So you took time off to be a mom. Good for you! Now you’re considering returning to work. What does a stay at home mom need to know before she returns to work?
Today, Diane Paddison, is with us to discuss returning to work after being a stay at home mom.
Staring at the computer screen, Linda was at a loss. Parts of her resume were strong, but there was a lot of seemingly blank space over the past decade and a half or so. She knew those years hadn’t been wasted. She knew that the time she spent raising her kids had challenged her in infinite ways, testing and honing her creativity, efficiency, and people skills. But how was she supposed to account for that in a job application? Would potential employers even give her serious consideration after so much “time off?”
As Linda described her concerns to me over coffee later, we both winced knowingly over this common terminology. Describing those years as “time off” makes raising kids sound like some sort of extended vacation. Linda and I both knew that they were anything but.
I encouraged Linda to approach those years on her resume with confidence, beginning with a compelling mission statement. I pointed out to Linda that she was not the same person, personally or professionally, as she had been when she’d left her corporate job years ago. Nor should she be! Her skills and perspectives had changed and developed over the years in significant and valuable ways.
Instead of focusing on the career she’d left behind, I suggested that Linda take some time reassessing her current professional goals and passions, so that she could focus her job search and be able to clearly articulate how her particular skills and interests translated back into the working world.
I did my best to advise Linda, but my friend Carol Fishman Cohen is the real expert. Her book, “Back On the Career Track,” and organization, www.irelaunch.com, aim to assist and guide women in Linda’s exact position, as they launch back into the corporate world after time away.
Planning A Re-Launch.
Are you planning a career re-launch?
Carol was kind enough to share with me these recommendations specifically related to resume writing and handling certain interview questions:
Start the Experience section with your last paid position, even if it ended years ago. If you’ve done even occasional consulting projects during your career break, some for pay and some for free, you can list “Carol Fishman Cohen Consulting” at the top of your Experience section and use bullet points to describe your engagements.
If your primary activities during your career break have been school-related or other volunteer work, list them in a Community Leadership section after the Experience section, and describe the volunteer experiences just like you would a paid job – using business terms and quantifying results whenever possible. The only exception is if your “career-break experience” is especially relevant to your career goals.
Then you might want to lead with it in the Experience section (discussed above) even though it was unpaid.
Regarding the years you’ve been out of the workforce, you can either 1) include the years in the Experience Section on your resume under the sub-heading “Career Break”; or 2) leave the years unaccounted for in the Experience section but add a Personal section at the end including “Career break, 2008 – 2014, to care for children.” Remember that ideally, the resume will be the second point of contact a hiring manager has with you; the first point being a personal hand-off of some kind. So it is likely the person will already know that you have taken a career break.
In an interview, if the interviewer is extra-focused on the career break, and says “tell me about this 8 year career break,” here is a suggested response: “Yes, I took a career break to care for my children, and now I can’t wait to get back to work. In fact, the reason I am so interested in this particular position is because of the work experience I had at ABC Company where we faced very similar customer challenges. One of the most difficult situations was x, and this is what we did.” The idea is to acknowledge the career break briefly and without apology, and then move on immediately to why you are the best person for the job.
For more detailed and in-depth advice on this topic, I encourage you to check out Carol’s book and website.
As for Linda, she found an amazing job working for a non-profit women’s initiative. It looks almost nothing like the traditional corporate positions she started her career in, but it’s perfectly suited for the person Linda is today.
Have you taken time away from corporate life to focus on family? How has it changed and challenged you?
You can read more of Diane Paddison’s work here.