If you’ve been thinking about heading back to the workforce for a while now, it might be time to do something about it. Reinvent yourself professionally with these tips.
WORDS CHERIE TSENG
According to the survey salary.com conducted, a typical stay-at-home-mum works “almost 97 hours a week, spending 13.2 hours as a day-care teacher; 3.9 hours as household CEO; 7.6 hours as a psychologist; 14.1 hours as a chef; 15.4 as a housekeeper; 6.6 hours doing laundry; 9.5 hours as a IT operator; 10.7 hours as a facilities manager; 7.8 hours as a janitor and 7.8 hours as a (driver).”
It is quite a resume, no?
The issue is that while most people will vouch that motherhood is indeed one of the toughest jobs in the world, the reality is that it is hard to market yourself as such when the last few years you have been reporting to a boss (or bosses) in diapers.
So, then, where does a mum looking to make the foray back into the working world begin?
Use A Hybrid Resume
“Take time to work on your resume,” Jihan Kinnear-Ong, a human resource veteran at Randstad, herself a mother of four children, recommends. “But instead of a purely chronological resume (where you list your experiences on a timeline) or a purely functional one (where you merely showcase skills and attributes), use a hybrid of both where you showcase your skills and core proficiencies along a rough chronological timeline.”
A hybrid style resume begins with an ‘Executive Summary’ where you highlight the attributes and experiences you feel are most significant, followed by a section on ‘Core Proficiencies’ where you outline your corporate skill set: from project management skills to client relations or account balancing. Only after these two sections do you get into your chronological career experience listing the most recent positions first.
Be Upfront About the Career Gap
“Rather than attempt to hide the gap in your employment history, simply be upfront about it,” recommends Serene Toh, HR manager for a leading global IT consultancy. “Fudging your resume to hide your career gap often comes across as being disingenuous.”
State upfront in a summary paragraph that you are looking
to return to work after taking some time away from your career
to stay at home with your children.
She adds, “People take career breathers all the time for a myriad of reasons – child raising to health issues to family needs – a good employer won’t hold it against you.”
Don’t Be Too Quick to Assume Domestic Activities Count as Work Experience
While mothering entails a plethora of skills and many modern mums feel the need to flex that in their resumes. They use (faux) job titles to account for their stint as a stay at home parent: “Domestic engineer” or “CEO of Family”. While it lends to a fairly good-humoured casual discussion, HR veterans warn against using terms like that as resume fillers.
List Part-Time Work and Volunteer or Community Projects
Motherhood often gives opportunities for volunteer work, part-time gigs and community projects. These are legit experiences to put on your resume alongside other more mainstream job experiences. Depending on the job you are applying for, all these ‘cool mum projects’ can be relevant.
This is especially the case when applying for a role that has relevance to these experience like one in the non-profit or volunteer and welfare space. Listing these experiences also shows that you continued to stay plugged in (to the workforce, even peripherally) while staying at home with the kids.
Be Clear About Your Desired Priorities
“One of our biggest pet peeve as HR managers,” says Julia Lee, a recruiter for a global shipping outfit and mother of four, “is having candidates who are unclear about what it is they want from the job. Or worse, they put it out there that they are willing to undertake a job scope but find fulfilling that difficult.”
If you are the kind who feels the need to go home at exactly 6pm daily,
don’t take on a role that might need you to stay in the office past the official knock-off time.
Or if you are reluctant to travel for work because of your family commitments,
don’t take on a role that requires it.
Rather, seek clarity from the recruitment officer on job expectations and be realistic about your ability to meet it. If it does not quite fit what you desire, then pass on the role.
Know What Sells
One of the best things a full-time parent can do for themselves is to not cut themselves entirely from the working world and to make an effort to stay abreast of industry development and self-improvement.
“Companies value technical skills for sure,” says Dr Eileen Seah, an organisational psychologist, who founded and serves as principal consultant at The Art of Career, “so ensure that your technology chops are up to scratch for the job you are applying to. But companies also value soft skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, communication and people management. In fact, in many instances, the latter is prized over the former.”
So, it is unsurprising that companies could value a stay-at-home-parent with less technical expertise but a stronger soft skill ability over a candidate with high technical ability but a wavering grasp on, say, team motivation skills or personal mastery.