Ask the expert: Flexible jobs after the baby arrives?

May 22, 2011 12:00 AM

Q: What is the best way for pregnant moms to investigate flexible types of work post-baby?

A: Flexible work for parents is a fantastic way to have the best of both worlds: more time with your child and earning an income. Many parents don’t realize that there are great flexible jobs available in almost any career field, from Accounting to Business Development and more. In fact, one reason it can seem too good to be true is because in actuality there are a lot of “scam” websites out there that prey on individuals. Therefore, when looking for flexible work, pregnant moms should make sure that the resource where they find the listing is legitimate.

There are a number of quick ways to determine if a job opportunity is legitimate or not: Is the company’s name listed in the job listing? Are you instructed to apply to a non-company email, such as a gmail, yahoo, craigslist, or hotmail address? Do you need to pay or put money down to get the job? Does the listing sound too good to be true? Are you asked to provide personal identifying information like social security or bank account numbers? These are all red flags for a potential scam job. If you’re uncertain, do a quick search for the company and evaluate how professional their website looks. Better yet, search for the company name and the words “complaint” or “scam” to see if others have voiced concerns about them. The more research you do upfront, the less likely you’ll fall victim to telecommuting scams.

For women who are currently working, another great place to start is to ask your employer. More and more companies are allowing employees to work flexibly, such as occasional telecommuting, because of the many benefits to the environment and the potential cost savings to them. Many women assume they will be told no, but it can definitely be worth asking the question… your employer may surprise you.

If you are trying to convince your current boss to allow a flexible schedule or telecommuting before or after family leave, you might want to consider these ideas before you go on family leave:

1. Ask for a trial run for a few days. Showing how well the flexible or telecommuting arrangement will benefit your employer is the most compelling argument you can make. During the trial run, show that you will work diligently from home and can stay in touch with colleagues in the office.

2. Take baby steps (no pun intended). Ask to telecommute part-time (e.g., one day a week) to start out with, even if you would eventually like to work virtually full-time.

3. Before you even start to telecommute, suggest web-based tools and resources that your team can use to communicate, manage files, and share schedule information. Test them out even if you are all working in the office together. Get used to communicating in ways other than face to face conversations (make note of how much time you save!).

That being said, there absolutely is flexible work out there. Home-based work exists for all types of professions, and the job search process is very similar to a regular job search except that the search can be broadened if location isn’t a consideration.

I’m always amazed at the number of quality, interesting, and professional level jobs available for people interested in telecommuting. 2011 brings with it solid telecommuting opportunities in finance, case management, customer service, marketing and sales, recruiting, writing and editing, teaching, consulting, accounting, web design and development, and even nursing and other medical professions. There’s certainly a growing trend in domicile-based jobs – over the past three years, we’ve seen a 400% increase in telecommuting job opportunities. 2011 is sure to be a fantastic year for professionals who want to work at home.

There are many onlines resources to investigate flexible types of work, but no matter the avenue you choose, remember to be aware of scams.

Sara Sutton Fell is an expert in the online job market with 15 years of experience. She is the CEO/Founder of FlexJobs, a career website for telecommuting and flexible job listings.

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