Returning to work after being an at-home parent is often both an exciting and daunting time. How do you market yourself with appeal to an employer? What are employers expecting of your application? How do you boost your confidence in finding and securing a job?
The Return-To-Work Parent Resume and Cover Letter
While saying you are a ‘stay at home parent’ is true, what employers want to know, is what you can contribute to their business and workplace. Simply stating ‘Stay at home’ or ‘home duties’ on your resume stops short of selling yourself or demonstrating to an employer that the skills and experience you possess are relevant and meets their needs, despite the skills and expertise you have likely gained in being a parent. The keywords to remember are transferrable skills, and the key to highlighting and selling your skills, expertise and accomplishments is to reframe the tasks, skills, activities you have done as a parent, into relatable, professional, work language. For example, have you:
Volunteered or been involved in a community group? Managed marketing and coordinated event logistics (including venue hire and 30+ stall holders) for the annual ‘South West Fundraiser Event’ for Playgroup/School/Charity. Skills: event planning and coordination, project management, organisation and scheduling, marketing and networking, business development, budget management, customer service, just for example.
Managed your partner or family business/books? Processed weekly payroll, accounts payable/receivable via MYOB, managed office administration for small family business. Skills: administration, basic accounts/bookkeeping, payroll, software/IT skills, office management, etc.
Participated at your children’s school? Assisted in the preparation, serving and sale of food and drinks, observing safe food handling and hygiene practices. Skills: food handling, kitchen assistance, food preparation, customer service, cash handling, cash register operation, housekeeping and cleaning, etc.
Need some ideas to help you brainstorm your transferrable skills? You can find a helpful transferable skills checklist here.
Cover letters should be a few paragraphs long, ideally not more than 1 page in length, and the restrained, strategic use of dot points is acceptable. Your cover letter is the place to say all the things which cannot be said in your resume.
Despite these common mistakes, the cover letter is not the place to:
Summarise or repeat what is contained within your resume, after all – this is what your resume is for. Don’t waste this precious space repeating what is already contained in your resume.
Discuss gaps in work history in depth. One brief sentence is enough, and do not divulge personal or specific information about your work gap (e.g. children names, ages, birth years/dates, number of years out of work). Be brief – focus on what you can offer, without highlighting or accentuating your time away from the workforce. Start every sentence with the words ‘I / my’. Your cover letter should be about the employer (not about you!), and what you can contribute and contribute to their company and workplace. Switch your thinking and language from being about you, to about them.
Think about how will your expertise benefit their company, solve their problems, or help their customers? A simple switch in thinking can turn “This job is perfect for me because of the part time hours”, to “I am willing and able to accommodate the work hours/days required for this role”. The same message is being said here – however you can see how the difference in tone has positively changed the focus from what they can do for you, to what you can do for them.
What you can (and should) talk about in your cover letter is:
Matching your suitability for the job against selection criteria contained in the job advertisement. If you are cold canvassing, then discuss these points based on your research and knowledge of what jobs/employers in that industry require.
Elaborate on achievements, specific skills sets or relevant experiences contained within your resume that are directly relevant and related to the job, employer or industry you’re applying to.
Share a relevant story or connection about the role, the employer, or industry you’re applying to. For example, you may briefly mention why you are passionate or what inspired you to work in your chosen field, or your vision for the future (while making sure this ties with the role/company goals too).
Ready to get started? Here you’ll find a helpful worksheet to help you take stock of your skills, experiences, attributes, strengths you have to offer, and begin formulating your job search tools.
Building your confidence and competence in interviewing comes down to practice. Research and rehearse: Behavioural based interview questions, which are a common interview method used by employers. Your transferable skills and achievements, and relate them to the job requirements and employer’s needs. The company, reviewing their website, social media and press for company information, products/service offerings, vision/mission, news and upcoming events/changes. Follow up questions to ask. This is your chance to show some initiative and research skills – ask about what a typical day in the job looks like, what the interviewer likes about working at the company – ask an interesting question, and you’ll be far more memorable.
Upskill, Refresh or Volunteer
If your confidence and knowledge is lacking and could benefit from a refresh, then there are plenty of options available. Upskilling can be of particular benefit if you have been out of the workforce for an extended period of time, have not undertaken voluntary/work experience during your break, work in fast changing industries or use technologies that update or evolve rapidly, or are career changing. Doing a short course can help you get up to speed on software programs and technology, industry specific practices, terminologies or processes, sharpen soft skills and general employment skills. Further to learning the skill itself, undertaking education (or volunteering) demonstrates your initiative and commitment to self-development and learning to a potential employer.
Speak with your Forrest Personnel Consultant who can discuss your training or volunteering options with you.
Tip: Be open minded to new industries, new roles, or entry level / lower level roles than when you left your workplace, which offer opportunities for training and development, and can allow you the opportunity to rebuild your knowledge, competency and confidence on the job.
Life as a Working Parent
Experience which is unpaid or undertaken during parental leave is still valuable. Don’t discount or undervalue your worth, and rest assured, there is a job out there for you. Value the skills and abilities that parenting has given you, and transfer them to the workplace. Handling difficult customers (thank you toddler tantrums!) or multitasking in a fast-paced job may now feel like a stroll in the park!
Change in our lives often brings about a level of stress, anxiety and periods of uncertainty. Remember, you’ve survived one of the biggest changes in life already – becoming a parent. Just as it was when you became a parent, so too does return to work involve a period of adjustment. Be flexible and realistic, and give yourself and your family time to find a new groove – a new normal – to adapt to. Everything likely won’t fall into place overnight – but they will with organisation, patience and a little time.
Would you like a friendly, obligation-free chat to explore your return to work options? Forrest Personnel’s team of employment specialists are here to help.