Resume tips for full-time parents returning to work

It's tough to get back on the career track after being a full-time parent. Make sure your resume helps you sell yourself.

Resume tips for full-time parents returning to work

Use these resume tips when re-entering the workforce.

Wondering what a stay-at-home-mom resume looks like? Are you a dad returning to the workforce after extended paternity leave? You're bound to have questions about the job search—and you're in good company. Approximately one-in-five parents in the U.S. is a stay-at-home mom or dad, according to a study released by Pew Research Center. What happens when it’s time to venture back to the workplace? Research suggests it’s not so easy: Employers are more likely to hire unemployed people returning to work after a layoff than parents who took time off to raise children.

Don’t be discouraged—follow these tips to create a resume that opens doors.

Highlight related activities

Stepping away from your career to raise children left a dreaded employment gap on your resume, but there are ways to compensate. If you dig deep, you’ll find a wealth of activities you can add to fill in the gap.

“Most women who stay at home for a period of time are not just doing laundry and homework oversight," says Kathryn Sollmann, author, speaker, coach, and founder of 9 Lives for Women, a career-advisory firm that helps professionals re-enter the workforce. Sollmann, a flexible-work advocate and author of Ambition Redefined: Why the Corner Office Doesn't Work for Every Woman & What to Do Instead, returned to the workforce by leveraging her volunteer and freelance experience.

Here are activities you can include on your resume:

  • Volunteer work (PTA, charity work, fundraisers): Just because you weren’t paid, doesn’t make the experience any less valuable, so treat volunteer work like you would a paid position on your resume. If you held leadership roles or made a difference to your organizations, tout your accomplishments and skills developed. You can even include volunteer work in your resume’s experience section to cover the employment gap.
  • Continuing education: Show that you’ve kept your skills refreshed through courses, online learning, and/or independent study. If you haven’t kept your skills updated, now is the time to pursue continuing education or certification opportunities.
  • Freelance projects: If you’ve done consulting or freelance work that’s related to your job target, include project highlights in your experience section.
  • Professional memberships: Demonstrate your commitment to the field by including membership in professional organizations and participation in conferences. If you’ve been out of the loop, research professional organizations you can join now. As an added benefit, your participation could result in job leads.
  • Work-at-home/self-employment: If you worked part-time for yourself or your partner while staying at home, that counts. Include the experience on your resume—but keep the descriptions of work unrelated to your career goal brief.

Should you give yourself a job title?

There’s conflicting advice about whether to give yourself a job title and job description for your role as a parent. If your stay-at-home-mom resume lists homemaker activities that are related to your job target, it makes sense to draw attention to your parenting activities and accomplishments. For example, if you’re looking for a job teaching or working for an organization serving children, you could emphasize the relevant experience of child care and incidental teaching as a stay-at-home parent. Examples of job titles parents have used include: household manager, manager—Jones family, and family CEO.

For most people, though, it’s best to avoid including parenting as an actual job on the resume. "We, personally, feel that there is no need to dress up time at home with silly titles like ‘domestic engineer,’” says Sollmann. “The important thing is to identify how you have continued to use your business skills in the time you have been out of the workforce. If you truly have had nothing but child care and household responsibilities, it would be a good idea to get involved in some volunteer activities that require business skills—managing committees, writing newsletters, handling budgets, etc.”

Select the best resume format

According to Linda Matias, nationally certified resume writer and president of CareerStrides, an executive resume-writing firm, the right resume format is critical to getting noticed. Matias suggests that parents avoid chronological resumes and consider using a combination resume format. By not addressing potential red flags such as employment gaps, a chronological resume can eliminate a stay-at-home mom or dad’s candidacy in seconds, she says.

The power of the combination resume is the qualifications summary, allowing you to pick and choose what to highlight at the top of the resume. By the time the reader realizes you’ve been a stay-at-home parent, they should already be sold on interviewing you.

As a last resort, parents who have been out of the workforce for many years and have minimal experience or activities—such as volunteer work—may need a functional resume. Although functional resumes are not preferred by hiring managers, this format allows you to emphasize your skills while downplaying employment history.

Be honest about your time as a stay-at-home parent

While you might be fretting about your employment gap, many employers will be understanding. Use your cover letter to briefly explain your recent gap, emphasizing that you’ve kept your skills up to date and are energized to return to the workforce.

Get your resume checked out

As a parent looking to re-enter the workforce, you want to make sure your resume is strong and contemporary, and focuses on your skills rather than any employment gaps. Could you use some reassurance that your resume is ready for a job search? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service. You'll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume's appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter's first impression. It's a quick and easy way to help you hit the ground running and get back in the workforce.