Returning to Work
A Career Crossroads
Did you leave the workforce to raise your family? This article is written for parents who made that decision and are now planning to return to work. It is the third and final installment in a series that focuses on parents who have made different choices about their careers when they were at the same juncture—starting a family. The first article in the series deals with stay-at-home parents and the second with employed parents.
This article will provide you with information that will help you make the transition from being a stay-at-home parent to being an employed one. It will not cover practical issues such as child care and balancing work and family since the other parts of this series addressed them.
After years of being a stay-at-home mom (or dad) you've decided to return to work. For a variety of reasons, you may have come to the conclusion that this is the right thing to do. Most likely, the children for whom you decided to stay home are now in school full time, or grown up and no longer in need of a parent at home full-time. Regardless of why you've decided it's time to resume your career, there are several issues with which you will have to deal. The first and the most important thing you will have to do is decide whether to continue in your previous career.
If you choose that option, you will have to figure out how to make up for the time you spent away from your field. Whether you decide to return to your old career or start all over with a new one, you will have to find a way to explain the gap in your employment history.
Should You Change Your Career?
After spending some time away from your career, you may have decided that a change is in order. Perhaps you don't feel the career you worked in before is compatible with your new life as a parent. It could be too demanding, requiring you to work long hours or take frequent trips.
You may want a career change because you've discovered new interests that you would like to develop into a career. Or maybe you never really liked what you were doing before, and now you want to find something that is more suitable. Your work field or industry may have changed during absence, and there may be few job openings. If you don't know what career to pursue, and you have the means to take a bit more time off, use it to figure out what you want to do next. Then get the necessary training.
When money is a pressing matter, consider temporary employment until you can pursue a new career. It will give you a chance to start earning money while you make decisions and get training. It can also ease you back into your new lifestyle as a working parent.
How Do You Make Up For Time Away From Your Field?
When you are planning to go back to a career you were away from for several years, you will likely find that changes have taken place during your absence. A lot can happen in even a short amount of time. As long as you used your time away from work wisely, you won't be terribly surprised by this. Hopefully, you kept up with your field during your hiatus. If you didn't, now would be a good time to do some cramming. Arrange some lunch dates with people in your network so you can pick their brains.
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Explaining the Gap in Your Employment History
When you sit down to write your resume, you'll be faced with a dilemma. You will have nothing to include after your last job. How long ago was it? Two years ago? Five? Eighteen? You may have been out of the workforce for quite some time. You will wonder how to explain this employment gap.
First of all, since you can't hide it, you should just own it. Don't make any apologies for the time you spent away from work. Instead, highlight your skills, including any that you acquired during your time away from paid employment. You may have volunteered at your child's school or had an active role in a parent-teacher association. While most employers don't regard skills gained from volunteer work as highly as they do those that come from employment, it is a way of showing that you made good use of your hiatus.
Many career development specialists suggest using a functional, rather than a chronological, resume. It places the emphasis on skills rather than employment history. In your cover letter, explain that you are returning to the workforce and highlight your current skills. Do the same on job interviews.