There's no doubt that the skills you learn when you become a parent can come in handy for just about any job. Multitasking, budgeting, logistics coordination and project management are only a few of the many activities that you'll tackle both at home and in the office.
But how do you discuss those skills in a professional setting when you've spent a few years as a stay-at-home mom or dad? Most hiring managers would raise an eyebrow if they saw "raised a family" as an entry on your résumé, but you deserve credit for the transferable skill set you've honed during your time away from the workforce.
"Having employment gaps on your résumé isn't a deal breaker, but it can be very hard to simply pick up where you left off," said Joe Weinlick, senior vice president of marketing at career network Beyond.com. "The skills it takes to raise a family ... are all essential to the workplace. And, by all means, list these skills on your résumé if they are strengths. But don't list these under 'homemaker' or a similar title, which calls attention to the fact that you weren't in the workforce staying up-to-date with the industry."
"Do not list domestic or child care activities on your résumé," added David Grubb, president of CMIT Solutions of Tribeca, an IT services provider. "Focus on the transferable skills you developed while raising your children, such as problem solving, project management and communication skills."
If you want to prepare a résumé to help you re-enter the workforce, here are a few tips from career experts and working parents. [7 Smart Ways to Handle Employment Gaps on Your Résumé]
Understand the industry
If you're going back to work after taking time off for your family, it's likely that you're going back into the same field you were in before. However, don't assume that you still know everything there is to know about the industry. A lot can change in a few years, so it's important to bring yourself up to speed on the current trends, required skills and technologies.
"Parents who want to get back into the workforce ... need to start by understanding the industry they are exploring," said Mollie Evans, founder of Baby Vida infant oxygen monitor. "Markets are constantly changing, and doing research is critical. This will help you fully understand the opportunity you are interested in and let you think through all the aspects and expectations [of the job]."
Once you have a better idea of what hiring managers are looking for, you can write your résumé and tailor it accordingly.
Bulk up the "summary" section of your résumé
Your professional summary — the part of your résumé that presents your most important qualities and background information — is the perfect place to showcase your newly sharpened workplace/parenting skills. It's typically located at the top of your résumé, so you'll be able to get all those proficiencies in front of the hiring manager right off the bat.
Though it might be tempting to write a functional résumé (one that lists skill sets rather than employers or positions) to hide your employment gap, this is not always a smart strategy. In an article she wrote for The Muse, career strategist Jenny Foss noted that most hiring managers will see right through this, and realize that you are trying to cover up your time out of the workforce. Instead, she advised writing a hybrid résumé format, grouping skills together first and then listing your work history at the bottom.
"Highlight the stuff you're most proud of [and] best known for... in an 'executive summary' section at the top," Foss wrote. "Then, create a 'core proficiencies' section that outlines the things you know how to do, [such as] project management, client relations and cost controls. Finally, you get into your career chronology, listing the most recent positions first and working backward."
Include part-time and volunteer positions
Many job seekers who have a résumé gap are reminded that volunteer work, freelance gigs and other part-time activities all count as valid work experience that can and should be listed on your résumé. Parents looking to return to work are encouraged to do the same, especially if they've put in volunteer time at their children's school.
Foss noted that, depending on the types of jobs you're applying for, anything from planning charity auctions to recruiting parent volunteers for an after-school club can be relevant. Therefore, rather than skipping over periods of unemployment without any explanation, Weinlick recommended including a section titled 'volunteering' or 'freelancing' if it's applicable to you.
"Showing a potential employer that you spent this time productively, even if you were not employed full-time, is what matters," he told Business News Daily.
Utilize your cover letter
Though your résumé is your first and foremost tool for catching an employer's attention, your cover letter can be very important as well. If you're a parent returning to work, this part of your application can serve as an introduction to your situation, and explain why you're eager and ready to pick your career back up at this time.
"It is important to be honest and talk about the important role you took on [as a parent] ... in your cover letter," said Michael Phillips, founder and CEO of Coconut's Fish Cafe. "The benefit of talking about this is that it allows a chance for the employer to get to know you on a more personal level, thus making you more memorable."
Dan O'Neil, regional developer of Patrice & Associates hospitality recruiting firm, said that candidates should focus on the passion for the job and their successful track record with past employers.
"Since the No. 1 factor for long-term success in a job is fit, I recommend saying something along these lines in your cover letter: 'For the last five years, I took on the career of homemaker. Now that my children are older, I am prepared to resume my career in the workforce. I am excited about the opportunity to begin a new challenge and would welcome the chance to speak with you further about his opportunity,'" O'Neil said.
Understand how parenting has affected your approach to work
Becoming a parent is one of the most life-altering choices a person can make, and the experience is almost certainly going to leave you with a different outlook on your career than you had before. It's important to think about the ways in which parenthood has made you a better worker, so you can really sell yourself both on paper and in a job interview.
"Being flexible and ready for anything ... has been a way of life as a stay-at-home parent, [and this has] helped me excel in my career," Evans said. "The skill sets that I have gained from years in the workforce may not be as fresh as they once were for a specific niche. However, I have gained so many other skills and a changed perspective with a much greater sense of urgency. A sick or hungry baby can't be told to wait five minutes."
"Fatherhood has made me fearless," Grubb added. "In addition to giving me greater self-assurance and purpose, [my daughter] has helped me become a better, more attentive listener. I am paying close attention to her questions, which are surprisingly relevant to my decision-making process. I am also approaching my work with greater patience, understanding and enthusiasm. I have no doubt that parenting has had a positive impact on my business and my career."