Few job seekers face higher hurdles than at-home parents trying to return to work do. Much has changed in the past 5-10 years – job boards and keyword scanning software are probably completely new concepts, and much has stayed the same – networking is still the way most people find opportunities. With tenacity, a willingness to learn, and solid marketing tools, parents can be back in the swing again soon.
Do what you love. Some parents left thriving careers to raise their children, while others had kids earlier in life. In either case, this is the perfect opportunity to find a career that makes your heart beat a little faster. Returning to school for a degree or certificate will assure your future employer that you have the training to do the job while demonstrating your interest in that field of work. If you loved what you were doing before, it may be more appealing to pick up where you left off.
Don’t apologize for the gap in employment. Just because your decision to raise your children created a difficult return to the workforce, it doesn't mean it wasn’t the right decision. Your experience with kids might even make you more qualified for certain roles than someone without them. If you were in marketing before having children, for example, consider a marketing role where the focus is on appealing to parents. Some employers, particularly those in the sales industry, will see your break as a good thing. They may want to train you on their way of doing things and will value your fresh perspective.
Employ a pro. Consider hiring a professional resume writer to keyword optimize your resume while giving voice to your accomplishments. For most people, figuring out all of the components of a truly great resume is not a good return on your investment of time. It is much better to spend your time networking and learning, no one can do that for you.
Give yourself credit for having life experience and maturity. In many companies, hiring managers would rather choose someone known to be sane and stable than take a chance on a “fresh” grad. Your task is to figure out how that maturity would benefit the employer and then help them see it.
Consider networking with parents who have already done what you want to do. Ask them how they did it, talk about what they like about their jobs and what surprises they encountered after resuming their careers. Also, check out networking groups that are industry related; the professional associations section of www.iloveseattle.org is a good place to look or do an Internet search. Be an interested and helpful networker; seek out ways to be a resource to those in your network.
Not ready to return to work yet? Consider volunteering to keep your skills sharp. Plan an event for the pet shelter, fix the local non-profit’s network, or put the church bake sale on Facebook. Companies value community service and you will have relevant experience to put on your resume.
Parents who are smarter about preparing to return to work have a much easier time of it. By networking, sharpening your skills and updating your presentation (resume, interview skills and appearance), you will have an advantage over your competition.