Back in 2011, a staffer at Forbes magazine estimated that stay-at-home moms should make an annual salary of $115,000, taking into account the day-to-day life of a woman at home with children and breaking her tasks down into 10 (!) job descriptions.
The list of professions included daycare teacher, psychologist, cook, CEO, janitor and facilities manager. So frankly $115K doesn’t seem like nearly enough.
But what happens when a stay-at-home parent wants to trade in the diaper bag for a briefcase again? How does he or she account for the workplace gap on a resume? It’s really not as hard as you might think.
Here are five ways to integrate your years at home with the kiddos into your career experience on paper.
Consider your resume layout.
Throw the tenth grade resume template out the window and restructure your document with less of a focus on chronology. Tiffany Chan, Division Director of Office Team at the staffing firm Robert Half, says, “List your most important qualifications related to the role first, followed by your previous positions, with the most recent first.” This way hiring managers see your skills and abilities before your employment track record.
Don’t try to hide the gap.
Be proud of the years you spent at home. “Note the gap with a date range, and list anything you may have done during that time to help with professional development,” says Chan. Remember your transferrable skills, too. If you ran a successful fundraiser for the PTA or recruited volunteers for a community garden, work that in to the rundown of your skill set.
Depending on the type of position you’re applying for, don’t be afraid to be funny, too. Add your military-like precision in packing a family of five for a vacation or your carefully laid-out system for getting your brood registered for a summer of camp in under two hours. The humour will make you memorable.
Consider upgrading your skills.
You’ll never regret a refresh of your qualifications, whether you’re returning to the workforce after an extended absence or just looking to switch jobs. For parents who have been away from the office, taking the time to renew skills works in two ways: “It helps boost confidence going into a job search, while also enhancing a person’s marketability on paper,” says Chan. A new qualification means a more recent entry on your resume, too. Look for online learning platforms, or an open course (one that doesn’t require acceptance) at a local college or university.
Stay on top of industry trends.
This is an easy one, because you don’t even have to leave the house. “Dabble in social media while you’re off, and ensure your own social platforms are professional and up-to-date before including your handles on your resume,” says Chan.
Subscribe to newsletters from organizations and associations in your field, so you’ll know how things (like technology or industry regulations) are evolving. If you have time, consider taking an active role in the local chapter of an industry group before starting the job hunt, to demonstrate how you have stayed connected.
Let your cover letter do the talking.
Address the time off in your cover letter, in anticipation of potential employer questions, but avoid giving too much detail. “Keep it simple. And don’t be defensive or apologetic; just mention why you took time out of your career, and how you’ve stayed active,” says Chan. Keep the tone light and upbeat, and focus on your abilities and experiences.
Bonus: Remain positive and don’t be afraid.
Whipping up a shiny, new resume is an important step toward rejoining the workforce, but if you’re intimidated by the job hunt, it’s going to show in interviews. “A positive outlook shines through in the interview and hiring process,” according to Chan. “A good attitude goes a long way to showing prospective employers your tenacity and drive, which are attractive characteristics to any hiring manager.”
When you get the call for an interview (and don’t worry, you will), psych yourself up for it. Pick out an “interview outfit” you feel good in, run through potential questions with a friend or your partner, and tell yourself that the job is yours for the taking.
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