Job seekers: 5 signs a workplace is family-friendly

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(MoneyWatch) If you're a parent (or planning on becoming one soon), a workplace that is family-friendly may be a big priority for you. When searching for a new job, there are some signs that indicate whether or not an employer values a life-work balance. Don't have any family plans? These clues may still be helpful to anyone who not only wants a great career but a rich personal life as well.

They have female executives

If your research of the company shows a solid roster of females in higher level positions, there is likely a culture in place that encourages women to succeed, says Karen Elizaga, an executive coach and founder of Forward Options, a career consulting firm. "That's a good sign that having children doesn't take you off the track."

They're pushing the policies

If a workplace values family-friendly policies, a hiring manger or recruiter will bring them up. "These policies/programs will also be mentioned in job postings and as a 'selling point' when potential candidates get sourcing calls from HR or executive search consultants," says Heather McNab, author of "What Top Professionals Need to Know About Answering Job Interview Questions." However, just because the policy is in place doesn't mean it's working properly. To figure that out, try to find an internal contact that can speak about their experience, says McNab.

There are family clues on display

When you're walking to and from the interview room, look around purposefully. "A breast-pumping room and onsite day care are major signals that the organization values families," says Elizaga. And don't forget to look at your potential co-workers' spaces. "Do they have pictures of family, drawings from their kids? Even if they're still single, are there pictures that evidence a life outside the office?" says Elizaga.

They share their personal lives

Your interviewer shouldn't (and probably won't) ask about your future family plans. But what they tell you is as revealing as what they ask you. "If they inundate you with stories of soccer Saturdays, music lessons and the zoo, you can be pretty sure that families are welcome here," says Elizaga. On the flip side, if they say their life revolves around work, the opposite is probably true.

They encourage independent work

If you're told you won't have your hand held, that might be a good sign. "Working parents, particularly moms, often deal with family emergencies involving sick children, nannies who are MIA, and school-related events. Knowing that there is some flexibility in how and where you work allows for creative solutions," says Roy Cohen, career coach and author of "The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide."

Once you receive an offer, take a day or two to ask any specific questions you have about maternity or adoption leave, telecommuting and daycare. Doing it earlier in the process may make it seem like the job isn't your primary focus.

This is part 1 of a 5-part series for Mother's Day. Please check by tomorrow for part 2, "7 things to do before maternity leave."

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    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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