While the overwhelming majority of parents who are the primary caregivers remains the mom, the house husband or soccer dad has become fairly familiar in this millennium. Regardless of gender, the issues facing the returning parent can be substantial.
One of the most common factors facing the returning parent is the uneasy feeling that the years at home were basically useless in terms of career skills.
The good news! You are not alone. The interviewer across the desk from you probably knows a returning parent or has perhaps been one. It is a solid demographic and one that many employers either belong to or appreciate.
So, at the outset, do not look at the endless choruses of “The Wheels on the bus go round and round…” at the preschool as time misspent. Volunteering in the classroom or on field trips, fundraising, coaching sports, or managing the concessions at events are just a few of the contributions you made in your “parenting career.”
Parents with special expertise often teach classes or tutor students in special subjects ranging from computers to foreign languages and origami. These are definitely grist for the resume mill.
Some parents assist their spouses or partners in family businesses. This can include bookkeeping, reception, and assorted other administrative duties. As this is rarely accompanied by a paycheck it is often overlooked on the resume. Big mistake. Parenting, volunteering, and working is an exercise in time management. Appreciate it as such. So will the employer.
If you feel you need assistance getting started, there is help at hand. Most community colleges have career assistance of some sort; usually at low or no cost. Local community organizations, YMCAs, and religious groups often have active job clubs and support groups. Recently divorced or widowed spouses might be eligible for “displaced homemaker” grants and programs. State Employment Services can provide valuable information into these programs. Also, many cities have regularly published employment magazines that provide calendars of events pertaining to employment, including times and locations where job groups meet. You are not alone!
When reviewing your previous work history, regardless how dated it is, don’t make the mistake of concluding that the quality of your experience has been diluted by time. If you were good…you were good. There is no statute of limitations on excellence. Write your job sketches as if the experience were current. As you take this refresher course in your background, you should begin valuing your achievements all over again. The employer will.
Regular volunteer activities and projects, if substantial, can be presented with the same authority as paid jobs, replete with duties, accomplishments, and results.
The decision whether or not to pursue additional education depends on your profession. Those in technical and scientific fields need to be current. If you can achieve sufficient readiness through self-study and can sell that to the employer, terrific! Otherwise, a few classes at the local technical or community college might be sufficient. The final decision should be determined by research into the current state of your field. In many cases, you will find you can hit the ground running, without the need for extensive and probably, unnecessary preparation.
Below is the resume of a returning mom who had strong volunteer experience and was seeking a position managing a nonprofit organization.