What are some things that moms can do to maintain their skills, connections, and marketability while they are not working?
- Stay professionally connected – at the very least by keeping up with reading general and specific publications in your field. Or, if upon reflection, you determine that you really want to be working in a different field, use some of your time at home to learn more about that field and at some point maybe even take a class or attend a professional conference. With nine kids between us, we realize the amount of time available for this kind of research/reading is going to vary significantly depending on age and number and neediness of kids. We also realize that you may not be able to sustain this for long periods. If that is the case, don’t worry, you can pick it up when the time is right for you.
- When you are ready to participate in volunteer activities try to include one that uses skills transferable to work. For example, if you were a marketing person you may want to work in membership outreach for a volunteer organization – essentially you are marketing the brand of that organization to the community. Medical social workers can volunteer in hospices, computer tech support experts can help run and maintain school computer labs, accountants can be treasurers or finance committee heads of organizations; these are actual volunteer experiences from relaunchers we interviewed.
- Try to do occasional contract/project work in your field, either for your old employer, through other previous contacts, or through one of the new companies that are matching people on career break with contract opportunities, such as MomCorps.
How should moms address the time they’ve been away from the workforce on their resumes? Should they talk about it in their cover letters?
We recommend a non-defensive and matter of fact approach to any discussion of your career break, because this will come up in the interview as well. Employers have told us that an unexplained gap on a resume is a red flag, whereas an entry that says “2003-2007 Career Break – At-home mother with three school age children” in the personal section of a resume explains the gap.
You can use it in a cover letter in a strategic way: “My four years out of the full-time work force gave me time to reflect on where I now want to direct my professional energies. I took the opportunity to attend the xyz professional conference and read up on the cutting edge work Ms. X, who presented there, is doing in the field. I realized that this field, and your company in particular, is the perfect setting for me to make a maximum contribution as a project manager.” In an interview, tell them that your time away, especially in the last two years, have made you hungry to get back to work. You have been away too long and can’t wait to get back. Give them a sense of your enthusiasm to get back to work precisely because you’ve been away from it.