I love resumes. Long before I actually worked at a career center, I would enthusiastically volunteer to review and edit my friends’ resumes. I’ve always found the process somewhat comforting. I get to humor my love of consistent formatting while simultaneously helping someone to reveal their awesomeness. A job search can be intimidating, but it’s a great feeling to start with a document that makes you proud.
Of course, I understand why some people may not feel confident. At its core, a resume is a screening tool designed for evaluation and judgment. It can be difficult to determine how to make the best first impression. This can be particularly challenging if you are reentering the (paid) workforce after being a stay-at-home parent. If you are planning to dust off that briefcase and head back to the office, here are some tips to get started:
Do: Include relevant leadership and volunteer experience.
You don’t need to limit yourself to positions with a paycheck. For example, serving on your PTO, volunteering for a soup kitchen or coaching a soccer team are all fantastic ways of demonstrating your transferable skills. Describe your duties and accomplishments using three to four bullet points per role. Each bullet point should start with a verb that highlights a skill (consider verbs like coordinated, managed, communicated, etc.).
Don’t: Keep an old format.
Organize your resume with your biggest selling points at the top of the page, where they are most likely to catch a recruiter’s eye. As you refresh your document, consider cutting:
- Objective statement: Replace your goal (what you want from the employer) with the summary statement (what you bring to the table).
- References: The general assumption is candidates will provide references regardless of whether this line is included or not.
Do: Connect your experience to the job description.
The job description is your cheat sheet to all of the keywords and phrases an employer will be looking for as they skim through applicants. Incorporate those keywords into your resume, and you have a better chance of capturing their interest.
Don’t: Include personal details like the names and ages of your children.
On average, recruiters will spend approximately six seconds screening your resume. To get the most use out of that time, stay focused on details that highlight your professional qualifications.
Do: Address the employment gap.
Recruiters will notice if you conveniently left out the last three years or did not include dates. Organize your experience in reverse chronological format (start with your most recent role and work your way backward). Include one line for “stay-at-home-parent” and the years you were home. This will quickly and concisely answer any questions the recruiter may have about that time.
Don’t: Give yourself a fake title.
Calling yourself a “domestic engineer” or “family CEO” is unnecessary.
Do: Get feedback.
First, it will help you to catch typos and formatting errors. Even if your document is in top shape, though, getting feedback can be a wonderful way to break the ice when reconnecting with former colleagues and supervisors. In addition to their thoughts on your resume, your contacts may be able to serve as a reference or let you know about job openings.
I recently spoke with an employer about one of his best employees–a former SAHM who has outstanding skills in problem-solving, adaptability, and strategic planning. Sound like anyone you know? Employers are well aware of the difference between trainable and non-trainable skills. After an employment gap, new hires may need to attend a workshop on the newest software program. However, your boss can’t teach you how to play well with others. As you prepare for your job search, DO remember that you have a lot to offer. Good luck!