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.
Parents can use these resume tips when re-entering the workforce.
The latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate 5 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. Looking to add more skills? Our partners at Skillshare offer 10,000 online classes to help you brush up on Excel, Adobe Photoshop, public speaking, and more. Join Monster and get three months for $0.99.
- 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 teaching, in a 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.
Are you a parent looking to re-enter the workforce, but aren't sure where to start? A great first step is to join Monster today. As a member, you can upload your resume and make it searchable to recruiters looking for people like you.
“I’ve been out of the workforce for several years,” a reader e-mailed me. "Should I address the gap on my resume in a cover letter? What about salary requirements? And what do I do about the fact that all my references are from 10+ years ago, besides the PTA president. (I’ve already told my 12-year-old that I’m not going to use her, even though she’s teaching me power point!)"
Here’s how I responded:
If you haven’t explained the gap on your resume, then by all means explain it in a cover letter. In fact, even if you have a line on your resume about your career break, address the issue in your cover letter as well. Do it briefly and unapologetically. (See the sample below.)Do not go on and on about why you stayed home.
The key is to address the gap (so prospective employers don’t think you were in jail or conjure up other unseemly excuses for your absence from the workforce) and make it clear that you’re ready to return to work now. Employers are less concerned about the gap per se and more concerned about whether you’re logistically and psychologically ready to work and whether you have the skills, despite your absence, to perform on the job.
Your goal, in your cover letter, is to reassure them, briefly, that you are ready, willing and able to return to work.
Do not mention salary requirements at all in a cover letter, nor during the first few interviews. Wait until the employer brings it up.
As far as references go, you do not need to mention them in the cover letter or resume. But you should try to line up 2-3 references, even if they’re from years ago. (One of the three could be from your recent volunteer work, like the PTA president). Email or call your old bosses, tell them you’re seeking to return to the workforce, and ask them if they’re willing to serve as a reference. Assure them that you’ll only give their name and phone number to those who are seriously interested in hiring you. Thank them profusely. Although you haven’t spoken in years, if you did good work, they should be willing to vouch for you. And, who knows, maybe they’ll even have a job lead!
Sample Relauncher Cover Letter:
I am very interested in the A opportunity at Company B, and believe my skills and experience make me a strong candidate. As you can see from the attached resume, I spent X years doing very similar work as a Y at Z Company. In addition, I developed C skills in my D years at E Company. Although I have focused on my family for the last G years and have not worked for pay, I have kept up with developments in the field by reading Most Important Trade Magazines 1 and 2 and attending H conferences. I’ve also updated my computer skills so I’m ready to hit the ground running. Finally, my involvement with I Volunteer Organization has honed my organizational and interpersonal skills.
I am very eager to return to the workforce and believe my pent-up enthusiasm for work, combined with my relevant educational and professional credentials, will help me contribute meaningfully to the organization.
I look forward to the opportunity to discuss my potential fit for this position by phone or in person at your convenience.