Returning to Work after being a Stay at Home Parent
Are you planning to head back into the workforce after spending valuable years at home with your children? How do you market yourself after spending the last few years up to your ears in diapers, juice boxes and math homework? You can’t even remember your last “real” job. How can you convince a corporate recruiter that you are employable, ready to work, and even excited about getting back into the 9-5?
First of all, don’t panic. You’ve got this. As a stay at home parent, you’ve mastered the art of multi-tasking and on the spot problem solving. If you have more than one child, you can add conflict resolution and resource allocation to your list of skills. People re-enter the workforce all the time and you can too. It’s simply a matter of putting things together the right way. And that starts with your resume.
Over and over, my clients tell me that putting a resume together is an empowering experience. It makes you look at your skills and abilities in a new light and realize that you will be a valuable asset to companies. It’s often hard to write down positive things about yourself but this is absolutely the right time to get specific about your strengths and skills. What do you do well? What do you enjoy doing?
At the most basic level, a resume is a marketing document. You’re selling your skillset to a potential employer.
Here are resume basics to know as you make plans to head back into the workforce:
First. What matters most in a resume is content - not fancy fonts or formats. So don’t worry about finding a template or a format just yet. Start by taking some time to write down your skills, strengths and abilities. Dust off your last resume and make a list of the skills you used in previous jobs. Then, begin to think about the new skills you can add to that list. Get clear about the skills you have. Resist the temptation to write down five things and stop. Make a list of at least 10 skills/ abilities/ attributes you can put on a resume.
Circle all those things on that list you enjoy doing. Those are the skills you want to highlight. You don’t want to end up in a job where you’re doing all those things you hate. This will also help as you begin to sort out the kind of jobs you want to apply for.
Second, invest in personal development. What skills need updating? Do you need to take a class to give your skills an extra boost? There are numerous free or low-cost online courses or training opportunities that can help. Look for courses that offer a certificate program - which you can list on your updated resume. Resources for classes include Coursera, SkillShare, and edX, just to name a few. If you’re not sure what you need, a certification in Microsoft Office is an asset in most offices and can be a good place to start updating skills.
Third, start formatting your resume. Resist the trend to use a functional resume - which is often recommended for gaps in employment. Functional resumes are those that don’t list any dates or career chronology; rather, they showcase skills and attributes The problem with this style of resume is that most recruiters assume that the applicant has something to hide when they use this format. I’ve talked with several hiring managers who instantly discard functional resumes for just that reason. Plus, many applicant tracking systems used by online job application programs can’t read this format easily. So if you are applying for jobs online, your functional resume may get lost in a computer wormhole and never make it to a pair of human eyes.
Your best bet is a reverse chronological resume that begins with a clear and robust summary of qualifications. It’s a kind of hybrid resume. It begins with a summary of qualifications, or executive summary, which can be followed by a Core Proficiencies section. Then you get to the work history.
List all your best, most relevant skills and achievements in a bulleted summary in the prime real estate at the top of the resume. Highlight the stuff you’re most proud of, and especially the things in which you excel and those you enjoy.
Next, add a Core Proficiencies or Skills section - listing specific skills and abilities and current certifications. You can list things like Microsoft Office skills or other computer knowledge, language fluencies, CPR certifications, etc. However, make sure they are relevant to the job you are applying for.
After that, you can list your work experience - in reverse chronological order, meaning most recent job goes first. Then work backward, listing your job history.
If you worked part time or had significant volunteer experience during those stay at home years, you can definitely include those on your resume. It helps to fill the “stay at home” gap and often showcases valuable experience. List part time jobs as “jobs” in your chronology and bullet point responsibilities and skills that are relevant to your career objective.
Any volunteer work, such as recruiting volunteers, planning charity auctions, running school fundraisers or bookkeeping for school organizations, can make good additions to a resume especially if they highlight skills relevant to the job you are applying for. If it was a volunteer position, make sure to note that. Don’t try to pass it off as a paid position. Create a section on your resume titled “Community Service” or “Volunteer Positions”. You can still take credit for the achievements and the skills, but make sure you’re honest about the type of position. Honesty is always the best policy on a resume or job application. Always.
One big no-no is creating a cute “domestic engineer” job and listing your stay at home duties as a real job. Parenting is an important and demanding job and while we all know that managing after school carpool schedules, laundry and dinner plans simultaneously takes real organizational chops, hiring managers will not take this seriously and it can make you look less than professional. Be prepared to talk about your organizational skills in an interview - but leave it off the resume.
If you don’t have one, create a LinkedIn profile. If you have one, update it and start making connections. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Employers and recruiters check you out on LinkedIn before making the call for an interview or as a way to screen and eliminate inappropriate job applicants. So be a step ahead of them. Make sure your LinkedIn profile matches your resume. Use your summary of qualifications from your resume to create a solid profile section. For more help getting started on LinkedIn, check out this blog post.
Now that you have your updated resume all shiny and ready to go, you’re ready for the next step. Networking. Networking is essential for all job seekers, but especially for those who have been out of the work force for a few years. You’re much more likely to be hired if you are recommended personally by someone rather than simply being another resume in the computer pile. So, make a list of everyone you know… I mean EVERYONE, and let them know you’re excited about heading back to work. It helps to let them know the kind of jobs you are looking for and your qualifications. Re-connect with them through email or social media, let them know you’re looking for a new position and send them a copy of your shiny new resume.
Good luck out there! Let me know if you need any help!
For more resume help, check out our blog series, How to Build a Powerful Resume that Will Land you the Interview.
Anita Flowers is a Board Certified career and life coach and resume specialist at Blue Sage Career Strategies. A little different than most life coaches, Anita’s background in clinical psychology and years of experience as a counselor gives her a rich understanding of human development and family dynamics. Her work history includes 13 years working with an international business company and 12 years doing individual and family counseling as well as career counseling. This blend of counseling and business experience gives Anita a unique perspective on the world of work and life. Anita works with people literally all over the world to help them discover a life and career they love. Contact Anita here to get started on your new career and life!