Of all the steps in the job search process, putting together a resume seems to be the toughest obstacle for most return-to-work-moms. Writing resumes is a tough task for most people, but for stay-at-home-moms there are three nagging questions that make this task particularly difficult:
- How do I structure my resume so that my absence from the workplace is not the first thing employers will notice?
- How do I integrate volunteer experience into the resume so that the resume accurately reflects the skills I have gained while being a stay-at- home mom?
- How do I account for the time spent away from the workplace?
Sound like familiar concerns? If so, read on…
1. How do I structure my resume so that my absence from the workplace is not the first thing employers will notice? The vast majority of employers, and almost all recruiters, will tell you that they prefer to see resumes that are formatted in the traditional reverse chronological style (starting with your most recent position first). Unfortunately, this preference creates a real dilemma for women who have been out of the workplace for an extended period of time and don’t want “Homemaker” to be the first entry a potential employer reads. Consequently, if you have been out of work for at least a year, consider changing the format of your resume from a chronological style to a “hybrid” or “combination” format that blends the best of a chronological resume with the benefits of a functional resume. Basically, a combination resume starts off with a skills summary, followed by a section that highlights skill clusters, and concludes with a chronological section at the bottom of the resume that includes specifics about education, places of employment, job titles and dates of employment. Because combination resumes are accomplishment oriented, they are a great way to showcase your capabilities without drawing attention to the gaps in your work history. The skill clusters provide you with a structure that highlights your most relevant skills and accomplishments to the employer, while drawing emphasis away from dates and gaps in your work history.
2. How do I integrate volunteer experience into the resume so that the resume accurately reflects the skills I have gained while being a stay-at-home mom? Volunteering may have provided you with credentials and accomplishments that are highly relevant to your career goals. Fortunately, by utilizing a combination resume, you can seamlessly weave your most relevant volunteer experience into the skill clusters area. For example, if one of your skill cluster areas is “sales”, you could include information about how you collected $10,000 from local merchants as part of a fund raising drive to benefit local literacy programs. If you want a position in corporate training, and one of your skill clusters is “public speaking”, you should include specifics about your experience as president of your local Toastmasters group. Remember, skills learned while volunteering are equally valuable as skills gained for paid employment. There is no need to distinguish between paid and unpaid work related skills on a resume.
3. How do I account on the resume for the time spent away from the workplace? A combination resume has room for both a skills section and a "work history" section that will show a brief chronological work history. This is the area where you will include a line about what you have been doing while you’ve been home. For example:
- 1994-present Full time homemaker, PTA president, community volunteer
While this particular entry is not going to win you any jobs, it will provide an easy-to-understand explanation of the gap on your resume. Hopefully, by the time the employer reads down to this line, she/he will be so impressed with your skills and accomplishments, that the employment gap will be interpreted as just a minor distraction.
Enjoy this article? We've got tons more tips in The Back-to-Work-Toolkit: A Guide for Comeback Moms
P.S. One of my favorite resources for back-to-work resumes is the book, Expert Resumes for People Returning to Work by Louise Kursmark and Wendy Enelow.