Kick starting your career after having children can be difficult. Your time as a stay-at-home mother has been a wonderful and difficult job, but you worry potential employers may see your dedication to your children as a mark against you. However, this is not always the case. If you take some simple steps when building your resume and have great answers ready for when you interview, your period as a stay-at-home mom will actually be seen as a benefit. So whether you took a short maternity stint or spend the last decade as a stay-at-home Mom, here is how you can explain a gap in your employment due to raising your children.
Know You Are Not Alone
The first thing you need to know is you are not alone. 44% of women quit their jobs to take care of their children. Of those, 12% return to work within the first six years. Another 10% return to work once their children are grown. So it is not uncommon for a woman to have a gap on her resume after having children. Based on the prevalence of stay-at-home moms, human resources departments expect some candidates to have this employment gap and are more interested in what skills a woman has picked up during her time as a mom than whether or not she took time off.
Build A Great Resume
60% of employers are more likely to hire a mother than a childless woman. So instead of thinking taking time off for your children will work against you, you need to strategize how you will highlight the skills you’ve gained during this period of time.
Here are some ideas for building your resume so your employment gap does not work against you:
- Create a job title and list your responsibilities: This is a bold move that shows employers that you took your time as a stay-at-home mom seriously. Some common titles include: “Domestic Engineer,” “Household Manager,” and “Director of Child Development.” These titles allow you to highlight your period as a stay-at-home mom as part of your career progression and not a break from it.
- List your transferable skills: Next think about your transferable skills and how they relate to the position you want. For example, if the job is an accounting job list things like “prepared taxes” or “ran the household budget.” If the job is in psychology list things like “knowledge of human behavior” or “motivational learning.” Stay-at-home moms do so many things that no matter what the position, there will be a valued skill you’ve picked up that you can transfer into your resume narrative.
- Ditch the chronological resume: There is more than one kind of resume. So instead of doing a chronological resume that highlights the gap in your employment, you can do a functional resume or a skills resume. These resumes start with your skills and achievements, and then list your experience. Using a functional resume introduces the employer first to your capabilities, which will then grab their interest more than seeing a big gap in your employment.
- Include your volunteer work: Create a section where you can include your volunteer work during the period you were a mother. An important thing to remember is not all volunteer work is formal, so just because you weren’t building houses for the poor, doesn’t mean you weren’t volunteering your time. Think about your tenure as a mom, did you work with the PTA fundraising for new library books? Did you take the lead at your child’s soccer team embroidering names into uniforms? Did you host girl/boy scout meetings? These are all valuable volunteer experiences and can be included on your resume. Whatever you list though, make sure you write about them in terms of transferable skills.
Make Your Cover Letter Stand Out
A cover letter can be your best friend when returning to work. It gives you the chance to briefly explain that the gap on your resume was because you’ve been a stay-at-home mom while still showcasing your skills and personality. Cover letters may seem antiquated to some, however 60% of all applicants will be rejected simply because they did not include a cover letter. So not only does a cover letter give you the opportunity to explain your gap of employment, but you are more likely to get an interview if you include one.
Shine During The Interview Process
Moms who are honest during their interview process about staying at home are 40% more likely to be hired than moms who hide the reasons for their employment gap. So you will increase your chances of getting hired if you have a good strategy going into an interview.
Here are some ways you can prepare so you will shine in your interview:
- Practice, practice, practice: This cannot be understated. You’ve been out of the game for a while now, so you need to refresh your interview skills to really be prepared. Get a family member or friend to ask you some interview questions and get their feedback. Look for ways to improve and clean up your answers so when you do finally interview, you’ll know exactly what to say.
- Take ownership of your motherhood: Think about your time as a stay-at-home mom as any job. Focus on the ways that job has helped you develop your career skills. Talk about your time solely in professional terms, so that you guide the narrative and challenge their assumptions about stay-at-home moms.
- Be ready for curveballs: Many interviewers will throw curveball questions to see how quickly you can think on your feet. These can be especially tricky when you have a gap in your employment because they want to make sure you will be reliable. So expect these kinds of questions and focus on steering the conversation back to how this time has made you an ideal candidate. Luckily, moms are experts at dealing with the unexpected, so don’t worry, you’ll handle these questions with confidence.
Finally, if you have been looking for a while and still are not getting any traction, you may want to take some time to research mom-friendly companies. There are plenty of companies started by moms or have moms working as executives or on the board. These employers are much more likely to understand your gap and appreciate the skills you’ve picked up.
So as long as you take ownership of your time as a stay-at-home mom, write a killer resume and cover letter, prepare for your interview, and find a great company your employment gap won’t be a problem.