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Second Shift

5 Ways To Eliminate The Stay-At-Home Mom Gap

Returning to work after raising kids means proving that you are still relevant after a long employment gap.

5 Ways To Eliminate The Stay-At-Home Mom Gap
[Photo: Flickr user Ariel Leuenberger]

With your babies out of diapers and the kids now in school, stay-at-home moms may find it’s time to return to the paid workforce. Dusting off your resume, you see the glaring gap between your last professional endeavour and the years you’ve spent raising kids. Lynda Spiegel, HR professional and founder of Rising Star Resumes, a career coaching and resume service, says the employment gap is the biggest barrier to moms seeking to re-enter the workforce. "To employers, it signals having lost touch with the business world," she says.

Follow these five strategies to eliminate the stay-at-home mom gap:

1. Create Projects To Fill Out Your Resume

Spiegel herself was a stay-at-home mom for 15 years before returning to the business world, and she says the best thing moms can do before going back to work is to take some time to provide work of value in their field to post on their resume. Spiegel, who worked in financial services, started to call small public companies and ask for their annual reports. She then rewrote sections of the reports and sent them back to the CFOs of those companies. Although only two companies called her to do more work for them, she completed 20 reports and put all of them on her resume. "It was true. I wrote them," she says. Putting projects on your resume, even if they aren’t paid projects, demonstrates your worth to employers.

2. Don’t Label Volunteer Work As Voluntary

If you ran a successful fundraising campaign for the PTA, putting on your resume that you raised money through a successful marketing campaign can demonstrate to an employer that you have skills in the field in which you’re looking to be hired. "Volunteer work is work," says Spiegel. "If you’ve created something of value and you’ve performed a service of value, that goes on your resume as something of value."

3. Remove Dates On Your Resume

You may have been out of work for five years and only started working on projects in the last three months in order to boost your resume, but you don’t need to tell that to a potential employer. Simply highlighting the projects you’ve done that emphasize your skills in the industry you’re applying in is enough to signal to a potential employer that you can add value to their company.

4. Update Your Skills

If you’re re-entering a field that is rapidly changing, the skills you had before may not be as relevant to the jobs you’re applying for now. You may need to take some time to re-educate yourself before applying to positions. Unless you’re changing your career entirely, you may not need to go back to college or take a year-long course. Free online tutorials may be enough to refresh your skills. If you find that your interests have changed since you were last employed, you may also want to consider a change in your career path.

5. Build Your Network

Spiegel says the biggest mistake stay-at-home moms make when trying to re-enter the workforce is not networking. This doesn’t mean you have to go have lunch with everyone you knew in your former work life, but it does mean becoming active on LinkedIn. Join groups and start posting to boost your presence online. "Leave an intelligent, thoughtful comment," says Spiegel. "Now your name is out there, and the fact that you have a brain, and are thinking about things is out there."

Being active on social media can help you land a job. If you see a job posting for Company X, the first place to look is at your LinkedIn contacts. See if you know someone who works at that company, or if your second-generation contacts have contacts with people who work there, and ask them to refer you to the hiring manager. "Most people don’t get jobs because they submitted their resume in response to a job posting. Most people get jobs because they were referred," she says. If you’re wondering why someone would do this for you, Spiegel says most people like to do something nice for someone else, but beyond that, many companies pay an employee if someone they refer gets hired.

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