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To Tell or Not to Tell…

March 31, 2010

Below is the start of a very unique story by one of the current first year student mothers at Booth about her internship recruiting experience.  Since it was a little long, and we wanted to keep you in suspense, we’re posting it in two parts… stay tuned for the end of this first-year’s recruiting saga, coming soon!

I remember sitting at my dining room table 3 days before my first baby was due, massaging my aching midsection, finger hovering over the submit button for my Booth admission application.  My husband was encouraging me to just get it in before the baby came. Technically I had a couple of weeks to polish it some more – but there was this whole labor-delivery-newborn-baby thing coming so I listened to him and clicked the button.   I got the news of my acceptance while on maternity leave.  Wow, this would change the next couple of years!  Initially my husband and I wanted to put 3 years between children.  Now waiting 3 years to have another would require me to have a baby right after starting a new job.  I could put 4-5 years between them or have another one while still in school.  Although it doesn’t seem that way sometimes, student life really is more flexible than work.  We decided we’d have another soon and put the kids close together.  It’s pretty hard to precisely plan a pregnancy, as anyone who has tried knows… so I went on with my life as a first year MBA.  I attended career immersion, prepared my resume, and began attending night after night of corporate conversations.

I found out I was pregnant before finals during first quarter.   I had spent weeks at that point up to my ears in recruiting for General Management, Healthcare, Marketing and Consulting – and had given up many hours with my then year-old daughter to chat over non-existent coffee and be educated beside invisible fires and generally try to become known among recruiters. My initial calculations had the baby coming in mid-summer.  My first ultrasound confirmed a July 19th due date, leaving no time for an internship.  I didn’t know what to do.

I briefly contemplated slowing down my time in school and staying an extra year.  I could take two classes at a time and do my summer internship in 2011.  Unfortunately, I’m past the carefree prime of my life (and onto other primes, of course).  I have a mortgage and childcare expenses.  It just wasn’t financially appealing for me to stop the momentum.   I felt strongly that I needed an internship as I was primarily after Corporate roles.  Many of the organizations that I wanted to work for only hired from their intern class.  I hated the idea that having a baby meant closing the door on any opportunity.  I refused to give up on anything.

I sought the advice of Career Services to see how they felt.  I figured someone had done this before.  I’m not sure anyone had.  It took some time for them to come back with a recommendation for me.  They advised me to tell prospective employers that I was pregnant during my second round interview.  The advice was based, I believe, on maintaining a positive long term relationship with firms – both for my own full-time recruiting efforts as well as Career Services in general. I could certainly respect the advice. However, my gut was to disregard the idea.  In full-time recruiting this would have been a no-brainer.  You’d recruit as normal and then work it out after the offer. A pregnancy would result in a delayed start date, an early (but probably unpaid) maternity leave, but not a no-go.  With an internship, my giving birth in the middle of the summer rendered me unable to commit to 8-10 weeks of work starting mid-June.   If someone in our class had no choice but to schedule elective major surgery in the summer, I have to believe they’d be in the same boat.  If you can’t do the job, you can’t do the job.  Without doing any research into legal concerns, I pressed onward with the personal belief that a company was in its right to decide not to hire me for an 8-week engagement.  However, I wanted to wait and see if I got any offers, and then see what could be worked out.  I would keep the pregnancy a secret and wait until I (hopefully) had an offer before discussing my “situation.”

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