Honesty has always been the best policy for me, it’s a huge part of who I am, but last year I was faced with a situation where it might actually cause me a problem.
You see, I was made redundant when I was ten weeks pregnant, leaving me with two rather scary quests:
- To find work quickly so I could save as much money as possible for when I was on ‘maternity leave’ and would no longer have an income.
- To find an employer that would be flexible enough to require a temporary employee that would only be with them until the summer.
It was a tricky situation and, I don’t mind admitting, I was daunted by it.
Everywhere I turned there were people encouraging me to keep quiet about my condition.
Because I wasn’t ‘showing’, friends couldn’t understand why I felt the need to tell employers up front.
Legally, I wasn’t required to tell anyone until week twenty-five so it was hinted I should wait until that point and then claim I hadn’t known I was pregnant.
One recruitment agency even suggested I wait until a role was confirmed before telling the company the truth, because at that point they cannot retract the offer.
But this just didn’t sit right with me.
I didn’t think it was fair for someone to take me on, only to be messed around in July when I would have to leave. And besides, I am a terrible liar.
On top of this, I was conscious that once I was ready to return to work after having my baby, I would be going to these same people again asking for a job.
I didn’t want to create a bad reputation for myself, I didn’t want my name to have a black mark next to it.
But as time wore on, day after day with no solid offers of work, I doubted whether I was doing the right thing for me and my child (a feeling that I am now all too familiar with).
Was I limiting my options by wanting to be honest?
Was I going to find myself unable to get work because I was stubbornly sticking to my opinion that this was the ‘right’ thing to do?
Already I loved this person growing inside of me so much, I worried about how each action I took would affect them.
I think that’s why I struggled so much with this dilemma, because there was so much more riding on my decisions now.
I became angry at myself: had I not learnt from what had happened with the last job that the only person who will look after me, is me?
Had I not learnt that it was time to stand up for myself? Time to put myself and my child first?
Truthfully, the answer to that was ‘no’.
I wasn’t going to let what had happened change such an essential part of who I am, I wasn’t going to try and get by in the world by lying and playing games.
So, did it affect my job search?
Obviously. I can’t offer any proof that it did, but I certainly got that impression.
Since leaving university, the longest I have ever been out of work is two weeks. Last year I was actively searching for a job for nearly three months.
With ten more years of work and life experience, including four years at a well known national company, you’d have thought I’d find myself offered more opportunities, not less.
The interest was there, that much is certain. One recruitment agency let me know they received unanimously positive feedback from the clients who had seen my CV.
On the whole, they were interested in employing me… once I returned to work full time.
For a temporary role to cover just these next few months though, there was not a sniff of interest.
Perhaps that says something positive about me: people want me to be a part of their organisation. But why should my pregnancy change that? Surely if they were that interested they would snap me up now?
In fairness, everyone I spoke to was kind about my situation and I think that was down to me being so honest about my condition.
When deliberating over my CV I wrote and re-wrote my personal statement several times. Did I want to tell them straight: ‘I’m pregnant but I’ll work hard for you’?
No, I didn’t want to risk that, it would be too easy for them to simply pass over my CV at an early stage.
But I didn’t want to hide it completely, so I found a compromise.
The line at the top of my CV told recruiters I had been made redundant and was now looking for work with an immediate start.
It then went on to explain that I would only be available to work until July. A short sentence that was enough to hint at a recruiter that they might want to know more.
And they did, it was the perfect way to open what could be an awkward conversation. Agencies would call me to ask about my experience and what I had done in my last role.
‘Great’, they’d say. ‘That sounds fantastic, such a shame you lost your job but you sound ambitious and keen to move on to your next role’.
‘Now Amy, it says here that you are only available until July. Can I ask why?’
I’m sure most of them were expecting me to say I’d be travelling round the world to take time off from work, not that I would be having a baby.
Every single person’s tone changed at this point. They were always very sweet, congratulating me on my happy news, but the following line became very familiar:
‘Unfortunately, the role I’ve got here is permanent but I will definitely let you know if anything comes up’.
I think there was one person who actually did follow up on calling me at a later date to offer me more work, but I never heard back from any of the other recruiters.
I don’t really blame the agencies for this. When asked to find the best candidate for a role, one that comes with the complications of pregnancy doesn’t really fit that bill.
But that didn’t make it any less frustrating, any less distressing.
As every day of sitting on the sofa watching Jeremy Kyle passed (okay, I admit, I liked that bit), I became more and more worried that I was letting my baby and my partner down.
Had my naivety robbed me of the opportunity to save up a few hundred pounds? Money that would be vital come July when I had to stop work and rely on my savings.
The Job Centre had advised me that in May I would be able to apply for income support, meaning I wouldn’t need to go for the fortnightly appointments.
I conceded that by then I would probably have passed the point of no return for looking for work, it was too close to my due date and even short term placements would be unlikely.
My partner and I decided that if we reached that point I would stop applying and, begrudgingly, take the benefits I was being offered.
(It turned out I actually wouldn’t have been entitled to them, but there’s more on that next week.)
Thankfully, something did come up before then, but I will never forget the self doubt that I went through at the time.
Nothing had ever made me question such a vital part of my personality as the possibility of not being able to provide for my child.
I don’t think I’ll ever forgive the people who put me in that situation.
If you’d like to hear more about my journey back to work, both before and after having my little boy, please click the ‘follow’ button which should be to the right of your screen. I’d love to have you join me for the ride.