How to Gracefully Transition Back into Your Career After Being a Stay-At-Home Parent
Let’s start by recognizing that being a stay-at-home parent definitely isn’t an extended vacation from your career. You spend your days prioritizing tasks, cleaning up messes, and calming cranky bosses, er, children. You know that all your professional skills haven’t gone down the drain, but how do you communicate that to a future employer? At Executive Drafts, we work with many clients returning to careers that (hopefully) don’t require them to fish toys out of the toilet, and we know it can be a vulnerable time of figuring out where you fit into the new landscape of your career.
If you’re feeling disheartened with your job search, you’ll be happy to learn that with a little preparation, you too can position yourself back into the ranks of the employed. To help you along the way, we’ve established some guidelines to help you navigate that dreaded gap and get your foot in the door:
Dust Off Your Resume
If you haven’t looked at your resume in years, there’s no time like the present. The best time to start revamping your resume is months before you need it. That way, you can diagnose any issues on your existing resume and work towards making improvements. Not sure how to address your time as a parent on your resume? A simple “stay at home parent” entry with dates showing when you left your previous role can account for this time in a way that clears you of any “red flags” regarding the hole in your work experience.
What you don’t want to do here is include any bullets that will detract from your professional experience. While being a parent is obviously your main priority at this moment in time, referencing your ability to match socks in less than a minute (while impressive) isn’t going to convince recruiters that you’re ready to return to a professional setting.
Get to Networking
It’s likely that any professional networking you did before managing a household has now been replaced with meeting up with other parents at the park. Perhaps the thought of spending more time with other adults is exhilarating to you, or perhaps it’s terrifying. Either way, you should ease into networking events with the same finesse you use when closing a squeaky door at nap time. That is to say, don’t expect to go to a marathon of networking events two weeks before you need a job. Start networking a few months prior so you can get a feel for the market you’re re-entering. You’ll want to take note of some of the areas you might need to work on to become a more desirable candidate, such as new technologies or skills you might need to learn (or re-learn).
Cover That Gap With Your Cover Letter
A cover letter is the best place to remind a recruiter why you’re still a catch. Your resume can only present the facts of your employment, but a cover letter allows you to explain what skills you’ve maintained over the months (or years) you’ve been a stay-at-home-parent. A cover letter can also demonstrate how you’ve been preparing for your re-entry into the workplace.
You should also take some time to emphasize why you’re excited about the opportunity. Some recruiters might question your motives returning to work, so even if your real reason is “I need more money,” try to spin it in a way that benefits your future employer. Doing so will demonstrate to recruiters that you’ve put some thought into this decision and are prepared to take on the demands of being both a parent and an employee.
Seek Out Professional Development Opportunities
This is where you have to think about your career from a recruiter’s perspective. If a recruiter is choosing between two equally qualified candidates, but one of them hasn’t worked towards developing any professional skills in five years, who do you think they’ll pick? Sure, we’ve seen clients land a job without including any kind of professional development to fill in the gap on their resume, but it usually takes longer, or they might have to settle for lesser-paying jobs.
You can be strategic beforehand about pursuing development opportunities such as classes, conferences, leadership roles, or projects that will show you still know how to work in a professional setting. Whether it’s volunteering for your child’s parent-teacher association or attending some courses about coding, by putting in some effort, you’ll demonstrate you’re prepared (or willing to learn) the skills necessary to be successful in your new role.
We’ve helped countless stay-at-home parents return to the working world. We also know a thing or two about helping individuals navigate career gaps on their resume and can help you with your transition by helping you emphasize your selling points as a prior career professional, both on paper and in person. Need some tools to help you get started? Look no further than our website, where you can submit your resume for a complimentary critique.