I am often contacted by people (oftentimes mothers) who took an extended absence from the workforce to raise children. Those children get older and more self-sufficient; the stay at home moms decide they would like to return to the workplace. Oftentimes these women had good careers, working as attorneys, project managers, analysts, and technology professionals, among many other professions.
They are confounded about how to showcase their skills on their résumés. I cannot tell you how many people have said to me: “Well, I stayed home to raise my family.” As if this is any small feat. Raising a family is hard work. You’ve heard the quote, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Right, because if raising them was so easy, we would all have a really cool formula for doing so. To my knowledge, no such formula exists. My three are all completely different.
So, this brings me to the things that can be captured on a résumé for a person returning to work after a long hiatus:
Use the hybrid style résumé format to allow you to highlight relevant skills from your past working experiences. This résumé type will allow you to bring relevant achievements to the top of the page. (What kind of résumé do you need to change jobs?) Don’t be afraid to reference things that you did during your work “at home.” Consider the organization, planning, and attention to detail required to keep family matters in order, including finances, children’s activities, and the other million things that need to happen to run a household. No doubt, without you, the entire roof would cave in.
Do not apologize for staying home to do what is absolutely the hardest job in the world – hands down. Highlight the skills that demonstrate your competency, including previous experiences that make you unique.
Did you volunteer for any organizations? Volunteer efforts though unpaid, is still work! In many ways volunteering is harder than traditional business. Why? Many volunteer efforts require you to lead and motivate others who are also unpaid. It can be harder to generate results and make things happen, especially when those people are not accountable in the same way they would be in a paid position. Volunteer work is most definitely business-oriented and the work completed should be appropriately represented on the résumé.
Here are some recommendations:
- Make a list of the things you do in your current role; think about your background from a different perspective;
- Use the SAR method Situation, Action, Result to ensure that you accurately and effectively capture the most salient elements of your background;
- Educate yourself on the market place; the more informed you are the better you will be able to evaluate opportunities and make an appropriate decision. It might require some creative thinking and a different approach, but you can position yourself for re-entry and success!