Why “Mom-Friendly” Is “Everyone-Friendly”

And how I found a workplace that’s perfect for me.

As a mom to two tiny boys, and an executive at a crazy-fast-growing tech company, I get a lot of questions about how to find “mom-friendly” companies. This question generally implies things like generous parental leave, convenient child care options, and overall flexibility. But when we talk about companies as “mom-friendly,” we miss out on the most important point: having a rewarding career and a flourishing personal life is more than just mom-friendly. It’s everyone-friendly.

As a parent, or potential future parent, things like parental leave and flexibility are essential — both for their practical value, as well as the signaling value that a company cares about — and can provide — the right support for a balanced life. But there are a few other things that I encourage people to look for in a job search to know that you have found a place that will allow you to be successful, both professionally and personally.

Find a company that shares your values

The first time I sat down with Thumbtack’s Founder/CEO, I asked what was important to him, and he started by pointing to his wedding ring, telling me about his amazing wife and how he wanted to have “a whole bunch” of kids. We also talked about marketplaces, skilled professionals, and the dream of hiring a plumber as easily as buying a book. But his comment on family stuck with me, and has been reinforced time and again in the culture of the company and in my own ability to make my career work with my family.

Companies tend to wear their values on their sleeves. So, look for them. When I was interviewing with Bain & Company and another consulting firm during business school, I asked each of them, “If I work here for many years and someday have kids and want a more flexible job, how would you handle that?” My Bain interviewer said, without hesitation, that there were dozens of options for being part time, and pointed to several senior leaders who had worked part-time during their careers. The other firm’s interviewer said — with a straight face — that I would absolutely be allowed to quit… And maybe even get my job back at some point if I wanted to return to work.

You can’t change a company’s values, but you can find a company with values that align with your own. And while that might not guarantee a perfect job every day, it will increase the chances that the important things line up.

Make sure you can visualize your own path to success

Early in my most recent job search process, I asked a venture capitalist which companies in his portfolio might be a fit for my skills. He separated the companies into two sets: those who would appreciate almost a decade of strategy consulting experience, and those who would not. It wasn’t a judgment on either set, but it was a very helpful frame for me to think about where I was likely to be most successful.

As I spent more time interviewing with various companies, I kept asking myself the same question: Can I see myself being wildly successful here? And I didn’t mean it in the “I think I could do a good job here” sense… I meant it in the deepest “I think I could thrive here” sense.

Sometimes visualizing your path to success is simple. A company needs a specific skill that you have (managing paid search campaigns) or may want to replicate something you have done before (building a performance marketing team).

In other cases, it won’t be so clear. My first job at Thumbtack was “Director of Category Management.” I’ll be honest, when I took this job, I wasn’t sure exactly what it meant, or what it would take for me to succeed in the role. But, looking around the company, I saw several examples of people who were “like me” in their experience — former consultants, people with strong analytical skills and a desire to reason from First Principles. These people had joined in various roles across the organization, but had been successful because their approach to problem solving was valued, and I knew mine would be, too.

Whether your potential path to success is easy to see, or takes a bit more imagination, make sure you can clearly visualize it before you accept a new role.

Use your gut as a guide

The morning after I accepted my offer from Thumbtack, I hopped out of bed and jumped up and down. I was elated — and couldn’t wait to get started at this company, in this role, with these people.

Looking back on my search process, that feeling was with me from the first moment I walked through the doors. I felt at home in the offices, I connected wholly and easily with the people I met, and I could clearly articulate from Day 1 what I thought the company should be doing, and how I could help. It was just easy. Two years later, while my job is challenging every day, coming to work each morning still feels easy… and right.

You can reason your way through interviews and negotiating offer packages, but when it comes to making your final decision, listen carefully to your gut.

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