If you're a stay-at-home mom busy volunteering at preschool, supervising homework and taking care of a family, keeping a resume updated probably comes pretty close to the bottom of your priority list. However, if you decide to return to work, the first tool you're going to need is a current and captivating resume.
When you've been out of the workforce for an extended period of time, it's hard to know where to begin and how to fill the resulting employment gap on your resume, but Cam Whalen, an associate coach with CareerJoy -- a Canadian career coaching company offering career identification, transition and search services -- has some suggestions.
In the past people out of work for long periods of time were advised to forgo the traditional chronological resume in favour of a functional approach, grouping experience into skill clusters and leaving dates out for the most part. However, Whalen warns of a drawback to the functional approach. "Really what happens is people think, 'what are you trying to hide?'" he says.
He recommends instead creating a hybrid resume, where the first portion, highlighting your skills and top achievements (what Whalen calls the "30-second commercial"), is immediately followed by the chronological information most employers look for.
Filling the gap
If you're concerned that your last job entry ends several years ago, there are ways to bring your résumé up to the present.
Volunteering: Whalen points out most stay-at-home parents end up spending at least some time volunteering. "List it," he says. "Especially management or event planning -- those are organizational, administrative things you can apply to just about any job." When listing volunteer experience, Whalen recommends simply adding "volunteer" in parentheses next to the title of your position.Page 1 of 2 -- Get more great tips on putting your parenting experience to work on page 2
Education: The same advice can also apply to education you may have acquired while off work. Taking courses shows you were active while staying at home, and Whalen says in certain careers, such as high-tech or health care, it may be vital to demonstrate you're current on the latest developments and technology.
Miscellaneous experience: Another effective way to bridge the out-of-work time gap may be to create an umbrella heading of "independent contractor" and in that space list various experiences, offering specific, bulleted examples of the work you did, whether it be consulting, volunteer work or looking after someone else's children in addition to your own. "It's a way to show you didn't just watch your kids," says Whalen. "You did other things too, which most everybody does."
Developing good habits
There are a couple of tips anybody writing a resume can benefit from.
First, it's a good idea to update your resume on an ongoing basis. Whenever you accomplish something worthwhile, write it down. That way you won't be struggling to come up with achievements the night before an application's due.
Second, when chronicling those accomplishments, Whalen stresses it's crucial to write them from the perspective of a potential employer. "Put yourself in the mind-set of the hiring manager," he says. "Show how you would add value and benefit. If you can solve the problems they have, they're going to want to talk to you." (Click here to see an example.)
Finally, it's important to feel confident about yourself and what you've been doing. As Whalen says, "There aren't too many people in [hiring] positions anymore who don't understand how much work it is to raise kids."
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