There's more to a resume than just job experience.
So, you have been a stay-at-home parent for a number of years, and you are ready to enter the workforce again and feel totally overwhelmed by all that has changed and the fact that you have been out of the loop for a number of years. Before you even consider whether you are going back to school or seeking a job, look critically at your resume and update it. See what you have accomplished while being a stay-at-home parent. You may be surprised.
I teach a unit on resumes in my technical writing courses, and many of my students are stay-at-home parents who decided to work on their degrees. They are just like you. Their biggest fear is that the gap of unemployment is too big a bridge to cross. I have to convince them that they were in fact busy while staying at home with more than just raising kids.
I won’t go over each element of a resume and how to format it, but I will offer advice in what you need to update and how you should look at it.
Some experts say that you should eliminate personal addresses, but I don’t know if I totally agree with that. You do need to protect your information and insure against identity theft, but there are things to consider. If you are posting your resume online, leave the address out. It is not safe online. If you are sending a resume via traditional mail directly to a potential employer, put the address in. The address can work for or against you depending on the distance between where you live and where you are applying. If you are relatively close to your future job, then it will work well for you. If you are sending your resume to a recruiter, leave the address in. They can decide how to format your resume when they send it out to a prospective employer.
Think about how you communicate today and put those methods on your resume. Get rid of the fax number. How often do people fax today? Include an email address. And if you have a cutesy email address, don’t use it. You should not use a business email address, even if it is your spouse’s. Get a more neutral professional one via services like Yahoo or Gmail. Often the best one to have for a job search is one that uses a first initial and last name. Since you will only be using it for your job search, it is okay to have your name in the address. Put the phone number that you have the most access to. In most cases, it is your cell phone. And make sure you have a neutral greeting in case someone calling goes into your voice mail.
Previous Work Experience
Go over your previous experience. You may think this is redundant since it is already there, but resumes have changed over the years. No longer should you simply describe your job with list all its responsibilities. You should focus on key responsibilities and accomplishments. Not only do employers look at what key responsibilities you have had, but they want to know what you have accomplished. Did you make money for your company or saved them money? If so, be sure to quantify. How much did you make or save? Have you made some task more efficient? What did it do for the company? Did you train people? How often? How many? Did you work on a special project? Did you do it single handedly or did you work with a team or even lead the team? Were you recognized with any awards?
And when you write, be sure to use strong verbs. Avoid “to be” verbs and instead used verbs like managed, oversaw, and performed – verbs that show what you did.
Just because you have been a stay-at-home parent doesn’t mean that you haven’t been active in those years. Show prospective employers what you have been doing in addition to raising children. Have you volunteered, taken classes or been involved in some other way?
Volunteering - One person I know has been a PTA president for over four years at two different schools. He oversaw all kinds of fundraisers, made changes to by-laws, dealt with tax auditors, managed budgets of some $60,000 (pretty good for small non-profits), and managed an executive board and a staff of volunteers. Imagine how he could use that experience in his resume. It was very different than his previous work experience, but it showed that he was active, took initiative and ran an organization successfully.
Certifications - Another person I know was very active in her daughter’s Girl Scout troop. She had to get CPR certified. That was something she could put on her resume under certifications. She also had other training that she had to take and many of them she included when it was time to write her resume. None of those certifications directly related to her job search, but they still showed an accomplishment, and a potential employer may even find them handy in a way she hasn’t foreseen.
Awards & Clubs - I have had many students who were stay-at-home parents working on their degrees while they children were young. They realized that they didn’t just have to include the degree they were seeking. They also included clubs they were involved in as well as awards they received and honor societies they belonged to. Others included civic organizations such as Kiwanis and Rotary and some of the projects they worked on as members.
Classes, Workshops, & Professional Training – If you have taken any classes, be sure to include them. If you haven’t, then consider taking a few while searching for a job. Those can go a long way in showing that you are serious in your job search. Some of the ones you should consider are either those directly related to the type of job you are seeking or with technology you are most likely to use in your job.
Skills – Often people list things like “works well with people.” Those skills are not tangible and are a matter of personal opinion. What you really should list are those skills that potential employers can measure or observe like knowing a foreign language or skill in using new or current software or machinery. If you scrapbooked and used software for manipulating your digital photographs, you could put digital photography and the software you used as a skill.
Remember, a resume is your introduction to a potential employer. It is your sales tool, so you have to make it as accurate and attractive as possible. It is important that your resume is honest, but it is just as equally important that you showcase your experience and skills in the best possible way. Represent yourself honesty, but don’t sell yourself short. All those things you have worked on while being a stay-at-home parent has the potential to sell yourself. Just because you weren’t paid when doing things doesn’t mean it wasn’t valuable experience!