Explaining the childcare years: Five CV tips for parents returning to work - Women's Agenda

Explaining the childcare years: Five CV tips for parents returning to work

The decision to return to the workforce is a huge one for any mother and with 65% of mothers now working it is an issue that is more relevant than ever.

Weighing up the pros and cons of being a working mum can be quite stressful. Just the thought of dusting off your old resume that’s been sitting in the bottom drawer for the last five years, can be a daunting prospect.

Even women with ample experience and skills find the issue of updating the resume and covering the now evident gap in their professional life a tough one to overcome.

However, according to careers coach Kate Southam, trying to cover up that gap on the resume while job hunting, adds a layer of stress that is unnecessary, during an already stressful time.

“I advise women to tackle their parental leave period straight up. It is only one of the many experiences they draw from so why hide it?” Southam says.

She suggests covering the parental leave in the Work History or Professional History section of your CV with dates. For example:

Parental Leave 2010-2014

“By doing this a recruiter or hiring manager can quickly scan the CV and see there are no gaps or unexplained mysteries,”

Southam also encourages mums returning to work to include a “Professional Profile” section at the top of their resume, just below their name and contact details.

“Every resume should focus immediate attention on what the candidate brings to the organisation. This section should describe your key selling points relevant to the job you are going for. Doing this is a concise, and relevant way ensures you establish your credentials for the job before the recruiter or hiring manager reads anything else.”

Kate O’Reilly, director of Optimiss Consulting, a firm advising on the retention, promotion and recruitment of women agrees with this advice.

“Don’t make the employer work to discover what value you can add to the organisation. Spell it out clearly and succinctly in your CV!” O’Reilly advises.

By focusing on your key selling points and the wealth of experience you bring, engages your potential employer who is then less likely to be distracted by the gap in your work timeline.

Another point both Southam and O’Reilly reiterate is making your CV clear, concise, tailored and easy to read.

Here are their 5 tips for that killer CV

  1. Address the gap in your professional timeline as suggested above.
  2. Include any activities from this period relevant to the job you are going for including professional development, active participation in any network, advisory or consulting work or short-term freelance assignments.
  3. Include any volunteer or not-for-profit work you may have done during this time. Were you in charge of the mother’s club, president of your child’s kindergarten? Anything that shows your skills have widened or been kept up to date is worthwhile including.
  4. Tailor your CV to the job you are going for. In the Professional Profile section include the relevant skills and experience and make sure your key achievements align with the role you are applying for.
  5. In possible revive your CV with a short course to refresh your skills or gain new skills relevant to jobs you wish to apply for. Where possible get certifications for any self-taught skills, and update your industry and professional memberships.

Both Southam and O’Reilly are consistent in their final words of advice. Making sure you have someone to pre-sell you, advocate for you or introduce is often the best way to negotiate re-entering the workforce.

As O’Reilly says, “Making an effort occasionally to stay in touch with people will make it so much easier to tap back into that network when you are ready to find a new work role. In most cases, it will be your network that will identify opportunities for you when you are ready.”

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