Moms who leave their jobs to be with their kids have always been faced with a challenge, if and when they decide to go back to work. And in the last two years, the pandemic has forced more moms than ever before to leave their jobs to prioritize their families. By some estimates, the number hovers around 1 million moms being impacted. So that leaves more moms looking to the future, deciding what they want (and need) to do, and applying for jobs with a gap on their resume.
We asked Dr. Hilary S. Berger, Ed.D., LPC and founder of Work Like a Mother, a consulting firm focused on helping women thrive in the workforce, how women should position themselves for success in their job search after a break.
Find Your Confidence
When you leave your job it can feel like a loss of your identity. “Remember that being a stay at home mother is an ‘other centered’ existence – 24/7 facilitating and responding to ALL the families’ needs emotionally, physically, socially and, during COVID, educationally,” notes Hilary. She suggests mapping out a daily action plan to boost your confidence in yourself and your skillset. “Examples include ANYTHING that is centered on your professional life and personal growth: online seminars or courses, technology training online, learning to build a website, learning social media platforms related to professional brand building and digital marketing, listening to a podcast, reading articles, meeting a colleague for lunch, joining a professional association, volunteering in a meaningful way, attending alumni events, connecting with others with similar interests,” explains Hilary.
Nourish Your Network
Networking is a two-fold process in this case. Start by getting in touch with old contacts and then work on making new ones. “Stay active in professional groups and volunteer in your industry,” suggests Hilary. Another good tip? Don’t ask for something (aka to be considered for any open positions) when you make that first contact. You should simply be reconnecting with old colleagues (and filling them in on what you’ve been doing and learning what they’ve been up to since you last worked together), or introducing yourself to new contacts.
Build an Online Presence
In 2021, building an online presence is a huge part of networking, especially with sites like LinkedIn, says Hilary. But launching a simple website with your portfolio (if applicable) and being active on social media (if that may be part of a job you’re looking for) can also go a long way towards showing that you have digital experience and capability.
Learn, Learn, Learn
“Online learning is at your fingertips. You will have more confidence and marketability if your skills are up to date – especially with technology and industry specific software platforms,” says Hilary. She suggests checking out UDEMY and LYDNA for some online learning opportunities.
Returnships are essentially internships for people looking for employment with a gap on their resume—it fills in the blanks with skills and experience. It’s also a foot in the door. “Look at I – Relaunch which is a wonderful resource for these opportunities. They are now expanding into all industries but you need to be ready to work full time, clear in your mission and updated with your industry and technical skills to be a viable candidate for these programs,” says Hilary.
Build the Narrative Yourself
“To compensate for a gap in your resume, focus on building a strong narrative and branding statement of your work accomplishments and expertise in relation to the needs of the position rather than focusing on hiding your career break,” says Hilary. Fix an employer’s problem, and they probably won’t even focus on that career break. And don’t forget to focus on the positive. Yes, a resume gap can have a negative impact on your search—but so many people are in the same boat right now.