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Returning to Work After Raising the Kids: 10 Tips

Mom Returning to WorkIf you’re a mom or dad who took an extended leave from the workforce, you’re probably wondering how you’ll explain those years at home on your next resume. First, rest assured you’re not alone. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that there were 5.3 million stay-at-home parents (5.1 million mothers and 158,000 fathers) in 2009. So it’s not too much of a stretch to assume there are tens of thousands of parents returning to the workforce every year—not to mention millions (like me) who've already done so successfully.

With all of that in mind, here’s a list of 10 things you can start doing today to help ease your transition back into the workforce (if you haven’t been doing them all along):

  1. Get back in touch with your network via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and in person.
  2. Take college courses, or attend conferences, trade shows, or webinars in your desired field to get up to date on new trends and best practices.
  3. Read and comment on blogs related to your industry to boost your name recognition. 
  4. Start a blog of your own on a professional topic you’re passionate about.
  5. Find out if your old employer (or others) might have freelance or consulting projects for you (if that’s even a possibility; not every field lends itself to that).
  6. Volunteer for roles that will refresh and expand your work skills.
  7. Update and maintain applicable licensures and certifications, if any.
  8. Put the word out that you’ll be entering the job market.
  9. Set up email job alerts based on your desired job titles, related keywords, or companies you’d like to work for.
  10. Update your resume so you have a good master copy that can be easily modified to target each job you apply for.

You won’t necessarily need to do all 10, but consider trying at least some of them. It will definitely boost your confidence and pave the way for a smoother re-entry.

When you’re writing your resume, there’s no absolute right way to describe a parenting gap, but there are definitely a few wrong ways. Don’t lie, don’t extend the years of a past job to make the gap seem shorter, and think twice about using euphemisms like Domestic Engineer or Household Manager. In most cases, it’s best to just tell the truth in plain English.

Here’s an example of one way the gap could be worded on a resume:

      2003-2009     Parental Leave

  • Provided full-time care for three children while managing household
    finances, scheduling, transportation, and travel arrangements
  • Volunteered in various capacities, including Newsletter Editor,
    Teaching Assistant, Scout Leader, Youth Sports Coach
  • Completed numerous webinars on XYZ topics, attended annual XYZ
    regional trade shows, and subscribed to XYZ Journal and XYZ blog

Choose an explanation that feels comfortable for you. Don’t list every task you accomplished while you were home (we all know what full-time parenting entails). Just highlight activities that relate to or support your qualifications for your desired role.

And most importantly, plan how you'll describe your employment gap in your interviews, because you will be asked about it. Answer with pride and confidence (but not too much personal detail), and communicate to the employer that you’re ready and enthusiastic about making the transition back into the workforce.

Do you have other questions or concerns about re-entering the workforce after being an at-home parent?  Leave a comment below!

RELATED LINKS
So, about This Gap in Your Resume …
Writing a Resume When You Haven't Worked for Years
Survival Tips for Moms Returning to Work

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