Wally Bock in Momentor says “Even with men taking paternity leave, women face a career challenge that few if any men will ever face. This one of those situations where there are no easy answers, only intelligent choices. Dorothy Dalton lays them out for you in what is the very best post I have ever seen on this topic.”
How to bridge the gap in your resume
One of the most frequently asked questions that I am ever asked, both as a recruiter and as a career coach, is about handling gaps in a CV caused by taking time out to raise a family. Response: there is no one magic wand answer. Or at least not one that I can think of.
Starting and raising a family is one of the greatest challenges of not just being a woman, but being a woman in the work place. We all handle it differently. There is no right or wrong way. Some return to work and balance a career and professional demands with a variety of child care and support arrangements. Others decide to focus exclusively on their families for different lengths of time.
Both my kids are in their 20s and I can honestly say that I am familiar with many of the thought processes and situations that professional women go through when they have a family. I have probably experienced most combinations of childcare and work set-ups imaginable: flexi-time, part-time, remote working, NOT working (aka ME) and self-employment. I have been guilt tripped by pretty much everyone, including my kids and bosses in equal measure. My son is dyslexic and required educational support when younger, but my business/family stress was finally reduced when he discovered as a teenager, that dyslexia is an anagram for “daily sex”. That helped with his learning difficulty more than anything I ever did.
Becoming a full-time parent today is a luxury decision that few are able to make, but many still do. Very often for either economic reasons, or simply a desire to have a different purpose, many women choose to go back to work.
But frequently Rosanne Barr’s one-liner ” I can do anything. I’m a mom” doesn’t ring true for a large number. It certainly doesn’t ring true for many employers.
Employers tend to want new hires to hit the ground running and are reluctant even to look at the transferrable skills from individuals who come from another business sector, let alone anyone whose sector activity has been running a home (hospitality, finance and facility management) school runs (logistics) raising kids (team building, succession planning, change and conflict management, negotiation) supporting a partner (coaching, internal communication and external relations).
The soft skills that women possess in abundance, combined with the hands on managerial abilities , which are a prerequisite for running a family, should be easily transferrable into a business environment, particularly with some on boarding support. Unfortunately, many employers are unwilling or unable to see this. But equally many women don’t see it either. The years outside a corporate environment leave a large number feeling less than confident.
Some career columnists recommend adding a cover letter of explanation as a returning Mum that you are now willing and able to re-join the work force. Truthfully, that will no longer cut it. That cover letter may not even make it past an ATS system. The pace of change in the recruitment sector has been so great that strategic preparation is important.
The earlier you start preparing a viable business case for your return to the market place the better. If you create a strategic plan before your offspring arrive on the scene, so much the better, but if not, just as soon as you can. You’ve heard of planned pregnancies? Well career planning is the same! It’s not enough to say “Hey -ho, I’ve got a babysitter, I’m back” and doors will swing open. Whether the gap is 7 or 17 years the principles are the same.
- Stay or get up to date in your profession. It’s not easy after spending a day dealing with the minutiae of every day family life to flick a switch and get into biz mode and read up on any developments or trends in your now old profession but it’s worth it. Cosmo might be more appealing than the Economist, or the packed lunches might be calling, but try to allocate some time for your once professional self. If you let this slide over the years , start getting up to speed quickly.
- Stay or get connected: carry on if you possibly can with your professional networks. Subscriptions, workshops and conferences can be pricey without corporate funding. But there is still a lot of material available on-line and social media networking is free. Sign up on LinkedIn or any other professional site. LinkedIn has many different groups for mums – over 26 pages when I just checked. There has to be something that suits you. If not create your own. There are special groups on-line and in your own towns, specifically to support women in transition. Find yours and attend their events.
- Stay or get in touch with old colleagues. They will give you the heads up on any opportunities.
- Network – any contacts you make in the course of your daily life may help. Keep business cards, follow careers and stay in touch ( see above)
- Consider working from home: is there anything you can do before you return to work to ease yourself gently into a business environment ?
- Consider setting up your own business: Read my post Women who Make it Happen. 4, really normal women recount their successful transition into entrepreneurship following periods raising their families. If they can do it – so can you !
- Re – train – this is a good opportunity to think about doing something different. What are your passions? What would you like to do with the rest of your life? What are your skills? On- line courses make it easier to combine acquiring new skills with childcare and domestic responsibilities.
- Invest in yourself – think long-term. Make your personal development ongoing.
- Volunteer – many women are very often involved in voluntary activities that rival any corporate activity. Fund raising , event management, PTA President, school or charity treasurer. Make sure that when you write your CV you include any metrics that support your efforts in terms of results and processes. Raising 250K for the new school library is a big deal and no different from meeting sales targets! Organising a gala garden party for your church with 600 people attending is no different to corporate event management.
- Check your business image: if your wardrobe is full of office attire circa pre-motherhood – a trip to the charity shop is essential. Nothing dates you more than looking out dated.
Even if you have done none of the above – it’s never too late to start. As covered recently in Forbes , hiring managers are convinced by commitment , backed up by evidence that you can add value. Their eyes will glaze over if the only talk you can offer, no matter how proudly, is of raising your family. Regrettably, sometimes professional women can be tougher than their male counterparts.
But occasionally wisdom comes from unexpected sources: “ I’m a mother with two small children, so I don’t take as much crap as I used to.” Pamela Anderson
So do you?