I think us human beings have a default setting when it comes to looking for a job. That setting is “I’m not quite sure what I am good at”. For those that are looking to go back to work after a break, it can be a little harder to sell yourself and your skills, especially when the world throws around terms like “SAHM” (stay at home mum – as if working parents are only parents part of the time, or parents who don’t “work” only stay at home … but I digress).
The most common issue I see in the recruitment process is when value is only place on work that is a) exchanged for money or b) done in an office! It is no surprise that so many parents, looking to return to work, are filled with dread or confusion when they fill in an application form or create a CV. Regardless of how long you have been away from the traditional workplace, describing what you have you have been doing on your career break doesn’t need to be intimidating.
Shall we clear up the elephant in the room. Yes, some organisations have a massive chip on their shoulder about employing parents, let alone taking on a parent that has been on a career break for several years. However, for many, many more organisations, they are aware of the massive group of talent that lives within parents. They are actively seeking to work with parents; these are the people you should be putting your efforts into connecting with and applying to.
You will have taken the time to decide what you can do, mapped out all your skills and found the roles that offer the progression and flexibility that suits your family. Now, over to the application!
Bear in mind this article is for those that have over a year’s break in their career. Anyone that is on maternity leave and then returns to the role HAS BEEN EMPLOYED for that period. If you decided to not return to your role and then went on a career break, your employment ended when your contract did, NOT when you started on maternity or parental leave.
Right, back to the job in hand!
How to explain a career break.
Do not apologise!
You may not realise, but the way you talk about your career break can make you sound like you are apologising for it. Things like “I was only a ….” “I haven’t worked for x years” or anything that starts with “but” gives a negative opening to a really positive part of your life.
Do not hide it!
When using a skills-based CV, you control the way that your evidence of the skills that you have is presented, which is a great way of showing your relevance for a role first, rather than the chronological history of your work.
When applications forms are used, then usually you are forced to put in chronological information; if you leave your career break blank, then what happens is the person reading the application form fills in the gaps of what happened during your break. It leads to the question, what are they hiding?
Mother NY, and American based organisation, have gone one step further in cementing the positive space of a career break, through the creation of The Pregnancy Pause. This is a fictitious company which parents can add onto their CVs and LinkedIn in profile that proudly marks the gap in their work history. They state research that find the Mums that openly acknowledge time spend on leave have a greater chance of being hired! Founded in 2017, to date over 700 parents have got this against their work history.
What have you learnt?
We all know the multitude of skills we learn when we are a parent. Suddenly, we become Nutritionists, Book Keepers, PAs, Child Psychologists …. The list goes on. Whilst that list may be a little tongue in cheek, consider what skills you have developed whilst you have been on your break.
What is your evidence?
This section should really be “What have you learnt: Part 2”. So many parents take on new responsibilities whilst they are on a career break. From writing through blogging, photography, volunteering on committees or groups, reading around specific subjects or taking the opportunity to start or finish a course.
You may have had some other responsibilities thrown into the mix whilst on your career break; clients of mine have managed things like relocation, home improvement projects to lived experiences created from the very fact they became a parent, (such as petitioning for schools or safety issues). ALL these things can be put into your CV or application to show how you have
Say what you want to do!
If you really can’t bring yourself to add in your experience, or you find it too uncomfortable (then come speak to me) OR just inject your personality. Sometimes this may be a funny reflection on raising the child(ren) or highlighting what you want to do now.
There you go, first step in creating a work history that clearly and proudly demonstrates who you are and what skills you have. Your working life didn’t end when you became a parent. You are now in position to work on Career Mark 2.
Who do you know that is looking to return to work after a break? Forward this article to them!
Want to join a group of likeminded working parents, with regular live coaching sessions and lots of advice? FOR FREE? Join The Balance Collective with Clara Wilcox.