to tell your story in a job interview.
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This is Mac Prichard. See you next week.