For moms returning to work or changing careers, flexibility is key. Given the pandemic, many parents will be home-schooling their kids full or part-time, so having a flexible job is a necessity. Even if your kids are returning to school full-time, flexibility is still an important factor to consider.

But how can you tell if an employer really offers the type of flexibility you need? What does it mean when an employer writes “family-friendly” in a job announcement? Is it just jargon, or do they actually walk the walk, so to speak?

Read on to learn about how to figure out what kind of flexibility you need in your next job, as well as how to get it:

Tip #1 for Finding a Flexible Job

Determine your top priorities

When I was searching for a flexible job after my son was born, it felt like I was trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle.  Rather than panic, I sat down with my husband. We talked about how his schedule could potentially change or become more flexible once I started working. For example, we agreed that he would start taking the kids to school two mornings a week so I could leave the house earlier.

Then things changed due to the pandemic, and I start working completely from home. My husband agreed to come home early two days per week so I could go into my home office and work late afternoon through the evening.

So first, figure out what type of support you will need. Sit down with your spouse or partner and a pen and paper. Does your partner have any flexibility in their job? Can they ask for more flexibility once you start working?

If you are a single parent, do you have family nearby who can help or any other source of support? Can you reach out to moms in support groups for suggestions about quality daycare and schools?

Next, determine the type of flexibility you need. Do you want or need to work 100% from home, or are you open to working partially from home? Are you willing to work on-site? Do you prefer normal business hours (Mon-Fri 9-5) and a set schedule, or are you open to working nights / weekends and / or inconsistent hours?

See related: Top Three Flexible, Online Jobs for Moms (with Kids at Home) and Five Tips for Minimizing Employment Gaps on a Resume

Tip #2 for Finding a Flexible Job

Research, research, research!

If you need a job urgently, you might not have tons of time to search for your ideal job. But at the very least, make sure your targeted company is family-friendly and that they value their employees and treat them well.

One of the most common questions I hear from returning moms is “what can I ask in the interview to figure out if the company offers flexibility?” My answer is that you should already know if a company offers flexibility before the interview takes place!

That’s where research comes in. Use sites like Glassdoor and  Fairygodboss to read anonymous company reviews. Pay close attention to what parents say about the family-friendliness of the company and the overall culture.

By the time you get to the interview you should already have a general idea of the type of flexibility offered by the organization. At the end of the interview you can ask general questions that will give you a clearer idea. For example: What is the company culture? What do you like about working here? What measures is XYZ organization taking to keep employees safe during the pandemic?

Once a job offer has been made and you are in the negotiation stage of the interview, you can ask more specifically about flexible work options. By now the employer knows you better and has a clear idea of the value and skills you will bring to the position. They are therefore likely to be more open to discussing flexibility.

See related: How to Land an Unadvertised Job in 2020 and The Ultimate Guide to Job Search

Tip #3 For Finding a Flexible Job

Use a variety of job search methods

I’m going to use an annoying cliche here: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket! But when it comes to finding a job these days, this is so true.

In addition to searching on the more general sites like Indeed, Simply Hired, and Zip Recruiter, make sure to also use targeted job search sites created by moms for moms like FlexJobs and The Mom Project. These databases feature flexible, family friendly work opportunities and tailored resources for returning moms.

In addition to using more conventional job search tactics like applying for posted opportunities, it’s also important to to tap into the hidden job market (i.e. unadvertised jobs) using networking strategies. According to a recent study, roughly 85% of jobs are unadvertised!

Using the professional networking platform LinkedIn you can search for professionals working at companies of interest. Ask to do informational interviews, which are casual, 15 minute conversations via email, phone, or Zoom where you can ask questions like How did you get started in XYZ field? What do you like about working for XYZ company? What is the turnover rate? Does XYZ company offer flexible work arrangements?

If the company has an unadvertised opportunity, your new contact might pass along your resume directly to the hiring manager!

For more specific tips on how to build your network to land an unadvertised job, check out How to Land an Unadvertised Job in 2020

Tip #4 For Finding a Flexible Job

Take it one step at a time

These are challenging times to say the least! With the uncertainty of kids’ school schedules it can be tough to figure out exactly what kind of flexibility you might need in your next job. It’s okay not to have a clear picture.

The most important thing is to do as much research as you can before the interview. If you do your due diligence and you’ve got a good feeling about the employer during the interview, chances are things will work out. Your boss will work with you to figure out a schedule that works for both you as well as the company.

Try to take things one day at a time. Job searching is overwhelming. Add in the pandemic and the overwhelm gets multiplied by 100! Set reasonable goals each day and each week.

See related: Considering a Career Change? Ask Yourself These Five Questions First!

In Conclusion

Finding the ideal, flexible job that is not only a good fit for you, but that also works for your family takes time! These days, it’s very common to change jobs and even completely change career paths.

If you start a job and it doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world. It sucks, but it’s not the end of the world. The good news is, with each job you acquire new skills and experience, and you will be all the more knowledgeable about finding a job the next time around!