Stay at Home Parent? Six Tips for a Winning Comeback Resume

Ready to head back into the 9-5 game? Six tips to create a killer resume - even with the stay at home gap.

Ready to head back into the 9-5 game? Six tips to create a killer resume - even with the stay at home gap.

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:

REady to head back to work after the stay at home gig? Six tips for a great comeback resume

REady to head back to work after the stay at home gig? Six tips for a great comeback resume

  1. 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. 

  2. 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. 

  3. 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. 

  4. 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. 

  5. 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.

  6. 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, M.A. BCC

Anita Flowers, M.A. BCC

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! 

7 Essential Steps to Take Before You Begin the Job Hunt

7 Essential Steps to Take Before You Begin the Job Hunt

7 Essential Steps to Take Before You Begin the Job Hunt. You’ve decided it’s time to find a new job. Whether you’re a new college graduate or just ready for a change, it’s tempting to slap a resume together and start hitting apply on every job position you see on Indeed. But there are a few essential steps you need to take before hitting that SUBMIT button. Completing these basic steps will make your job search go more smoothly and will greatly improve your chances of landing the job you’ve always wanted

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"So...tell me about yourself." 4 simple steps to a great answer.

"So...tell me about yourself." 4 simple steps to a great answer.

It’s often the first question you’ll face in an interview. Despite knowing this, many candidates head into a job interview without a clue as to their answer. Many struggle with a good answer and bobble around a bit as they try to think of something smart to say.

Trust me, your interviewer knows when you’re not prepared for this question and is probably rolling his or her eyes internally as you blunder and wobble through your answer.

Some version of this question is almost a certainty in any interview. You can count on it so it’s worth taking some time to polish up an answer.

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3 Quick Tips to Jumpstart your Job Search on LinkedIn

3 Quick Tips to Jumpstart your Job Search on LinkedIn

I have to admit I was a skeptic early on. As a counselor and career coach who’s been around a while, I understood the value of building a network to help in your job search but I wasn’t sure about the real value of an online networking site. I was so wrong!

Depending on which data you look at, between 75-90% of all recruiters use LinkedIn to find and vet job candidates. I’ve worked with clients who have found jobs or made connections that helped them find jobs through LinkedIn. I myself been contacted by recruiters with job possibilities and even landed a job interview. Yeah, I have to say it’s worth it! But it does take some time and a little work on your part to make those job connections and possibilities happen. Here are 3 quick tips to get you started.

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10 Do's and Don'ts to Impress a Hiring Manager

Photo by Olu Eletu on Unsplash.com

Photo by Olu Eletu on Unsplash.com

I recently spoke with two hiring managers who regularly interview and assess job applicants. One was the communications director and hiring manager for a large international business company. Another was a store manager for a large big box retailer. Both offered insight into what they look for in an applicant.  Every hiring manager is different but here are some of the things that would impress these two managers and help you land the job. 

How to Impress the Hiring Manager and Land a Job

  1. DO submit a short, impactful resume where your experience and abilities shine. One manager looks for a one page resume that highlights only the last 10 years of professional experience. Managers have limited time to scan resumes for the skills and experience needed for the job. In fact, in most cases, your resume has less than 10 seconds to impress the hiring manager. Bullet points that highlight your specific accomplishments and related experience make it easy for a manager to see the value in calling you in for an interview.

  2. DON’T use a functional resume. A functional resume focuses on skills and experience, rather than on a chronological work history. It is often used by job seekers who are changing careers, who have gaps in their employment history, or whose work history is not directly related to the job. While these have become popular in recent years, the managers I spoke with felt they were being misled by these resumes and immediately assumed the applicant was trying to hide something. Their sage advice was to go with a more traditional chronological resume, highlight transferable skills and be prepared to explain any gaps in employment.

  3. DO spend time crafting a well written cover letter. Don’t just repeat your resume but impress the manager with why they should hire you. What is your motivation for applying for this job? Why are you a good fit for the job? Write a customized cover letter for every job application. It takes time, but a one size fits all letter will not impress a hiring manager. Focus on your skills and abilities that fit the needs of each particular organization. Keep it short, less than 3 paragraphs, and use 3-5 bullet points to highlight your skills and experience that are most relevant to the position.

  4. DON’T forget to proofread. Always, always proofread. One manager immediately tosses any resume and cover letter with grammatical errors or typos into the trash bin. If you aren’t careful with details in your resume, it will be assumed that you won’t be careful with details on the job. Have another person proofread your cover letter and resume to make sure you haven’t overlooked a typo. And don’t forget to include your contact information on the letter as well as your resume.

  5. DO clean up your online profile. Both managers noted that they ALWAYS checked people out on line and have eliminated people from the list of possibilities because of what they found online. Sign out of google (or even better, use a library computer or borrow someone’s laptop) and google yourself. See what shows up and begin the process of removing anything related to drug or alcohol use or any profanity in your online comments. Delete comments in which you bad mouth or speak negatively about former employers. Update your LinkedIn profile- you do have one, right? - and work on your connections and accomplishments. One manager noted that he looked for mutual connections on LinkedIn and then contacted them as a way to check out potential employees.

  6. DON’T BE LATE. Let me say it again. DON’T BE LATE. Be on time for the interview and on time means 15 minutes early. Allow for traffic delays, parking difficulties, apocalyptic zombies and any other obstacle that might prevent you from arriving on time. If you don’t show up on time for the interview, how can a manager expect you to get to work on time each day? You will not be hired if you arrive late. Enough said.

  7. DO dress to impress. Research the company culture and dress appropriately. It’s always better to over-dress than to miss the mark completely. Wear a tie. Make sure your clothes are clean and well pressed. Shine your shoes. Carry a professional purse or work bag. Don’t wait until the last minute to figure out what you’re wearing. Spend some time creating a polished, professional appearance. First impressions count.

  8. DON’T be rude to the administrative assistants, custodial staff, or anyone else you meet along the way. It’s all part of the interview process. Make sure you are positive and professional in all encounters. If lunch is suggested as part of the process, treat the wait staff in a respectful manner. Use good manners. It’s ALL part of the interview. The manager is watching how you handle other people in every situation.

  9. DO research the company and be ready to ask questions that show you have done your homework. You are more likely to be hired because you asked good, insightful questions that show you are interested and excited about the job than by simply answering questions you are asked. Come prepared with a couple of questions about the company. Think through your answers to regularly asked interview questions. When the interviewer says, “Tell me about yourself”, have a rehearsed answer that highlights your skills and relevant experience. Don’t babble on about where you grew up or your college years. Be ready to tell your career story in a way that showcases your fit for the potential job at hand.

  10. DON’T forget to send a thank you note or email immediately following the interview. A handwritten note will help you stand out from the crowd because they are rarely used these days but even a well-worded email is better than nothing. It gets your name in front of the manager once more and demonstrates your interest in the job and your ability to follow up on details.

All hiring managers are different and may focus on different aspects of the interview process, but these tips will get you started on the way to a great new job. 

For more help with interview prep, contact Anita for coaching and resume help at 843-224-2025 or click here.

Part Three: 7 Elements of an Exceptional Resume

Part Three: 7 Elements of an Exceptional Resume

Seven Elements for an Exceptional Resume

Here are the 7 sections for a resume that will highlight your skills and accomplishments. Begin by getting all this information listed in a document file. Don't worry about fonts or formatting or the number of pages yet. Just begin by making a simple list of all this information.

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The 3 Best Job Search Websites + The ONE Thing That Really Helps You Find a Job

It’s a question I’m asked by every career coaching client I work with. What job sites should I use to find a job? There’s a long list out there - Monster, Simply Hired, LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, Career Builder and many, many more. Which is the best? Job searching takes a lot of time. Which job site is worth spending your valuable time on?

Where can you find your dream job? 

Based on my experience with job hunting clients along with a great in-depth analysis from reviews.com, here are my top picks for job sites that might actually land you an interview.  These are in no particular order - but I think they are the best of the bunch. 

The 3 Best Job Sites

  • GlassDoor. GlassDoor has the most new postings each day, according to reviews.com. In a 2 week test, GlassDoor had 30% more new posts than the competition. GlassDoor allows you to search by job title, key responsibilities, company and location. It also provides anonymous company reviews on the corporate culture and salary information. It’s a great site if you want to research the company that you might be working for. It’s also a place to check out career fields if you’re not quite sure what your next move will be.

  • Indeed wins for the best coverage. Lots of jobs that are posted in niche job boards and other places will show up here. Employers can post on Indeed for free - so that ups the odds that jobs will be posted here. It’s a Google-like search engine for jobs and pulls in information from job boards, company listings and news sites.

  • Linked In - Recruiting and hiring managers stalk Linked In. I have been contacted by recruiters with job possibilities for myself - and I’m not looking for a job! On Linked In, you can search for jobs and then see people in your network who have connections to that company. That's pure gold for networking! Posting a profile is free and you can find friends and others to connect to. Online networking works if you take it to the next level.

Here’s a little info about niche job boards - which are most helpful.

You need to check out niche job boards. These boards exist for every industry. Check out your national association or google 'your industry + job board'. For example, if you’re looking for a job in nursing, google “nursing job board” and you will find nurse.com or nursingjobs.com. For retail, you might look at workinretail.com or AllRetailJobs.com.  I'll write more about these later. 

And finally….

What actually helps you get a job 

This leads me to the last step. Again from Reviews.com: Steve Dalton is a program director for Daytime Career Services at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and the author of The 2-Hour Job Search. Here’s his quote about job search sites. “It’s the black hole everybody thinks it is. For every one person hired through an online job application program, 12 are hired by an internal referral, according to a 2012 hiring study at the New York Fed.”

Yep. This fits with my experience as a career coach. What gets you hired is “who you know” - also known as networking. An internal referral means a person that the company trusts gave your name and resume to HR. Internal referrals can be a friend, or a friend of a friend or a friend of a friend of a friend on LInkedIn. Use the tools above to research job opportunities and find out what companies are hiring. And then check your network.. and then your extended network on Linked In to find anyone you know connected to that industry. Contact them. Take them to lunch. It really is what works. 

Check out the websites. Create a network. Join your local association of whatever. Create a profile on Linked In and work it. Call your uncle and your friends and that person you met at the restaurant. Call me if you think you don’t have a network. I’ll help you find one. And call me if you want help sorting out the online job search sites. We'll work it out. 

12 Things to Never Put on a Resume

12 Things to Never Put on a Resume

6 seconds. That’s the average amount of time a hiring manager takes to scan your resume and sort it into either the possibility pile or the trash bin. 

6 seconds. 

Hiring managers receive a average of 75 resumes for each position. For some jobs, the number is 100-200 or more resumes for each position. You’ve got 6 seconds to make sure your resume makes the first cut and doesn’t end up in the trash.

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