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.
The latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate five million women and 176,000 men are stay-at-home parents. Although the Census Bureau doesn’t track the number returning to work, hundreds of thousands of parents decide to venture back to the workplace every year. These tips will help you get your resume noticed despite the employment gap.
Highlight related activities
You need to convince employers that you have the skills and experience to do the job, so your resume’s content must actively sell you. When writing about your time out of the paid workforce, include only those activities that back up the skills relevant to your career goal.
“Most women who stay at home for a period of time are not just doing laundry and homework oversight," says Kathryn Sollmann, founder of 9 Lives for Women, a career-advisory firm that helps current and returning professionals re-enter the workforce. "Most women are involved in significant volunteer efforts, and that is the experience that should be included in a resume." Sollmann successfully returned to the workforce by leveraging her volunteer and freelance experience.
You can highlight the following activities on your resume:
- Volunteer/community involvement (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 the key skills developed. You can include volunteer work in your work 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.
- Freelance projects: If you’ve done consulting/freelance work that’s related to your job target, include project highlights in your work experience section.
- Professional development: Demonstrate your commitment to the field by including membership in professional organizations and participation in conferences.
- Work-at-home/Self-employment: Even if you worked part-time for yourself or your partner, include the experience on your resume.
Should you use 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 homemaker activities are related to your job target, it makes sense to draw attention to your parenting activities and accomplishments. For example, if you are looking for a job in teaching/day care 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. And 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, president of CareerStrides, the right resume format is critical to getting noticed. Matias suggests that parents avoid chronological resumes and consider using a combination resume format. A chronological resume can eliminate a parent's candidacy in seconds, she says.
Parents who have been out of the workforce for a number of years and have minimal alternative experience 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 your employment history.
Use your cover letter to briefly explain your recent gap, but emphasize that you have kept your skills up to date and are energized to return to the workforce.
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