Writing a resume when you took time off to care for family full time can be tricky. But, this is an increasingly common choice. Before the pandemic, more millennial women are becoming stay at home parents (SAHM) by choice. Post-COVID, parents with kids at home are stepping out of the workforce to balance the many responsibilities that they are now faced with.
Regardless of generation or specific reasons, people who take time away from work to care for family can find it challenging to tackle a resume when they are ready to join the workforce. Here are 5 tips to write a resume for anyone looking to return to work after taking a hiatus for family reasons:
1. PROVIDE EXPLANATION
People (or the Applicant Tracking System) may notice the gaps in your employment. There are lots of reasons why people take time off of work and not all of them are good. Don’t let the imagination of a prospective employer run wild. Consider the following when incorporating an explanation for your gap:
- Acknowledge the Gap. Include a reason and the years. The ATS may well pick this up as your job.
- Brevity is Key. Too much explanation can be as bad as not enough explanation. No more than 1 – 2 lines ever.
- Indicate Changes. Some family matters are temporary (i.e. the child goes to school, surgery, etc.) or accompany other life changes (i.e. relocation, death, etc.). Acknowledging these changes can also help to demonstrate your commitment or explain your timing.
2. FOCUS ON RELEVANT SKILLS
Caring for anyone (or a number of people) takes a lot of work. But these skills may not be relevant to the type of roles that you are searching for when you return to work. Moving to a hybrid resume is often the best way for SAHM/SAHD to capture their achievements while also capturing their chronology. Here are a few things to think about when contemplating your skills for a resume:
- Soft Skills. These are often the most valuable skills that are frequently overlooked by the majority of applicants. Stay at home parents are definitely skilled in negotiation, budgeting, patience, versatility, communication, and leadership.
- Experience. Capture the relevant projects or tasks by calling them out in a special “Achievements” section. Make sure to include numbers and results whenever possible.
- Industry Knowledge. Have experience or education in the industry? Make sure to list this out explicitly on your resume so you won’t be overlooked.
- Recognition or Training. Winning awards or receiving recognition by past employers or groups can be an important way to show that other people recognize your skills. Never underestimate the importance of tooting your own horn.
3. LOOK FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO BUILD SKILLS
Caring for family members of any age or your own health considerations can impose limits on your time. However, there are ways to stay fresh or gain new professional experience while you aren’t working full time. Consider the following creative ways to look for ways to build or refresh your professional skills:
- Freelance. Picking up a side gig or working temporary assignments through a staffing agency can be an effective way to get current experience that may be tricky through traditional employment.
- Volunteer. Serve on a board, join a committee, or participate in a group. Whether it is a non-profit or a professional trade association the time can be a great way to gain face time with potential employers or to get hands-on experience in the field.
- Start a Business. The new stay-at-home parent is increasingly doing more than sitting at home watching their kids. Nap time can be a great opportunity to start working towards your dreams.
4. DEMONSTRATE COMMITMENT
Hiring is expensive and time consuming. Recruiters and hiring managers are looking for people that are ready to commit to the role and the organization. It may be unfair, but the prospective employer may question why you want to return to work for them at this time after taking time to be with family. Here are a few ways to overcome these common objections:
- Use Your Network. Find anyone you know at the company and ask them to put in a good word for you. This can be a powerful tool if it comes from the right person at the organization.
- Show Real Interest. Do some research on the company and the hiring manager and convey the information in your cover letter.
- Explain Why You Are a Good Fit. Make it easy for the recruiter and hiring manager to see how you fit into the role. You know what happens when people assume….
5. CONSIDER GOING BACK TO SCHOOL
Going back to school (or finishing) can be the most important step to returning to work in your dream career. The simple act of enrolling in a class means that you can start listing it on your resume. Listing course names on your resume can also be a great way to capture keywords for the role that wouldn’t otherwise show up on your resume. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before starting any program:
- Do I really want to do this? Any time or money spent on something that isn’t your passion is a waste of precious resources. If you can, take the time to figure out what the right path is for you while experimenting with a lot of options.
- Is it really necessary? Going back to school or attending classes can be a lot of fun. It can also be incredible expensive and time consuming. Look at all of your options and be a smart shopper before enrolling.
- Are there equivalent certifications? Obtaining a certification can be a cost-effective way to refresh your professional skills and demonstrate commitment. Find people doing what you want to do and ask them (or do some online research) to find out if there is a certification that will make your search easier.