Even though it has been more than 15 years, there is a particular interview that will always stand out in my mind. I had reviewed this young woman’s resume and was impressed enough that I called her in for an interview. We sat down across from each other and smiled. I started off with one of my typical questions, “Tell me about your recent job experience.” She told me that she has been a stay-at-home mom raising her children. What she said next, I will never forget. “Now, you have to understand, I wasn’t sitting at home watching Sesame Street for the last 8 years. I took my kids everywhere, letting them experience and learn and grow.” What was startling to me, being young in my own career, was that she felt she had to explain herself. That spoke volumes.
Reentering the workforce after an extended amount of time can be difficult and stressful. But there are some sure-fire ways to help you get noticed.
Leverage volunteer experience- This is crucial. Just because you weren’t paid, doesn’t mean that it wasn’t valuable work experience. The volunteering can even be included in the Work Experience section. This will help fill in any gaps in employment.
Let’s briefly think of some examples:
These bullets should, of course, be more in-depth. But this is a good starting point. Without lying, you can be creative with volunteer experience. When you stop to think about what skills you have acquired and the duties that you perform, you can come up with something substantial and meaningful.
Professional development- This shows your level of commitment to your career field, whether it’s by participating in a professional organization or attending conferences. You may even find a local business group that meets in your community.
Freelance projects- You may be the go-to person in your church for graphic design or photography. Whether or not you charge a fee for these services, it is beneficial to include this in your work experience.
Mentor- Most colleges and professional organizations have ways of linking mentors and mentees together. Not only does this benefit the mentee, but it also helps you keep your foot in the door with job-specific lingo and latest trends.
Most people should avoid including parenting as a job title on their resume. The only exception is if you are applying for a teaching or childcare position where those skills are directly related. If so, emphasize your relevant experience and use a title such as, “Household Manager.” (read more at Monster.com)
Are you still worried about a large gap in your employment history? Use your cover letter or the interview to highlight the skills that you have kept up to date. Keep it brief and focused on the skills rather than the time lost in the workforce.
Now that you’re ready to put all of your skills and experience onto a formal resume, start with a career summary (also referred to as a skills summary) at the top. Recruiters will focus on the many skills and qualifications that you can bring to their company, enticing them to continue reading. Then follow with reverse chronological order, listing your most recent experience first. Last but not least, the rule of thumb is to not list work experience that dates back more than 10 years.
Be confident in yourself. The young woman that “didn’t just watch Sesame Street”, got the job.
I'm Erin! I'm an MBA graduate with over 15 years of experience in HR, small business management, academia, and social media. I am an author, wife, mother, half marathon runner, and lover of the outdoors.