Did you take a break from your career to have kids? Despite the rise in numbers of working moms, many women quit their jobs when they have children (like me!). As our children get older and require less direct care, for moms who want to return to work, it’s daunting. The question of how to jump back into the workforce after a “mom gap” is open-ended. If you’re reading this and wondering where to start, look at your resume.
January and February are excellent months to apply for jobs (see why here). Use the rest of this year to prepare your resume! Let’s get started.
Your resume is a summary of your accomplishments and best skills. Think of it as an ad – for you. While an effective resume is meant to be persuasive – your goal is an interview, and ultimately a job – you need to present yourself honestly and accurately. The good news is that your experience as a mom has several transferable skills you can highlight in your resume.
How you organize a resume is important. You have about five to seven seconds before a potential employer moves on to the next one.
First Things First
Before you write your resume, gather your thoughts. This will help you identify functional areas (more on that soon), remember key points of different jobs or experiences, and remind yourself of everything you already do that would be valuable to employers!
These questions will give you a good overview of your background and experience:
- What did I do in my last job, specifically?
- What aspects of my previous work experience are relevant to what I want to do now?
- Where have I volunteered my time?
- Is this an official volunteer role, or was it an experience where I learned or practiced new skills?
- What technical and soft skills do I have?
- Have I had experiences managing money, a team, or multiple projects? (Check yes to all of this – you’re a mom!)
- Have I won any awards or otherwise received any special honors, certifications, or recognitions?
- What leadership positions have I held? Roles with the PTA, community or church groups, and volunteering all count.
Sidenote: if you want to develop your skills in a new area, get a refresher on something, or enhance your resume with a certification, your local community college is a great place to start. Look for non-credit community education courses. Also check out www.lynda.com for online courses on dozens of topics. You don’t need a degree in something to be good at it; you can teach yourself just about anything!
How to Organize Your Resume
The typical resume will have six major sections, more or less: Contact Information, Objective Statement, Education, Experience, Skills and Achievements, and Honors and Awards. How you organize those sections is up to you. If it flows well and makes sense, there is no wrong way to organize a resume.
Usually, resumes are organized reverse chronologically, with the job experience appearing first and jobs listed in order of most to least recent. This structure can be problematic if you have a Mom Gap in your experience (or if you’ve had multiple or few jobs).
When you have gaps between jobs or nontraditional professional experience, your best bet is to write a Functional Resume. This means that instead of focusing on your chronological work experience, you organize your resume based on function areas or skills.
Here’s what a functional resume looks like:Source: Kolin, P. (2013). Successful Writing at Work. 10th ed. Wadsworth: Boston.
Examples of function or skill areas include:
- Public Relations
- Customer Service
- Information Technology
- Event Planning
This list is just a starting point. Think of functional areas like search keywords. When you look for jobs, what keywords are you searching for? Start there, then look at individual job descriptions for ideas of what else to include.
Writing Your Resume – An Overview
For your resume, choose two to four functional areas where you excel. Then, list three to five tangible bullet points under each area to demonstrate your experience. Use a strong action verb at the beginning of every bullet point. Here are some of my favorite action verbs to use in resumes:
When you write your bullet points, try to emphasize results or other quantifiable details. In resumes, people write what they did, but not many include the how, why, or outcome.
What if you don’t have specific numbers or tangible results to include? No problem! Be as specific as possible about your approach, what software or skills you used, or why it was important. Not every bullet point needs to have an outcome.
I recommend having two or three versions of your resume. Tailor each version to a different type of job, and vary the functional areas accordingly. Customize the objective statement, add keywords from the job posting into your resume as appropriate, and you’re good to go!
Are you a mom and a veteran? Click here for a resume builder to help you translate your military accomplishments to a civilian job posting.
Make sure your email address is simple and professional. Leave off schedule preferences, salary information (or demands), travel restrictions, reasons for leaving previous jobs, and information about your family.
Use a font that’s easy to read, leave out the colors and graphics (there are exceptions), and always send a PDF version of your resume to potential employers – never a Word document.
For a list of over 350 resume action verbs, email me here.
Stay tuned for Part II of this series next month: Acing an Interview After a “Mom Gap.”